One year ago today, myself and a number of other folks gathered (remember doing this?) in an arena (this too?) to watch the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. It was a fun weekend! Derrick Jones Jr. controversially beat Aaron Gordon in the dunk contest, there were really moving tributes to the recently-departed Kobe Bryant and David Stern, the game itself was fantastic thanks to a new format centered around the Elam Ending, I ate these nachos, it was real good.
The weekend took place at the United Center in Chicago, and the league decided to use the event as a chance to celebrate the Windy City. All the stuff you’d expect was involved — tributes to Michael Jordan and his Bulls, a video honoring the city that included a cameo from Barack Obama, etc. One of the many Chicago institutions that was part of the entire ceremony was Common, who as part of his role as pregame master of ceremonies became a meme for his myriad of rhymes about those participating in the game.
With it being the one-year anniversary of that night in Chicago, I have taken it upon myself to look back on these rhymes and rank them. The ranking is based on nothing more than how I felt as they re-entered my brain after one year of not hearing them. Now I’ll do you all a favor, and quell your suspenses, but before we do that, some honorable mentions:
HONORABLE MENTIONS: THE COACHES
HM1: The head coach for Team Giannis, in the All-Stars this is his first, from the defending champion Toronto Raptors, Nick Nurse
HM2: Making his second All-Star appearance, he runs the team like a mogul, from the Los Angeles Lakers, the coach, Frank Vogel
Hard to get too riled up about either of these. Both are fine. The Vogel one is way better. Onward.
COMMON JUST DID THESE TO MOVE ONTO OTHER THINGS
25. A big man with big skills, yes indeed, from the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid
24. We knew he’d be an All-Star from everything he’s shown us, from the Indiana Pacers, Domantas Sabonis
Common is an icon but how are you going with “yes indeed” for the Embiid one? Read, feed, need, plenty of things rhyme with “-iid.” Also, I have faith Common has watched Sabonis because he is a well-documented basketball fan, but if I were making a poem about Domantas Sabonis and I never watched him play basketball, I would vaguely mention how he’s shown us a lot of stuff.
23. He’s a two-time All-Star, so you know he’ll get it done, from the Milwaukee Bucks, give it up for Khris Middleton
22. From the land down under, he’s always all about winnin’, from the Philadelphia 76ers, y’all give it up for Ben Simmons
21. A 10-time All-Star, he’s a general with the ball, from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the great Chris Paul
20. Here from the champion Toronto Raptors, and you know they did it proudly, six-time All-Star and floor commander, Kyle Lowry
19. This All-Star’s the truth, keeping the defense honest, the reigning Rookie of the Year from the Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
18. 2019 All-Rookie first-team, and he’s only just begun, from the Atlanta Hawks, they call him Ice, we also know him as Trae Young
Some poetic license are taken with some of these, some are merely just fine. I do like to imagine that somewhere, Paul Pierce heard Common call Luka Doncic “the truth” and he filed a complaint with someone. And while the Trae Young one is a bit cumbersome, I like the idea. Generally, again, these are fine.
LEGITIMATELY PRETTY GOOD!
17. A seven-time All-Star, one of the generation’s greatest, from the south side of Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis
16. He got crazy skills, that you can’t overstate ‘em, from the Boston Celtics, first-time All-Star, Jayson Tatum
15. He’s Kia’s Most Improved Player, and tonight he’s ready to rock ‘em, here from the world champion Toronto Raptors, give it up for Pascal Siakam
14. Known for his passin’, but his triple-doubles are his best look, from the Houston Rockets, give it up for Russell Westbrook
13. When he heats up from outside, it’s like a pressure cooker, first-time All-Star from the Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker
12. Like a protest on the court, he’s an all-time disruptor, from the Miami Heat, y’all give it up for Jimmy Butler
11. A league MVP who breaks ankles with no pardon, from the Houston Rockets, the league’s leading scorer, James Harden
10. In his breakout season, representin’ the Bayou Kingdom, first-time All-Star from the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram
9. Sixteen-time All-Star, three-time NBA champion, we continue to witness his reign, one of the greatest to play the game, from the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James
I love that we have an internal rhyme in the LeBron one (reign/game/James), which puts it atop this list. “Bayou Kingdom” and “Brandon Ingram” is terrific, as are pardon/Harden and disruptor/Butler, particularly that last one, because [gestures at Jimmy Butler’s time with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which he joined from the Chicago Bulls, whose fans cheered him when he was introduced]. Rest of them are all pretty solid, shout out to Kia for getting a mention in there. I hope Common was given a very nice Sorento for that.
COMMON REALLY DID A JOB MAKING THESE RHYMES WORK AND I APPRECIATE THAT
8. Unable to play due to the injury, but anywhere on the court he can kill it, from the Portland Trail Blazers, give it up for my man Damian Lillard
7. Representin’ the three-point range from the lane, he’ll give you a dosage, from the Denver Nuggets, two-time All-Star, the Joker, Nikola Jokic
6. The reigning MVP, can drive the lane with no refusal, from the Milwaukee Bucks, the captain of the team, Giannis Antetokounmpo
5. From inside or outside, either way he’ll get you, first-time All-Star, from the Utah Jazz, Donovan “Spida” Mitchell
4. He may not talk a lot, but on the court, he gives a clinic, a four-time All-Star from the LA Clippers, Kawhi Leonard
3. Makin’ his All-Star debut, goin’ hard in the paint is his sty-o, from the Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo
Looking back, I was surprised by how much joy I got out of the various ones in which Common took major poetic license to make the rhyme work. These range from “alright I get it, he had to be a little flexible, although he could have done ‘killer’ instead of ‘kill it,’ ya know?” to “Common took the word ‘style’ and change it to ‘sty-o’ because he had to make something rhyme with Adebayo.”
AFTER I DIE, I WILL BE AT THE GATES OF HEAVEN, AND ST. PETER WILL ASK WHY I DESERVE ENTRY, AND I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GIVE AN ANSWER, BECAUSE I WILL STILL BE THINKING OF THESE TWO RHYMES COMMON MADE AT THE 2020 NBA ALL-STAR GAME
2. A four-time All-Star, he handles the rock like Gibraltar, from the Boston Celtics, give it up for Kemba Walker
1. Think you can shake this first-time All-Star? Au contrarie, mon frère, from the Utah Jazz, the Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert
Rhyming “Walker” and “Gibraltar” is inspired work. I am legitimately in awe of the fact that Common did this, one year later. Yes, there is a quibble with the fact that “handles the rock like Gibraltar” doesn’t quite work, factually, because no one really handles the Rock of Gibraltar and it’s, you know, kind of just there, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Unless Common’s implication is that Kemba Walker is the Mediterranean Sea of basketball players, which I will need to marinade on some more before making a ruling.
And then, there is his masterpiece. Ok, well, Be has a much better case for being his masterpiece, but this sits right at the intersection of “really good,” “really clever,” “really funny,” and “really applicable for the player.” Also, it called upon Common to speak French, which makes sense considering, uh, Rudy Gobert is French, but is also just terrific. Just fantastic stuff.