Did LeBron James just become the coolest person to own Trump?
If you missed the lead-up to LeBron's now-infamous tweet, it started when Steph Curry was asked for the umpteenth time about the Warriors visiting the White House, and responded for the umpteenth time that (I'm paraphrasing) he doesn't like Trump and doesn't want to go. This time, Trump fired back:
That was apparently more than LeBron James could handle, and the world's greatest basketball player lashed out at the president in a tweet that has now been liked 1.3 million times:
I'm not here to sort out the political implications, but I do want to ask a relevant question: Is LeBron James now the coolest person to diss President Trump?
He has plenty of competition, of course. In the entertainment world, you have everyone from Stephen Colbert in comedy to Drake and Chance the Rapper in hip-hop to Meryl Streep in film to Stephen King in literature. In the political world, you have...well, politicians aren't very cool (with one exception–see below). Even though sports tends more toward the conservative side, people like Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry, and more have taken their shots. But if I had to construct a Mt. Rushmore of "Cool People Who Have Dissed Trump," it would look like this:
1. LeBron James
2. Stephen Curry
3. Barack Obama (even if he's been relatively professional lately, he owned Trump at the Correspondents' dinner in 2015)
4. George Clooney (in his most recent foray, he reduced his criticism of Trump to the classic two-word formulation)
Those are the best of the best—even cooler than Jennifer Lawrence and Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Jon Hamm. But which of the four is truly the alpha dog of the anti-Trump Mt. Rushmore?
I'm going to eliminate Obama first—he's got a little bit of nerd in him, and while it occasionally bolsters his appeal even more, I don't see him as having the kind of natural cool that characterizes the other three. It's more of an inherited cool, and a carefully maintained one. Obama probably doesn't look cool rolling out of bed, and I get the feeling his basketball game isn't as good as advertised. Obama is only 98% cool, and that just won't cut it with this group.
Which leaves three, and this is where it gets really hard. I'm going to argue that Clooney and Curry actually have the edge over James in natural coolness. They're both the kind of people who never seem to set a foot in the wrong place, and who, even when they're speaking out, always seem as suave and in control as humanly possible. They're unflappable. You wouldn't catch either of them getting talked into a bad idea like "The Decision." (Although Steph Curry's shoes? Not great.)
AND YET! Doesn't the fact that LeBron has endured those bumps along the road make his current coolness all the more compelling? Someone less cool would have shriveled under the same scrutiny. He's been hated and loved in equal measure, and he's even been divisive. He's been insulted by idiots like Skip Bayless, he's been celebrated by non-idiots like Obama, and he seems to have a talent for finding himself at the center of controversy. Despite all that, he remains America's greatest athlete, and has retained his baseline cool while proving his doubters wrong in Miami and Cleveland.
So I'm going to make a huge declaration: Because of the pure human resilience of LeBron's coolness, he is elevated a step beyond the Clooneys and Currys of the world, and is, in fact, the coolest human to own Donald Trump.
That said, if Roger Federer ever insults Trump? All bets are off, baby. (And in case you were curious, the least cool person to go after Trump is definitely Roger Goodell.)
Speaking of tennis, let's get to the rest of the superlatives...
Most Promising New Event of the Week: The Laver Cup
Question: Why is the Ryder Cup so much fun for so many people, from the hardcore golf nut to the casual I'll-watch-the-four-majors fan to the even more casual I-don't-really-like-golf-but-this-is-awesome crowd? The superficial answer is the combination of national competition (USA vs. Europe), the element of strategy, and a unique format that lends itself to dramatic moments. But the real answer is history. The Ryder Cup began in 1927, and it didn't reach its full potential until the emergence of a strong, hungry European team in the early '80s. It needed almost 60 years to really matter, but it had that time to grow, and now it occupies an important place in the world of professional golf.
Tennis has no equivalent. There's the Davis Cup, an international competition that can be very fun to watch for the hardcore tennis fan, but which has never come close to infiltrating the mainstream. Beyond that, nothing. That's why I'm so excited for the Laver Cup. You may not have heard about it, and you almost definitely didn't watch it, but this weekend featured some of the best tennis players in the world (Rafa and Roger among them) in a three-day competition pitting Europe vs. The Rest of the World. With three singles matches and one doubles match each day, the event is a race to 13 points, where the points escalate each day (you can read more here).
The idea came from Roger Federer's camp, and it went off perfectly—the world team (which was basically the U.S. and Australia) were the young upstarts, full of energy and creative basketball-themed sideline celebrations, while the Europeans were the heavy favorites trying to cling to an early lead. John Isner upset Rafa Nadal on the final day, and it came down to a Federer-Kyrgios final match, in which the G.O.A.T. saved a match point and won in what must have been the most tense, exciting match of the entire season—Rafa Nadal, playing the role of cheerleader, seemed to care about it more than anyone else, and Kyrgios broke down in tears when he lost the decisive match.
The format works, the players bought in, and the first installment was beyond perfect. In short, it has the potential to gather steam and be a very cool annual event. It just needs time, and history to become important to the players. It's harder to sustain that kind of momentum over decades in the 2017 professional climate than it was in 1927, but I hope they can pull it off.
The Funniest Attempt at a Clearly BS Excuse: Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
Defensive end Bradley Chubb was the best player on the field in N.C. State's 27-21 upset win at Florida State, and after the game he wanted to make an emphatic gesture, so he spit on the FSU logo. When asked about it, here's what Chubb said:
“I mean, I always spit when I’m playing football so I don’t even remember doing that. It wasn’t intentional at all. It wasn’t celebration. I celebrated with my teammates and then talked to coach (Dave) Doeren. I guess I just spit, I really didn’t mean to.”
And here's what he did:
That deserves nothing more than a simple, yet emphatic, LOL. Not surprisingly, Chubb later gave a more honest apology, saying his emotions got the better of him. But as a connoisseur of flimsy athlete defenses, I appreciate the original attempt, and salute Mr. Chubb for his chutzpah.
"I Never Thought I'd Hear This Guy's Name Again, Much Less in Such a Weird Context" Former Athlete of the Week: Raul Mondesi
Remember Raul Mondesi? The really good baseball player? Turns out he became a corrupt mayor in the Dominican Republic who defrauded his town out of $6 million and is now going to prison for eight years! Congratulations, Raul: You have officially made my Mt. Rushmore of former MLB players to be arrested for political crimes in a Caribbean nation.