The NBA is America’s most compelling sports league because of its personalities. Fans only need to keep track of five players on the court at once, close-ups are constant, and player athleticism mimics superheroes. A couple weeks ago, Tamryn Spruill published a piece discussing the diversity of the Warriors: hobbies, backgrounds, and examples of community engagement. The article challenged me to reflect on the team’s personalities and apply them beyond basketball: I chose Kanye West’s music.
Whether or not you enjoy West’s music, his songs represent a range of emotions, words, and musical styles. So, I chose Yeezy’s songs to match to our beloved Warriors. My template for matching players and songs reflect song lyrics and tone, and how the player would look in a montage with the track playing. This was not easy, but somehow, someway, I persisted.
If you disagree, post a thoughtful response. Our debate can set a fire to the internet.
Note: Apologies for not including your favorite song.
Kevin Durant: Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1
KD is the sun in our mornings, the light through our collective basketball windows. This top track from Kanye’s most recent album, The Life of Pablo, runs for 2 minutes and 16 seconds. Short and to the point, like Durant’s candidness. I asked a friend (who is a Wizards fan lol) which Kanye song fits Durant and he said “Loyalty” by Kendrick Lamar. HE THOUGHT HE WAS FUNNY. Alternatively, Kanye’s words, “I just want to feel liberated,” remind us of the stuck-in-place feeling that saddled KD in OKC. He is now free from other suitors and their mediocrity. Once he chose the Warriors, this song became the perfect fit— venturing down a deep, dark path, but ultimately finding his light with the Warriors.
Draymond Green: Can’t Tell me Nothing
Choosing this song for Draymond is about as easy as the sorting hat going with Slytherin for Draco Malfoy. Have you ever witnessed other Warriors successfully stop Draymond from arguing with referees? What about a coach or teammate getting in the way of what Draymond wants to say? Watch this video and you’ll understand. Draymond was put on this earth to tell us things, not the other way around.
Stephen Curry: Touch the Sky
When Steph’s not busy draining threes, his default space in my mind is perched on a cloud with Ayesha, Riley and Ryan playing a board game or baking a delicious peach cobbler. Don’t worry, Ayesha instagrams it. The horns in this song blare above the family as Grandpa Dell floats on a neighboring cloud. Steph’s rise has touched us and transformed basketball forever. What better song than a Kanye original, one that samples Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” to describe Curry’s trajectory? Steph has shown us the impossible, and maybe now, we should all just expect him to touch the sky.
Klay Thompson: Good Life
Klay lived his best life this summer during his travels to China. “Ayyy, ayyy, ayyy, I'm good,” also just seems like a peak, post-game Klay quote. See China Klay with the good life below.
We need China Klay Thompson here in the states for the culture. pic.twitter.com/vZEHCLuGvF— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) June 28, 2017
Nick Young/Swaggy P: No More Parties in LA
Like Draymond, Nick Young’s time with the Kanye sorting hat was brief. His “far away place” is Los Angeles. “Nowhere seems to be too far” to launch a nasty jumper. Does Nick Young want “to be a star?” You decide for yourself. He is an LA native, attended USC, and played for the Lakers. He is for LA what In-N-Out is for the whole state of California. The man knows where his heart belongs, but has expanded his horizons so he can acquire more money and fame. And maybe people in LA are sad, and maybe there will be no more parties.
Patrick McCaw: I Wonder
I envision McCaw’s sleepless nights, tossing and turning in his brand new Walnut Creek mansion, adjusting to Bay Area suburban life, navigating his path to be Durant 2.0. McCaw has a lot to wonder about. “Do they notice my skinny legs with these short shorts? Is it just a coincidence that I own a pet baby gazelle? “Do they also know I will soon be the best player in the NBA?” He wakes up from such tumultuous nights still wondering.
Shaun Livingston: All Falls Down
I am honored to award a top three Kanye song for someone who has endured so much in his career. Livingston’s gruesome knee injury early in his career could have easily been the time when it all fell down. Instead he’s fought to be a mainstay in the best rotation in hoops.
Andre Iguodala: Big Brother
“But my big brother who I always tried to be/When I kicked a flow it like pick-and-roll/ Cause even if he gave me the rock, it's give-and-go/I guess Beanie's style was more of a slam dunk/ But my shit was more like a finger roll/But I had them singles though”
This could go in a lot of directions, but I’ll keep it brief. Andre is the big brother of the Warriors, the hardened veteran, the cool uncle who can still ball. Maybe it’s other players singing about Iguodala on this track. He still has a “slam dunk” style. Earlier in his career though, with the Sixers, he “had them singles.”
