Kanye and LeBron: Preview Chuck Klosterman's 'I Wear the Black Hat'

"Perpetual Topeka" is a brand-new essay included in the paperback version of the book, out July 1st

Chuck Klosterman
Courtesy Scribner
Chuck Klosterman
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"Perpetual Topeka" is a bonus essay that will be included in the paperback edition of Chuck Klosterman's I Wear the Black Hat, out July 1st. Order the book here.

I've obliterated three days trying to come up with an elegant way to write what I'm about to write, but I think the least elegant way is probably best: I like Kanye West. I don't particularly like LeBron James. I do, however, want LeBron James to succeed. And I want Kanye West to fail (at least once).

So there it is.

There's the concept. Accept it or reject it.

There is, certainly, a limited utility to this type of proclamation. Just because I don't like a guy doesn't make him a villain, and just because I have an irrational personal investment in someone's failure doesn't reflect any universal perception about that guy's life. I'm not claiming that these are the perspectives other people currently hold, nor am I arguing that these are the perspectives other people should adopt. Feel what you want to feel. Disagree with whatever you disagree with. My interest here is personal, and it tumbles through the chasm of my own emotional illogic: I'm interested in the gap between liking a musician while hoping he makes a horrible album, and I'm interested in the gap between disliking a basketball player while hoping he goes for 44 and 13 against the Pacers. The specific individuals I've designated are almost arbitrary; I'm more engaged with the problem itself, because I don't think this type of disparity is rare (particularly when one considers how impossible it should be). It shouldn't happen. But it happens all the time.

In 2004, historian Thomas Frank wrote a book titled What's the Matter with Kansas? Politically, the book leans left. But its central inquiry is apolitical: Why do Americans so often vote against their own interest? Why, for example, would an unemployed person support a presidential candidate who wants to reduce welfare? It's a complicated, multilayered paradox (and Frank's book is appropriately nuanced). But such a question can also be answered simply: Voters don't know who they are. They don't view themselves objectively, because no person can. Instead, they see themselves as a self-generated projection of who they could be, striving for whatever best-case scenario they consider plausible. The contradiction between what they think and how they feel does not pose a problem; as far as they can tell, no contradiction exists. That's the matter – that's the problem – with Kansas. It's also my problem, and I'm not even registered to vote.

I reside in perpetual Topeka.

 

No one needs me to culturally connect Kanye to LeBron. It happened on its own, in front of everybody. West refers to himself as "the LeBron of rhyme" and inexplicitly attended ESPN's disastrous made-for-TV event The Decision (where James announced he was leaving Cleveland for Miami). Ye referenced LBJ in the 2011 track "Gotta Have It" and puzzlingly deleted another reference to James from his 2013 song "Black Skinhead" (although he later posted the deleted lyrics on Twitter for reasons that almost certainly don't exist). They're both only children obsessed with cultivating and usurping imaginary older brothers. They both fear loneliness. They're both driven by childlike insecurities (whenever things go pear-shaped, LeBron still can't stop himself from chewing his fingernails). LeBron has said he wants to be the first billion-dollar athlete; Kanye insists the only way to make an impact on society is to become a billionaire. They want us to know that they're friends. In fact, they interweave their relationship so transparently that pointing it out sometimes annoys people: I once made a public joke about LeBron demanding croissants, and people fucking hated it. They insisted the allusion was tired and cliché, even though the Yeezus song it referenced ("I Am a God") had been released a mere forty-eight hours prior to the inception of the joke. And you know what? The people who hammered that joke were right. It was sub-Borowitz. It was old before it was new.

 

I like to tell people that LeBron and I grew up together, which would be true if our relationship were viewed from Zeta Reticuli. In May of 1998, I took a job with a newspaper in LeBron's hometown of Akron, Ohio. Soon after, a peach-fuzzed 14-year-old James entered St. Vincent–St. Mary High School and immediately averaged 18 points a game. When LeBron was a tenth-grader, a coworker told me I needed to see this kid play in person, even though it seemed ridiculous to visit a tiny Catholic high school gym on a wintery Tuesday night. "You will never see a better sophomore," he said. "That might be true," I replied, "but I'll wait until next year." The following season, LeBron's tiny Catholic high school started moving its home games into local college arenas. They still sold out immediately. I never got inside. Sometimes I would see him on TV, which already seemed crazy. Even things he didn't do qualified as news; when he was a senior, the biggest story of September was that LeBron wasn't going to play football. In January, he ["mysteriously"] started driving a $50,000 Hummer. That vehicle became more famous than the mayor.

