Be Cool

Clyde Frazier: What a cool basketball player looks like.

[co-authored by Andy G & Patrick J]

The great Chuck Klosterman once wrote about Billy Joel that there was absolutely no relationship between his greatness as a musician and his [lack of] coolness as a person.  Klosterman distinguished Joel from, well, every single other rock artist in this regard.  He explained:

What [rock stars] are is more important than what they do.  And this is not a criticism of coolness; by and large, the musical component of rock isn’t nearly as important as the iconography and the posturing and the idea of what we’re supposed to be experiencing.  If given the choice between hearing a great band and seeing a cool band, I’ll take the latter every single time; this is why the Eagles suck.

To the extent Klosterman is correct about rockers, I’m not sure his thinking carries over to athletics.  No matter how much a fan prefers coolness to effectiveness, I think he or she would prefer Prime Tim Duncan to Super-Duper-Prime Nick Young 1000 days a week.  But no matter what importance you attach to coolness in sport, there’s a discussion to be had.  What makes an NBA player cool? There is some overlap between what makes a rocker cool and a baller cool, but they aren’t precisely the same things.  For example, some of the “coolest” musicians in history died before turning 30 (usually at 27) for lifestyle reasons that wouldn’t make a ball player as much cool as a complete failure. JR Smith is still grappling with this, it appears.  (That said, being a martyr of the hoops gods, like Len Bias or Reggie Lewis, has its own mystique.)

Still, there’s some overlap: any cool entertainer usually combines charisma, talent, personality, and mystique, to name a few.  Fashion plays a part, too, no matter if you’re for or against the NBA’s Hipster Wave.

Trey Kirby took a stab at the topic a while back. Kirby gave a rough sketch of cool:

It’s some combination of charisma, accolades, talent, personality and mystique. On-court performance and style play in to this to, but as FreeDarko explained for years, probably not as must as you’d think. Simply put, there are just some guys in the league that are cooler than others. You know who the coolest guys in the league are even if you can’t explain it.

All we really know is, there’s no clear definition of cool, yet there are clearly cool and uncool players.

Got that?

Kirby did hit on some key points: you can’t be the coolest cat in the League if you try too hard (Amare Stoudamire); you’re probably don’t have a chance to be the coolest if you also happen to be the best (LeBron) [--Eds. Note: It's hard to tell if this one is correlation or causation]; and so on. These are good points.

Are the Timberwolves cool? You’ll notice in Kirby’s list that zero of his top ten coolest players (and zero honorable mentions) are Timberwolves.  If he or somebody else were to include a TWolf amongst the league’s COOL players, who would it be?

Ricky is the obvious answer. Bethlehem Shoals wrote about Rubio, “His game is pure beauty, in most Euro-sporting sense, and even the most hetero dude has to acknowledge his baby-faced, shaggy-haired charm.” And acknowledge they do.  But  I think people consider Ricky more as “cute” than as “cool.” Even guys. What I mean is, it’s not clear Ricky is a hipster–he may just be Spanish. (Show me his iPod and I’ll tell you for sure.)

K-Love? He did the NUMB#RS thing, the ESPN commercials, the BS Report, the experimentation with weight loss and facial hair. You name it, he’s done it. Trying to hard?  Maybe.

The elephant in the room here is Alexey Shved. He’s good enough but not too good, he’s got a cool game, looks totally hipster, and has that indie feel about him where *you* feel cool because you know how cool he is and can tell your less hip friends about this bitchin’ new baller from Russia. That cred gives Shved a big edge.

So by whatever definition you use, who’s the coolest Wolves player? Not your favorite, remember. Not the best. The coolest. Vote below.

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10 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

10 responses to “Be Cool

  1. Eric in Madison

    Posting a picture of Clyde is always a good idea. He’s still doing it.

    http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2012/1/27/2753755/walt-frazier-suit-photo
    http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2012/2/22/2817647/walt-frazier-tiger-suit-stingray-belt-photo

    In truth though, your question brings us back part of the way to the racial makeup of the Wolves. To a large extent, baller cool has to do with black America; I don’t think there is a real question about this. Ben (I think) wrote about this at Wolf Among Wolves recently. It’s not a 1:1 correlation, but it’s interwoven.

    • “baller cool has to do with black America” — agree, though foreigners like Dirk and Nash have managed to become different kinds of cool in recent years.

      Great pics of Clyde. What a stud.

  2. Dave A.

    Cool is former Wolves Marko Jaric. Hot is his wife Adriana Lima. Photos please.

  3. Jeremy Merrow

    Interesting article, even though I can’t stand Chuck “every time I have a whimsical thought about how some obscure element of pop culture is an abstract metaphor for the world at large I feel like I need to write a 10,000 word essay about it” Klosterman.

    I gotta say Ricky is the coolest Wolf, and maybe one of the “coolest” guys in the league. His aura just tends to attract people, and in an oddly non-traditional way. He is not one of the leagues premier performers (yet), he doesn’t have wild fashion sense, no celebrity parties or Italian model wives, and his social media persona is pretty bland. Even beyond that, the language barrier prevents him from being able to adequately express his personality and emotions directly to his American fan base. But every hoops fan wants to see more of him, regardless of whether they care about the Wolves. Maybe you’re right, maybe he is just adorable and everyone likes a cute kid (I hear he has an odd and totally not age appropriate collection of teddy bears).

    Even though there are young players that are currently better ballers (Rondo) and have a more charming celebrity persona (Kyrie Irving), I think most fans are more intrigued by and drawn to Ricky as a “cool” person of interest.

    • Jeremy, great comment — you almost convinced me to switch my vote (from Shved). I very much agree with: “His aura just tends to attract people, and in an oddly non-traditional way.” Everybody likes Ricky, that’s for sure.

      • Jeremy Merrow

        Don’t get me wrong now, I am riding shotgun alongside you in the “cool” Shved bandwagon. I just don’t know if his local reception will translate to the larger League fan base. The goofy cartoon baller panda t-shirts and euro man-hairbands will probably have him viewed more like a cross between Scola and Joakim Noah: scraggly and unkept. But if turns out to be a stud player and he decides to bring back the Ruskie cornrows……

  4. Alberto Super

    No cornrows on anybody please… And, thank you. Cornrows aren’t cool on anybody. Which brings me to the point I wanted to make. Being cool, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. It is agreed that there are different levels of cool. Also, you have to factor in mainstream cool, and the opposite, counter culture cool. Most everybody nowadays thinks Lil’ Wayne is cool… I personally think he is a talentless twat. I also think this website is cool, how many others do? Just because a large group of people think one thing is cool, doesn’t nessesarily make it so… Like the television program Glee. YUK. And on that note, I put my vote in for Pek. Mysterious demeanor… Check. Interesting tattoos… Check. Tough guy… Check. Bringing maximum effort while not being a diva… Check.
    Eye of the beholder…

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