Per 36 Minutes:
Given perhaps his last shot at the show, James “Flight” White willed unfurled a parallel phalanx of taut-skirted jet mavens, measured with sleepy eyes the precise number of steps from here to there – from the minimally showered and stubblebearded Euro-hoards from whence he came to a glory unfulfilled – took in his hands the spherical source of his joys and curses, strung out his gait in ever-stretching bounds, leaping skyward with ball held high and legs drawn in, gliding, gliding like grace aloft and reaching, reaching to touch the boydream ether and…
The signing and eventual release of James White worked out pretty much how most expected: not that well. After a serviceable if hardly incendiary showing at the 2012 Vegas Summer League, the Knicks – crepe thin in the backcourt – felt it worth taking a flyer on a player renowned for being pretty much just that. Many moons had waned since his now legendary YouTube antics, and it was unclear whether the years spent flicking Moltens in roundball backwaters had spurred in White any growth beyond another inch on the runway.
But we listened to Kevin Durant, among others, heap praise on a prospect few had seen. Not when he was biding time in a pair of non-consecutive NBA stints a decade ago. Not even when he was putting up 16 a game during his senior season at Cincinnati. Not when he was moonlighting as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. (H/t Bob Silverman)
All told, James White played in 57 games – 47 more than his first two NBA go-rounds – and started in 16, zero of which I remember. His role featured these specific functions: 1) staple himself to whomever he was guarding on defense; 2) stand as far in the corner as possible on offense; and 3) shoot under two and exactly two circumstances – up by more than 20 points, or down by more than 9,000.
Thanks to not a little social media lobbying, White was invited to participate in the 2013 TacoSodaPhone Slam Dunk Contest. Everyone knew what was coming: Flight’s patented Running-Start-Free-Throw-Line-Launch-Between-the-Legs-How-the-Fuck?-God-and-Gravity-Damning-Special. As if that possibility alone weren’t badass enough, dude assembled a cadre of ACTUAL WOMEN DRESSED UP AS FLIGHT ATTENDANTS for a makeshift runway. Arena lights dimmed low, the stage was set for a throwdown to turn the Toyota Center roof into smoke and shoot towers of flames with colors never even seen before out of every television and computer screen on earth.
Instead, we got arguably the most awkward Slam Dunk attempt in history – a symphony of fail burned to a CD scratched to shit by a pack of rabid jackals. Sometimes Flight would complete the under-leg handoff, only to slam the ball off the backboard with enough force to decapitate a marble statue. One time, the ball was lost mid-transfer and sent reeling off towards the crowd and into the arms of a small child, who threw it back, disgusted. On another attempt, Flight got so little air – a basketball Icarus winged with bacon – oxygen masks descended from the arena rafters. He used seven minutes of a one-minute clock, and the event producers didn’t do anything about it. That’s how bad they felt. One hundred and ten years after the Wright Brothers told gravity to go fuck itself, Flight was grounded. In spectacular fashion.
James White won’t be in the hanger for long; a one-year stateside stint alone should be enough to guarantee a half-decade largesse somewhere overseas. He’s already fielded offers from… teams with a lot of vowels, any of which will pay him more money in four months than I will make in sixty years. There’s even an outside chance that another NBA team will offer a training camp tryout. Whatever happens, none of this is uncharted territory for Flight; he’s a professional basketball player, and probably will remain so for a few more years, because he’s legitimately one of the best 500 or so on the planet. And that’s sayings something. Besides, which sounds like the more appealing February road trip: Milan, Rome, and Burlusconi Bunga Bunga Parties, or Cleveland, Milwaukee, and “QUICK, SOMEONE SNAP MY URINE ICICLE BEFORE I DIE OF EXPOSURE!” Exactly.
Good luck, Flight, and keep those space waitresses smiling.
Grades (5 point scale):
Final Grade: C