LeBron's mother was a teenager when she gave birth. She lived in public housing. Money was scarce. His father was a convict who played no role in his upbringing; LBJ's initial paternal role model was his mom's boyfriend, a man twice sentenced to prison. Despite this adversity (or because of it), James became a basketball genius. Considering his height and strength and dexterity, it was the obvious path. College was never necessary. Considering who he has become, it's the type of origin story one expects. There are probably twenty players in the NBA who'd submit a similar childhood résumé.

Kanye West was also raised solo by his mother. He came from a family of divorce, but the landing was softer; born in Atlanta, he was raised in a middle-class suburban Chicago household. His mom was an English professor. His father (who remained in the South) was a devoutly Christian photojournalist and a former Black Panther. Judging from the esoteric aesthetic of his music, this arcane origin story is almost more predictable than LeBron's – it seems as if it was cobbled together by someone making a VH1 movie about a fictional rapper who's supposed to "signify" Kanye after the network failed to secure his life rights. Viewed through this biographical prism, no artist has ever been better engineered to become who he is. But this, of course, is not enough. Kanye aspires to be greater than his literal self, so he adds value. Here is how he describes the source of his maniacal drive, outlined in a spellbinding Q&A with Jon Caramanica of the New York Times: "[In] seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn't get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn't on it. I asked the coach what's up, and they were like, 'You're just not on it.' I was like, 'But I hit every shot.' The next year – I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that's how good I was. But I wasn't on my eighth-grade team, because some coach – some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah – they're all the same as that coach."

The reason this anecdote is awesome is not because it's so insightful, or because it elucidates something that can't normally be explained, or because it fits so nicely into an essay that compares Kanye West to a pro basketball player. It's awesome because it's not really his story. It's possible this all happened, exactly as he claims. But I have some doubt. [West is five foot eight, there's no tangible record of his adolescent basketball career anywhere on the Internet, and I've never seen a roster photo involving his face. I'm not suggesting that he can't play ball or that he wasn't good – it just seems odd that there's no electronic paper trail for someone who's both very famous and unusually obsessed with bringing up his junior high basketball career in major interviews. I can locate Kanye's baby pictures in less than three seconds. Why is this so comparatively difficult?] Moreover, the origin story West tells is a note-for-note cover of Michael Jordan's origin story. It was Jordan who famously got cut from the basketball team as a sophomore, an anecdote he continued to reference even as he was being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It should be noted that Jordan's story is also a slight exaggeration – he was technically cut from the roster, but it wasn't like he was vanquished from the program. The varsity needed another post player and Jordan was a guard; he merely had to play JV for one season (and it probably helped his game). The memory of his alleged degradation is constructed, but the construct has consequence. It became a way for Jordan to galvanize his first grudge against society, a process he repeated for the rest of his life. Over time, it became his singular advantage: No one ever worked harder at making his imaginary enemies pay for sins they never committed.

Growing up in Chicago during the nineties, it's not surprising that a kid like Kanye might pattern his life after Michael Jordan's. At the very least, he adopted the most insane aspect of Jordan's persona: the fallacious belief that no one respects him. This is what West forces himself to believe about his art, and it becomes his motive for everything else. He wants to talk like Michael Jordan, and he wants to succeed like Michael Jordan. In that same Times interview, he calls himself the "Michael Jordan of music." But his day-to-day posture is not Jordanesque; their core personalities are dissimilar. Jordan is a much meaner person. West does not desire the cold, lonely universe that MJ constructed for himself. West wants to exist in the universe of LeBron James: He wants to be a natural genius, which is what LBJ is. And Kanye is not. He's more like Axl Rose – a man who willed himself into genius, and a man who needs conflict in order to thrive. But being unnaturally brilliant is not good enough for West. It might be good enough for other people, but not for him. And that makes him seem as crazy as he probably (actually) is.

