Photo via Oracle Arena's Twitter
History has shown time and time again every great power will fall. It’s one of the inevitabilities of life. There will always come a point where self-servitude corrupts intuition and sends even the strongest among us into a downward spiral to nothingness. Another will rise from the ashes and attempt to subvert destiny, which will ultimately end in futility, because you can’t conquer fate. Pride will always win (or, in this case, lose).
James Harden, the shooting guard for the Houston Rockets, found this out in ignoble fashion this week during the conclusion of the NBA's Western Conference Finals, as he went from team star to league pariah. Last night, Harden's Rockets fell victim, four games to one, to the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are favored to win the league championship, and, led by the eminently likeable and truly excellent Steph Curry, they are fan favorites as well, so maybe fate was never on Harden's side. But there's no ignoring what came to be the dominant narrative of the series, the factor that at least in part led Harden to commit a playoff record 13 turnovers in last night's game: James Harden was the latest victim of the Based God's Curse.
There are many curses in sports—the Curse of the Billy Goat, the Curse of the Bambino, the Sports Illustrated Curse—but none of these is as potent as the Based God's curse. The Based God rules basketball with not so much an iron fist as a golden wrist.
The Beginning of the Based God's Curse
On January 29, 2011, Kevin Durant learned this lesson the hard way. That fateful Saturday afternoon, unbeknownst to him, Kevin Durant’s life changed and altered the fabric of NBA history as we know it. Unless you’re over 40 or live under a rock, you know the story by now: Durant sent out a tweet calling Lil B a bad rapper and questioning his relevance. It went largely unnoticed until a few months later, when the Based God responded by cursing Durant to never win a championship until he plays Lil B in a game of 21. The curse was briefly lifted but then later restored in 2014, with an accompanying song called "Fuck KD."
It’s easy to shrug this off a simple joke from a rapper who’s an expert at marketing himself in the online age. Durant is one of the best players in the NBA, and curses defy all the logical reasoning beaten into us via the process of aging. Believing in magic requires a mix of blind faith and creative imagination, and by the time you’re an adult you’ve been so jaded by the world you can’t remember what it’s like to experience joy.
But there is something different about this one. Since being cursed, Durant’s record in the playoffs is 20-21; the one time he made it to the finals he lost four games to one; and this year he broke his foot and missed the playoffs for the first time in half a decade. All Durant has to do to alleviate the curse is apologize to the Based God. But like all great powers before him, he won’t bow before his ego.
James Harden Angers the Based God
For the most part, the Based God has spent the time he's not cursing Kevin Durant spreading only positive vibes and cheering for pretty much any athlete who reps Lil B. Durant was his only victim, at least directly. However, in 2015, another challenger emerged to test chance: James Harden, the confirmed most annoying basketball player to ever exist on this planet, celebrates every three-point shot he makes by doing the patented cooking dance.
One might think this was a tribute, an homage to the rapper who once scuttled Harden's championship hopes when he was Durant's teammate at Oklahoma City, but there's a problem: He doesn’t give Lil B his proper credit. The Based God caught wind of this and sent a warning to Harden and the Rockets, requesting the player simply pay his respect to the forefather of his celebration and go on his merry way. But yet again, hubris reared its ugly head, and Harden did nothing. And Lil B—already a devout Golden State Warriors fan, it should be noted—had no choice but to take a side.
Foolishly, I thought this time the outcome would be different. I love Lil B with all of my being, but I still couldn’t quite wrap my mind around his curse affecting two of the most prominent basketball players in 2015. One of them had to rise above adversity, and who else would be better at it than the detestable James Harden? I was certain evil would triumph over good. I quickly learned I was mistaken.
Graphs by the author
The Curse Begins
Game one of the Golden State Warriors and Rockets series was a tightly contested affair that ended with the Warriors eking out a four point win at home. The series seemed to be set to go seven close games, but that was before the curse was made official. On May 21, the Based God took another victim. Harden was officially cursed for the rest of the playoffs.
Later that same afternoon the Warriors and Rockets took the floor for game two, which ended with Harden fumbling the game winning shot and time expiring. The curse was in full effect.