Zaza Pachulia: Heartless
“Somewhere far along this road/He lost his soul...And you just gonna keep hating me/And we just gonna be enemies... And now you wanna get me back/And you gonna show me/So you walk around like you don't know me”
Hate him for who he is people. At the end of the day though, that hate can be channeled into love, a feeling I prefer. Despite the pleas from Kawhi Leonard’s ankle and Russell Westbrook’s face, we will continue to love him. I maintain all aforementioned conflicts were accidents.
David West: Champion
The same people who think Durant needs a loyalty therapist accused David West of being a ring chaser. LET THE MAN WIN. For his years of toil on crap teams, I chose a Steely Dan-sampled song for a Steely Dan-aged man—he reached the pinnacle and hit a few mid-rangers along the way.
JaVale McGee: Lost in the World
This Bon Iver/Kanye venture activates our imaginations like no other song on the list. Come with me on this journey: JaVale’s walking in a forest, talking to the trees—they are tall like him and speak in autotune. But they speak a different language. JaVale is lost because Shaquille O’Neal is paying off the trees to misdirect Javale so he stays lost forever. We can all be happy we aren’t seven feet tall. Lost in the World Pt. 2 was produced after JaVale won a championship this past June. He is no longer lost, but until the new track is released, this is McGee’s song.
Jordan Bell: Through the Wire
Watch this man play defense and he’ll play “to the limit.” “For a chance to be” with this team, he’ll “risk it all.” It sums up his style. Also this video is a gem. John Legend/Miri Ben-Ari represent Bell and the other new Warriors adding their style to an already stacked group.
Omri Casspi/Ian Clark (In Memoriam): Waves
We are so excited for Omri because he fits on this team (like Ian Clark). He’s crashing for a little while and he doesn’t need to be the center of attention. The man is going to do his job and hit threes (bless, Ian Clark). The song also has a catchy hook.
Damian Jones/Kevon Looney: Gorgeous
“Ain’t no question if I want it, I need it/I can feel it slowly drifting away from me/I’m on the edge, so why you playing? I’m saying/I will never ever let you live this down, down, down/And eventually answers to the call of Autumn/ All of them fallin’ for the love of ballin’”
As Nate P. outlined in his season review, Damian Jones still has to prove he can make it on this team. Looney is in a similar position. Like the song says, they want it, but it might be “drifting away.” This season, Jones might be granted said chance. The “call of autumn” and the start of the season will tell us if these two are here to stay.
Steve Kerr: Family Business
Kerr is a way cooler version of about any professional sports coach. His players love him and trust him. From his public statements, we know that Kerr subscribes to the notion that our collective strengths are rooted in our differences—and let’s his players be themselves. Under Kerr’s tenure, this team has transformed into a family. In interviews, Kerr honors his deceased father, Malcolm, “the family that can’t be with us” as often as possible. Beautiful song for a beautiful man.
Monta Ellis: Blame Game
“Nobody gives a rat’s nipple about me,” said Ellis. That’s just an amazing quote. It’s easy to point at Monta and accuse him of being a crucial part of the Warriors dysfunction during his time in the Bay. Once he left, the team never looked back. “Blame Game” is for the fans. We still love you, Monta.
Mark Jackson: Famous
2015-now: “I made that bitch famous”
I had a dream once that Jackson was still the coach and the team won an ESPY for Team of the Year. When the team arrives on stage, Mark Jackson snatches the ESPY, walks to the mic, channels Kanye, and yells, “THIS AWARD SHOULD HAVE GONE TO Jeff Van Gundy.”
Matt Barnes: Devil in a New Dress
Of all the players on this team, Matt Barnes was actually mentioned in a Kanye song. Would not have been my choice, but maybe that’s why I’m writing this piece and not performing to a sold-out stadium. In 30 Hours, Kanye mentions Matt Barnes, who drove 90 miles to beat up Derek Fisher. I’m choosing a different song though.
I know most Warriors fans love Matt Barnes from the “We Believe” team. As someone who wasn’t as big into the Warriors then, I view Barnes as a divisive, hilarious, braggadocios player. He’s one of the NBA’s most “devilish” players. Over his 14 years in the league, he’s played in many “dresses:” twice for the Kings, Clippers, and Warriors. And single years with the Knicks, Sixers, Suns, Magic, and Grizzlies. That’s a lot of jerseys. Time for a new dress.
Harrison Barnes: Ultra Light Beam (Steph probably deserved this song)
HB’s tenure as a Warrior for me was a god dream. A song with the emotion and soulfulness of ULB pays homage to the Warriors’ sacrificial lamb. HB needed to leave so the Warriors could take the next step and thrive. Comparison for Disney folks: It’s like how Maui the demigod needed to lose his power so Moana could realize her own. Now, the Black Falcon is breathing life into Dallas and the whole state of Texas, a region lacking moral authority and a true leader. As he strolls around in that viper pit of cars and sprawl, he imagines beating Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate election while hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy. He knows he has the power, listening to the choir on this track, singing like it’s their last Sunday.