 

Kanye and LeBron aren't villains in a functional sense, nor do they adopt a false veil of villainy for some sinister, pecuniary purpose. It only feels that way because of who they are. Is this racist? I suppose some (including West) might argue that it is. But this is just the unavoidable problem of flawed luminosity (it happened to Madonna and Nick Saban, too). LeBron is the most talented basketball player who ever lived, but not the greatest basketball player who ever lived. That pedantic distinction makes him vulnerable to the most unwinnable types of attack. Kanye operates from the nuclear center of our popular culture, but he literally says things like "I am the nucleus" when discussing himself. This prompts a certain kind of person to hope that he's eventually humiliated for being right. [If you want to avoid criticism, it's better to be good than it is to be great.]

At the time of this writing, LBJ has played eleven seasons in the NBA. He has been named MVP four times; by the time this is published, he might have a fifth (unless the media decides hyper-efficient stickman Kevin Durant has sufficiently paid his dues). Yet those four (or five) MVP trophies still underestimate his merit. Even in the years when others won the award, James was unilaterally viewed as the player most coveted by rival general managers. For one game or one series or one season, no objective GM would ever trade James for Durant. It does not matter who gets the votes or what criteria is used – with a gun placed to the head, everyone knows who the best player really is. Over that same expanse of time, Kanye West released seven studio albums (assuming you count the collaborative Watch the Throne). The consensus is that two of these albums are classics, one is very good, two are pretty good, and two are boring. But those engaged with pop still talk about all seven of those projects, constantly and equally. As with Philip Roth, West's latest work is obsessively compared with whatever he produced in the past; instead of seven separate albums, it's more like he's making one superlong album that will only be complete when he dies. Other modern musicians have made better records, but Kanye makes the unavoidable ones. He makes the records that require conversation. So within this new musical economy – within this attention-based economy, where music has almost no tangible value beyond the degree to which people discuss it – West makes the records that are worth the most. He is the MVP every season, even when he doesn't get the votes.

Now: Is this "news"?

This is not news.

This is, in most respects, the consensus opinion (not the only opinion, but the median view among the parties most engaged). "LeBron is unstoppable." "Kayne is talented." These points are not eligible for debate; even Armond White would consider them self-evident. But I still needed to define them in order to address the question I care about more: Why do I root for the man I like less, and why do I desire malfunction from the man I like more? It seems like such a stupid thing to want, in both directions. It seems like a synthesis of self-deception and self-loathing. But that's not what it is. What it is, I think, is a strangely hopeful contradiction. The reason I don't like LeBron James is because he represents the irrefutability of physical dominance. He has no corporeal weakness. Cheering for LeBron is like cheering for gravity. But I still (silently) root for him to dominate, because that is his function. That is his social merit and his historical impact. The banality of his dominance is precisely what makes him interesting (and that fascination will end the moment he seems mortal). My relationship with him will cease the moment he becomes average. Conversely, I'll always follow Kanye West, regardless of what happens to his skill set. He is an intrinsically strange character, regardless of what he's doing or the relative quality of his work. This is why I would like to see him fail at something: I believe a cataclysmic Kanye West collapse might be the most dramatic thing he'd ever create. It would be the musical event of the decade, and it wouldn't make him any less vital.

I want him to fail because I like him. Not in spite of the fact. Because.

 

People accuse Kanye of taking himself too seriously. I think he takes himself about as seriously as necessary. Sometimes he's flat out wrong about how the world works, and I don't think he has an accurate sense of self. He overestimates the depth of his creativity. But that's not the same as overestimating himself.

Here's Kanye tweeting from an airplane: "I hate when I'm on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me, like 'Oh great, now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle.'" Obviously, he's joking, much in the same way Mitch Hedberg used to joke (and the joke is funnier if read in Hedberg's voice). But jokes without punch lines always mean something else. Even the most boring details of West's existence are allegories: The flight represents his life. The water bottle represents the rewards of fame that feel both predictable and unanticipated. Kanye is now personally responsible for what his life generates automatically. This confuses him, even though he'd understand completely if it happened to anyone else. And he wants to complain about that dissonance, but he knows he can't. So instead, he complains about free water. This, much like his relationship with Kim Kardashian, is a level of art.

