Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, surging in the polls and dominating news cycles with every next polarizing statement outdoing the last, has already succeeded in tapping into a rich vein of resentment. By stoking the latent anger of mostly rural, less educated white people, Trump has whipped up populist fervor with fiery rhetoric scapegoating outsiders for his supporters’ economic malaise and their increasing social discomfort in a rapidly changing world.
He’s selling fear and loathing, and people are buying. It has been nothing if not entertaining.
Those of us who enjoy following both politics and sports might have noted some interesting juxtapositions of stories and images in our recent timelines. There’s Trump railing against immigration, just as the video appears of a flying dunk by Kristaps Porzingis. Then a Vine of another insane 35-foot swish from Stephen Curry, only to be followed by a link to news of Trump’s spokesperson actually calling people “half-breeds” without an iota of shame.
It’s jarring, seeing highlights from the proudly inclusive, multicultural and international NBA interspersed with Trump’s nativism and xenophobia. And as the league’s All-Star Game approaches, it has me thinking: if we were to apply Trumpian standards to selecting the best players in the NBA, what would that team look like?
Let’s establish the criteria.
First, we would have to limit eligibility to Americans, only. No foreigners crossing our borders — even legally — can be trusted, obviously, with Trump already painting Mexicans as “rapists,” saying “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.” He has long disparaged China, and certainly gives no quarter to Muslims, calling for a complete ban on their travel to the US. He believes the president is secretly a Kenyan, and is still questioning GOP rival Ted Cruz’s qualification for the presidency due to the fact that he was born in Canada.
Second, we probably can’t have any black guys on the team, either. During the protests over Freddie Gray’s death last spring, Trump tweeted “Our great African American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!” What’s more, he was once sued by the US Justice Department for racial discrimination for refusing to rent to blacks. And the former president of Trump Hotel and Casino said Trump once remarked in reference to a black accountant he employed that “laziness is a trait in blacks.”
And when we consider his campaign’s disdain for “half-breeds,” our pool gets smaller still.
But let’s put this team together, shall we?
As an objective guide for selection, we’ll use NBA.com, the league’s official website, which calculates a catch-all statistic called EFF, for overall efficiency. We will start at the top and work down, accepting the first 10 players who are entirely American and in no way brown or beige.
League leader Curry (31.0) is out, and so are the next five of Kevin Durant (28.4), Russell Westbrook (27.8), DeMarcus Cousins (27.0), James Harden (26.3) and LeBron James (26.0).
So are all of the next 23 players on the list before we get to our first All-Trump selection and apparent captain.
(Important note: inclusion on the Trump All-Stars should in no way whatsoever be interpreted as that player’s connection to or endorsement of Donald Trump, his candidacy or any of his ideas, comments, proposals or policies. Thank you.)
Kevin Love – forward, Cleveland Cavaliers. EFF rank #30 (19.8)
Gordon Hayward – wing, Utah Jazz. #44 (17.7)
Ryan Anderson – forward, New Orleans Pelicans. #63 (15.2)
Mason Plumlee – forward/center, Portland Trail Blazers. #68 (14.7)
J.J. Redick – shooting guard, Los Angeles Clippers. #90 (13.1)
This group has some mobility and ball-handling issues. Redick will have to run the point, apparently. Let’s see if the next five give the Donald any help off the bench.
Cody Zeller – center/forward, Charlotte Hornets. #107 (12.2)
Jon Leuer – forward, Phoenix Suns. #118 (11.7)
Chandler Parsons – forward, Dallas Mavericks. #121 (11.6)
Kyle Korver – wing, Atlanta Hawks. #156 (10.2)
Meyers Leonard – center, Portland TrailBlazers. #158 (10.1)
I guess guard play is going to be a problem, huh?
Bottom line, creating a best-of-the-NBA team filtered through the ideas of Donald Trump results in a roster with more matchup problems than Trump himself would have in every professional pollster’s current modeling of a general presidential election.
Whether Donald Trump’s ideas could ‘Make America Great Again’ might be in doubt, but there is no question that strict adherence to them would Make America Terrible At Professional Basketball.
Put that on a hat.