Game Three: Golden State 115, Houston 80
Nothing could be worse than botching the final possession of an important playoff game and causing your team to lose, right? Wrong. Game three ended with the Rockets losing by 35 (Kevin Durant’s number, which makes you think) in front of their home fans and Harden turning in his worst playoffs performance of this postseason, making just three field goals. Everything was beginning to fall apart for Harden. The Rockets were down 3-0 in the series, a deficit no team has ever come back from. I almost allowed myself to feel bad for him.
Game Four: In the Clear?
But then a sliver of hope emerged. Harden turned in an inspiring performance and lead the Rockets to their first win of the series in game four. Maybe the tides were beginning to turn and Harden would be the first to subvert the Based God’s curse. Or, more likely, the Based God was allowing Harden to get a taste of victory before he snatched it out of his hands like a thief in the night.
Lil B took on the role of the Warriors' chief spokesperson in the days leading up to game five, speaking to press outlets all over the country about the curse and landing an invitation to sit courtside at Golden State's Oracle Arena, where he could intimidate Harden in person. The scene was set, the car was parked, and there was only one way the story could end.
Game Five: The Based God Wins
In game five, Harden set the record for most turnovers in a single playoff game and ould do nothing but look on in wonder as the Rockets were ripped apart. Lil B, in attendance, taunted Harden and demanded he pay respects during the game. But Harden had already flown too close to the sun, and there was nothing he could do. His ship was doomed from the moment it set sail.
To be fair to Harden, his team was always going to be outmatched against Golden State. Even without the curse the Houston Rockets would have lost and likely just as quickly. But it’s the manner in which they lost that’s a testament to the Based God’s powers. It wasn’t so much of a defeat as it was a slaughter. Just look at the statistics. A betting man might assume, based on these numbers, that the curse was just a red herring, that Harden, in fact, actually improved after being cursed:
But that would be overlooking the most important statistic, one that the NBA doesn't track but the Based God does: swag.
Seen from this statistical perspective, it's not hard to understand why the Rockets lost. Harden was doomed. His team was beyond swagless, contending against a team with all the swag of the Based God himself behind it. There was no hope.
Looking Forward to the Finals: An Analysis
This is what makes the curse so interesting. Much like jokes about Migos being better than The Beatles, there will always be people who appreciate Lil B through a lens of irony, who think the whole thing's a joke. But for those of us who genuinely love him, it’s almost surreal watching the entire thing take shape. The beautiful thing about the curse is there’s nothing anyone can do to disprove it. It’s reached the point where the more and more people try, the more and more the evidence to the contrary piles up. Nothing you can say will alter reality. Which poses the question: where does he go from here?
There are whispers the Based God is going to curse LeBron James next. It would be a Herculean task to take down the best player in the world, but that didn't stop James's teammate Iman Shumpert from making pre-emptive peace with Lil B as his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, heads into the finals against the Warriors. The Cavs appear to have learned from Durant and Harden’s mistakes and give credit where credit is due.
Still, Lil B is, at the end of the day, a Warriors fan, and there's no way he's going to let his power go to waste in this pivotal finals series. My prediction is the Warriors will win in six games. Lil B will sing the national anthem at every home game and each outfit he plans will be more audacious than the last, culminating with him wearing a maxi dress.
But that's just the beginning. I predict either the Warriors or the Cavaliers will sign Lil B to a contract in anticipation of the off chance the series comes down to a final play to win a championship, and they need him to take the shot. From there, Lil B will replace Steve Kerr as the coach of the Warriors and lead them to seven straight championships. Finally, the Based God will replace Jerry West as the silhouette of the NBA logo and he will be the first rapper ever to own a majority stake of an NBA team, which he will rename the Bitch Mob.
The Based God’s Curse serves as an allegory of sorts for Lil B’s career up to this point. All he wants is a bit of recognition of his influence. For years he’s been birthing rappers and doing things five years ahead of the curve, and he’s largely absent from the discussion. In the age of the internet, where the line between creation and curation become increasingly more blurred, it’s important to never lose sight of true trendsetters, and Lil B is one of them. It’s time to start giving him due props, before you get cursed too. In case the stakes aren't sufficiently clear, I'll leave you with one last graph, my ace in the hole of statistical analysis:
Alex Hancock is secretly hoping the Based God still decides to curse LeBron. Follow him on Twitter.