Here's Kanye being interviewed on a San Francisco radio program, explaining his decision to have a bearded man dressed like Jesus Christ wander onstage throughout the Yeezus tour: "What's awesome about Christianity is that we're allowed to portray God. We're allowed to draw an image of him, we're allowed to make movies about him. Other religions aren't allowed to do that. So that's one of the awesome things about Christianity." He concludes this thought by comparing himself to Michelangelo, a comparison we're supposed to mock. But is this not an unusually profound statement to forward on a secular radio show that isn't particularly interested in what the answer means? He's arguing that the strength of Christianity is its willingness to allow every follower to interpret – and create – his or her own personal image of Christ. He's arguing that not only is it not sacrilegious to place an actor portraying Jesus in the middle of a hip-hop show, but that it's antispiritual to question the decision (since the actor is a manifestation of West's own personal relationship with God, which is the psychological center of his own spirituality). He's arguing that even Jesus can be reinvented.

Here's Kanye talking about literature: "Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph. I am a proud nonreader of books." Where to begin? For one thing, he said this while promoting the release of his own (fifty-two-page) book. For another, Kanye is a rapper; he traffics in words. He's also a narcissist; he traffics in self-absorption. He longs for elite intellectual acceptance while bragging about an unwillingness to read. It's a bad strategy. But one must note that he's not talking about a lack of interest in writers. He is talking about his lack of interest in books. He would never want a book's autograph. So would he want a song's autograph? What would that even mean? Does he see such a division between who a person is and what they create that he does not even believe they are partially connected? Wouldn't that erase his entire career? Is he saying this just so I will ponder these specific questions in a book he won't read on principle?

Here's Kanye, near tears, on television, standing next to Mike Myers, trying to raise money for victims of a hurricane: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." This statement is objectively unfair. It's possibly – probably – untrue. It is preceded by an equally bizarre statement (also by West) suggesting the U.S. military had recently been granted clearance to shoot random citizens in the streets of New Orleans. It's too much and not enough, all at the same time. Yet when we aggregate the celebrity reaction to Hurricane Katrina, this is the main thing we remember; for a lot of people, it's the only celebrity response they remember at all. If Billy Joel wrote a sequel to "We Didn't Start the Fire," he would quote this statement in the lyrics. Despite its intellectual shortcomings, it emotionally explains everything (which translates as being historically right).

The nucleus cannot be banal, even when banality is in the intention. The nucleus wins again.

 

LeBron is not the nucleus. LeBron is a proton and an electron. He is positive and he is negative, which keeps him stable. [This, I will concede, is not a flawless metaphor. I'm not Marie Curie. But it's tough to flippantly describe LeBron's life: Things never work for him the way they should, even though they always work out for him in the end.]

Return, for a moment, to the year 2002. James appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a junior in high school. He is declared "The Chosen One," although it remains unclear who did the choosing (due to a tattoo, many believe it was LeBron himself, although my guess is the editors of Sports Illustrated). The subtext of the article indicates that LBJ's potential is so immense that, in order to fulfill his baseline expectations, he must become the finest player of his generation. That is the minimum requirement for his career to be viewed as a non-bust, and it's decided when he is seventeen, before he is old enough to purchase cigarettes.

But it happens.

He actually becomes the player he is supposed to become. He is not like his friend Maurice Clarett, the northeast Ohio peer who views himself as the gridiron equivalent of LeBron before ending up in federal prison. He is also not like Todd Marinovich or Freddy Adu or Felipe Lopez or any other modern American athlete shackled with this gradation of anticipation (discounting golfers with sex addictions). He was consciously set up to fail, and he did not do so. And it seems like that should be the whole story. When people discuss LeBron, this is what they should discuss: his unparalleled capacity at fulfilling unrealistic goals. But (of course) they do not. You can't be impressed that someone merely completed whatever they were allegedly promising to do. As such, LeBron's life must be mined for deeper meanings, in the hope these new meanings will engender alternative narratives. And it works about half the time.

