Thursday, August 2, 2012

USA Basketball 2012: The Stream Team

(This is a guest post from MAMBINO friend and brother of CDP, Big Plato. From SoCal, he's been intently watching the Olympics with a keen eye for historical implications. Check it out!)

No significant cultural or athletic event can pass without a title, a hook attached to the legacy. We love the pop pull of nicknames, of zingy summations of the historic impact or general character of whatever passed before us. Like all self-respecting sports entities, USA basketball has a proud tradition of accurate inscriptions. The Dream Team is a fondly remembered, hazy monument, an untouchable feat that can never be undermined despite modern considerations of talent and logic. We were Redeemed in 2008 and while much of the squad remains on the roster, the influx of new stars and an entirely different swagger sets the 2012 team apart. So what are they? We could pull out our rhyming dictionary and throw a slew of irrelevant adjectives and inappropriate nouns at the board until a syllable sticks, but there may be a simpler answer. And before any naysayers try to spoil the fun in favor of naturalism and letting the games speak for themselves, I would like to state, to insist, that this team must have a moniker. There is no way around it, we would be passing up too great an opportunity for jingling insight otherwise.

Without further ado, Uncle Sam proudly presents your 2012 American basketball all-stars, the Stream Team.

Fond as I am of tributaries and other water formations, the name refers to the efficiency of their ball movement and their existence in the digital age. Between a loaded roster of legitimate threats playing at, close to, or just past their primes, a raw mess of athleticism unparalleled on any basketball roster, the already present and ever expanding chemistry brewing on and off court, and this team is dangerous. Add in the fluidity of their play, the natural ease of their game, and the only way to describe what they do is “continuous flow.” Maybe we keep that water analogy after all. Mimicking the movement of raging rapids, thunderous typhoons, and crackling cascades in their quick transition plays and rousing finishes, their patron saint is Poseidon, ruler of the sea and wielder of water and all its might. No matter what god they pray to, the way this squad is playing right now, it's fast, it's constant, and it's smooth as silk. Not all the time, but enough to make it count.

A sizable portion of this team’s identity- how we perceive them, how they came together- comes straight from the series of tubes we call the Internet. They would not exist as they do now if it weren’t for the technological advances of the past 20 years. Part of the Dream Team’s personality was mystique, a separation from the masses, excepting the humanitarian strolls of Sir Charles Barkley. The Stream Team has no such choice. We’re going to get behind the scenes photos, revealing tweets, and all the other nonsense no matter what. By hijacking the format first, releasing Instagram images of their meals, giving digital shout outs to other athletes, and interacting with the public like never before, they are nothing if not a product of our age. We contribute too, with our continual online critical dissections and comparisons and the way in which we experience the action, often streamed from the web or downloaded after the fact. Kobe and crew are heroes of and for the digital age, modern goliaths of progress and reckoning. With every alley oop and public prank, they boldly proclaim the birth of the future, today.

Shockingly, the leader of the cyber revolution is none other than the elder statesman himself, Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant. Snapping shots with all the athletes, making practice drop-by’s and posting rundowns, getting caught in shirtless photo scandals, and generally popping up at every event in every stadium, the Black Mamba is riding the current like no other. Sure, Kevin Love has the killer Instagram account, Lebron James and Kevin Durant are more significant players, and no one plays post-modern dress up like Russell Westbrook, but Kobe is the ambassador, the one carrying the torch and committing most to the emerging identity. He looks more lively, more engaged than he has in years, perhaps regaining strength through vampiric rites performed on younger athletes. Whatever it is, it’s working, and Kobe is the linchpin of this team wherever they go.

We have yet to see how far their momentum carries, but all bets are on a gold medal triumph over their international rivals from Spain, The Matadors (patent pending). Should their ball handling, bucket selection, and team vision reach their lofty potentials, these titans could go down as one of the all time greats. It doesn’t matter if they could beat the Dream Team on the court, the Stream Team could do the old dogs one better by transcending their cultural impact. The way that the Dreamers opened up international basketball, it’s a hard pedestal to reach, but the sheer amount of humanity and relevance that the young guns inject into every beautifully broadcasted moment, the revolutionary ebb and flow of their game, might put them over the top. They’re not that important, not yet, but they could be, and that promise makes for some of the most enchanting athletics in an all around stellar Olympics.

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