The established and depressing truth about advertising is that nobody thinks it works on them, but it does. Through cleverness, crudeness, or pummeling Geico-style assault, brand names get under your skin. You start to develop unconscious feelings about companies and whatever they’re selling. The time-worn jingle for a chain of hardware stores deposits itself in the beige file cabinetry of your brain, and when you need to replace a screen, you wonder: Is there a Menards around here?
The same principle applies to the NBA discourse, which grows grimmer by the year — each player’s uneven talents and strange character reduced to measurements and efficiency stats, whether or not they can stay on the court against one specific great team, as if there weren’t 29 others. The league crushed flat and understood the way a general manager understands it: shifting constellations of assets, numbers going up and numbers declining. What could we get for X?
Whether you care for this gloss on the NBA or not — no matter how much you want to conceive of basketball as a Frank O’Hara poem, fruit for your own theories about labor and personal fulfillment, whatever it is we do here — the aggressive pragmatism of the conversations all the smart people are having does infect your thinking. You too begin to fetishize switchy wings and want every big man to develop a jumper. You have a list in your head of “Guys You Can’t Win With,” even though you’re not particularly concerned about who wins and who doesn’t. Domino’s can go straight to hell, but that is a pretty price for a large t