As a young pro with the Cavaliers, LeBron didn't (or couldn't) post anyone up. Did this mean he was immature, or perhaps selfish? Maybe. Later in his career, he became merciless in the post, more competent and more nuanced than 98 percent of the league. Did this mean he was now accepting professional responsibilities he had previously avoided? Maybe. Everything can always mean something else. In 2008, LeBron posed for the cover of Vogue with Gisele Bündchen, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. The image paid homage to King Kong, thus placing LeBron in the position of an ape. Pundits wanted to be outraged about this photo, but no one knew precisely who to be upset with. Did it somehow indicate that LeBron doesn't care about race? [No. But pundits pose this type of misleading rhetorical on purpose. "In order to mesmerize the public," wrote Morrissey is his Autobiography, "you must accuse someone of being the opposite of what you have believed them to be."] That same year, LeBron donated $20,000 to a committee hoping to elect Barack Obama. Suddenly, LBJ is political! Of course, LeBron's income in 2008 was $28.4 million. This means he was earning around $13,600 an hour; his $20,000 pledge was like an elementary school teacher giving Obama $22.50. In May of 2010, he and the Cavs collapsed in a critical playoff series against the Celtics; rumors insisted this was because a teammate had slept with LeBron's mother. When James gleefully abandoned Cleveland for Miami that summer, he instantly became the most hated athlete in America. A book titled The Whore of Akron was published, violently undermining his character; its author expressed a desire for James to suffer a career-ending injury as retribution for his decision to leave Cleveland. The book's author, a Cleveland native, was living in New Jersey when the book was released. No one found this especially strange.

Different rules apply to different people.

 

[If you're speaking in public and your remarks (for whatever reason) start to disintegrate, the one thing you're never supposed to do is tell the audience that you realize this is happening. You're not supposed to draw attention to the speech's collapse, since it's possible the audience has no idea anything is remotely wrong. But I always do this. If I'm speaking in public – and if the speech starts to unspool or hemorrhage – I inevitably stop the address and tell the audience that I'm fucking everything up. You're never supposed to do this, but I do it anyway. And you know, there's a similar rule about writing: If you feel like your point is muddled or ineffectual, you're never supposed to expose your own recognition of that opacity; you're never supposed to type, "This essay is not working out." You're just supposed to go back and rewrite it until it more effectively fools the reader.

But this essay is not working out.

Now, could I go back and fix it? Of course I could. If I didn't care about the veracity of the result, I could fabricate a durable explanation for why I want Kanye (who I like) to fail and LeBron (who I dislike) to succeed. There are tricks to doing this, and I know them all. Some of them I invented. But here's the problem: My confusion here is real. I'm not writing this to persuade you to agree with me; I'm writing this because I want to figure out why I feel the way that I do (and pondering in a dark room doesn't seem to suffice). At the beginning of this essay, I gave the impression that I've been occupied with this problem for three days. In reality, I've been trying to figure it out for two years. I know the premise is true: I know that my feelings are incongruous, and that feelings come from thoughts, and that thoughts don't happen without some outcrop of reason. But I still can't explain it. I still can't figure out why this dichotomy exists. I feel like I'm grasping at random threads and vom- iting up facts arbitrarily, almost as if information by itself somehow constitutes an argument. After all this time, I still don't know what I'm doing.

So let me try again, one last time.]

Every so often, Kanye West seems mentally ill. Periodically, he behaves like an adult on the autistic spectrum. On a few rare occasions, his sexual orientation scans as ambivalent. But the only time all three of those phenomena occur simultaneously is when he talks about clothes (which, in the winter of 2013, seemed to be the only thing he ever wanted to talk about). Whenever Kanye starts lecturing about elbow patches or retail basketball shoes or the hypocrisies of the fashion industry or his desire to be accepted by the culture of couture, he mechanically rattles off the names of six or seven esoteric European designers, often like a robot reading from a catalog. He expresses oblique outrage over Louis Vuitton's unwillingness to contact him for a business meeting and insists his own aesthetics are ten years ahead of everyone else in the field. "I am Warhol," he says, and then he casually demands that a multinational conglomerate adopt the role of the Medici family in order to finance his dreams. [The Medicis were the Italian political dynasty that financed Michelangelo and Galileo during the Renaissance.] Kanye's hottest fantasy would be for his wife to start designing high-end bow ties so that he could complain that they're not popular enough. He remains shocked that no one is paying him millions of dollars to design leather tracksuits and works from the position that this oversight should be shocking to every reasonable person in America. He believes we should all find this crazy. And we generally do, but generally for different reasons.

