Van Gundy did want a national audience, tuning in for what could have been the final NBA game of the season, to hear his views on the situation. Just a few minutes into the game, the ABC/ESPN analyst took a few moments to chastise those who would see fit to engage in “Kardashian-shaming.”
It was the second time in the series that Van Gundy spent some airtime contemplating a celebrity fan. During Game 1 in Oakland, he blurted out, “I don’t know about this, but Rihanna just walked in front of me. Are you kidding me?”
Kardashian, 32, and Thompson, 26, have been an item all season, and she turned up at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday to cheer on her boyfriend. The ABC cameras were quick to zoom in on Kardashian as Van Gundy launched into his comments.
“I’ve noticed a lot, in this series, the debate about why Tristan Thompson has not played well,” the former Knicks and Rockets coach said. “And he hasn’t played well. But the debate about whether his significant other, Khloe Kardashian, and the ‘Kardashian curse,’ is the reason, to me, is downright low-rent.”
“My thing is this: When LeBron James struggled in 2011 in those Finals, did we say it was his significant other that caused him to not succeed, or last year with Steph Curry, was it Steph Curry’s wife, when he didn’t play up to standard?” Van Gundy continued. “No, this Kardashian-shaming is because she’s an easy target.
“And I don’t know her or her family, but I do know this: She deserves an apology for anybody who participated in that type of debate.”
Van Gundy didn’t name any specific Karshian-shamers, but he might have had ABC/ESPN colleague Jalen Rose in mind. Following Wednesday’s Game 3, in which Thompson had zero points in a 118-113 Cavs loss, Rose said the defeat could be blamed on “Father Time, gravity — and the curse of the Kardashians.”
Rose was referring to long-standing accusations, often made in jest, that the reality-TV stars, particularly Khloe and her sister Kim, have had negative effects on the various athletes they’ve dated, in addition to NBA-player ex-husbands in Kris Humphries and Lamar Odom. The substance of the “curse” talk lies in the supposition that the cameras and media circus that follow the Kardashians wherever they go make it difficult for their romantic partners to focus on their own careers.
Rockets star James Harden, who dated Khloe Kardashian for much of the 2015-16 season, lent credence to that line of thinking when he said in March that his MVP-caliber play this season was due, at least in part, to breaking up with her. “I don’t need pictures of myself when I’m driving my car,” he said. “Who cares? What shoes am I wearing? Who cares? Where am I eating? Who cares?
“It was unnecessary stuff that I think trickled down to my teammates. I had to eliminate that.”
In October, reports emerged that LeBron James was concerned about Thompson succumbing to the “curse,” but the sixth-year big man’s regular season statistics (8.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks) were more or less in line with his career averages. “Tristan is focused on his game,” a source told the gossip website HollywoodLife.com, adding, “Khloe knows he doesn’t need the distraction of her complaining about people being mean to her, so she’s venting to everyone but him.”
“Khloe would love nothing more than the Cavs to come back so they can shut up all the naysayers,” the website’s source added.
Neither of those things has much of a chance of happening, but at least Thompson helped the Cavs save some face in a record-setting, 137-116 Game 4 win. He only had five points, but chipped in with 10 rebounds and five assists.
That performance likely gave Kardashian plenty to cheer about from the stands, even if it was hardly likely to put a stop to the “naysayers.” But if all else fails, Kardashian can perhaps take some comfort from knowing that Van Gundy is in her corner.