Like most people outside of Miami, we’re pulling for the Dallas Mavericks to upset the Heat in this year’s NBA Finals. (After last night’s game it’s actually looking possible.) And like most people, it’s because we want to see LeBron James lose.
But it’s different for us. We want to see him lose specifically to this Mavs team, which features former Washington Wizards starters DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood and (the injured) Caron Butler. Those three were stalwarts of the “glory years” Wizards (2004-2008) and this series represents the last chance for the Wiz to get any sort of quasi-revenge against LeBron, who knocked us out of the playoffs three straight years when playing for Cleveland.
But looking back on those heartbreaking losses we realized something — the Wizards were ahead of the times. Particularly when it came to... predicting the future of hip-hop.
Three examples of how:
1) The proliferation of "swag."
The word is everywhere. It means everything. Everyone is saying it. Diddy briefly changed his name to it. But it was Gilbert Arenas who brought it charging back into the lexicon on a cold January night in 2007 after hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat the Milwaukee Bucks. “My swag was phenomenal,” he said.
2) The continued success of Soulja Boy.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the 2008 playoff series between the Wizards and Cavs was the proxy war between Soulja Boy and Jay-Z. Wizards shooting guard/neck tattoo enthusiast DeShawn Stevenson called LeBron James “overrated.” James responded by throwing a fit, comparing himself to Jay-Z and comparing Stevenson to Soulja Boy, a then 17-year old rapper and presumed one-hit wonder best known for the song "Crank That (Soulja Boy).” Jay-Z recorded a diss song about Stevenson. (It’s worse than his verse on “Monster.”) Stevenson had Soulja Boy sit courtside as his guest at a game in Washington.
Fast forward three years and Soulja Boy isn’t exactly a star on Jay-Z's level, but he’s huge to a new generation of fans — 3 million of which follow him on Twitter. (He also has multiple hit singles with the word “swag” in the their titles.)
3) The Internet making something sorta mediocre very beloved.
Those “glory years” Wizards weren’t actually that good. The team never won more than 45 games in a season and won just a single playoff series during its run. Yet they became darlings of the NBA. Why? Easy — the Internet. From Gilbert Arenas’s groundbreaking blog (he was called the league’s “first blog superstar”), to the countless locker room anecdotes doled out by our main man Dan Steinberg on the D.C. Sports Bog, to the absurdist ramblings on fan site Wizznutzz, the Wizards kept us constantly entertained. Sounds a lot like the constant tweeting, tumbling, YouTubing of today’s hip-hop young’ns. When it comes strictly to rapping talent, Lil B feels a lot like one of those 42-and-40 Wizards teams. But throw in a never ending stream of online extra-curriculars and you’ve got a sensation.