Now, we all have biases, and here's mine: I think fashion is idiotic. And this bias has nothing to do with its relationship to advertising or consumerism or anything socio-heavy – it just seems silly and overvalued. I can understand how a person might find fashion interesting, in the same way I understand how a person might be interested in calligraphy. I will concede that Jimi Hendrix and Audrey Hepburn looked cool in scarves. But the notion that fashion is somehow important makes me want to throw up. The central definition of "superficiality" is the act of caring about how something looks on the surface (as opposed to what it actually is). This being the case, it's hard to argue that fashion is anything less than the single-most shallow obsession communally shared by most of the free world. Clothes literally represent the most surface element of any human. So when I hear Kanye talking about clothing – and especially when I hear him talk about brand-name clothing – I instantly grow bored. And I also grow disenchanted, because I don't want him to care about something so vapid. I want him to care about something else. It doesn't even have to be music. It can be almost anything: Architecture. Drugs. Cryptozoology. I'm flexible. Just not clothing. Anything but clothing.

But this is where I am shortsighted.

This is where I don't get it.

"He's really Cobain-ing this concept," my rock-crit colleague Jon Dolan tells me, casually inventing a grunge gerund I instantly understand. It is, curiously, the ideal description of what West is doing with couture fashion: In the same way that Nirvana reconfigured the parameters of mainstream culture, West has altered the meaning of superficiality. He has turned superficiality into something profound. In his universe, designer jeans do not act as a barrier between the rich and the poor; in his universe, designer jeans make a poor kid and a rich kid exactly the same. The jeans connect them (the jeans represent taste, and taste supersedes class). He projects that relationship everywhere, into everything he touches. When I view West from a distance, I think, "Here is a man obsessed with the unreal." But the closer I look, the realer it gets. In 2010, West rapped the sentiment, "One day I'm gon' marry a porn star." Two years later, he proposed to a woman most famous for making a sex tape. That decision would be hilarious if it wasn't so goddamn interesting. You cannot deconstruct the indestructible.

I love Kanye West, but I don't like what he's doing to the world. I want Kanye to be the way that he is, but no one else. His version of progress should not become the acceptable definition of progression. "He's not a diaper-changing kind of guy," said the mother of his child when asked about West's parenting style. When I first heard this, I thought, "Well, of course he isn't. Who the fuck is?" But then I thought about it longer, and I realized everybody is (or at least everyone who chooses to have a child). Changing diapers is the most central, inescapable part of raising a newborn. But Kanye doesn't view normalcy as a requirement. He sees normalcy as an optional path for uncreative people. When West releases a song ("Blood on the Leaves") that compares South African apartheid to the complexity of having two girlfriends seated at the same NBA game, I think, This guy is truly himself. I think, This guy's thoughts are sublime. But I only want him to think like this. I don't want the world to follow. And I suspect they probably will. Not totally, but generally. Society at large will slightly drift toward his axis. His influence is palpable. West gets a lot of little things incorrect, but he's (pretty much) right on the money whenever he swings big. When he released 808s & Heartbreak in 2008, everybody thought it sounded terrible; five years later, it appears to be the single-most influential album of the decade. He's just not wrong about sweeping cultural bullshit. And I want him to be wrong (at least once). I know it would be fascinating, and I know I'd feel better. Because I am not ready for his reality to become my reality. I'll probably never be ready. So I hope for West to fail . . . and with that hoping, I validate his professional paranoia. I become the haterade-swilling straw man he imagines in his mind. My faceless apprehension fuels his radiant insanity, and his power increases again. Which forces me to draw a curious conclusion.

I must be jealous.

Or maybe just nervous?

No. Not nervous. Jealous.

It doesn't feel that way, but it's the only reasonable explanation. And I suppose it's the perfect explanation, because it also [conveniently] explains why I want LeBron James to succeed, despite my inability to like him. I mean, why would I be jealous of LeBron James? He's not changing the world, and he's certainly not changing the world in his favor. He's incrementally changing the game of basketball, but not that much (the league would be worse if he didn't exist, but it wouldn't devolve – we'd just spend more time fixated on Durant). He doesn't seem anything like me, physically or emotionally. He is just a tall, strong man on the TV, blowing my mind without remotely changing it. I root against him because I can. It's sports, and that's part of it. It's only a game, which means losing doesn't matter.

Excerpted from I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman. Copyright 2014 © Chuck Klosterman. Printed with Permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Order the book here.

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