Playing Ugly

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Erm… good hustle?

Since the All Star break, the Memphis Grizzlies have one of the best records in the NBA, 22-7. Not coincidentally, this spell of great form corresponds with Marc Gasol, reigning defensive player of the year and floor general for the Grizzlies, coming back from injury. The Grizzlies have a very defined style of play; on almost every possession they will aim to post-up the opposition, banging and barging their way into the paint, utilising the strength and tenacity of Zach Randolph, Gasol and their other big men to the fullest. Randolph also happens to be an incredibly dominant offensive rebounder, so they get a lot of second chance point opportunities simply by virtue of his physicality in the paint. They partner this offensive game with a stingy defensive set up, 3rd in the league in terms of points allowed. Gasol can protect the rim with impunity and organises a defence as well as anyone in the league. They aim to stifle high scoring opponents and grind out victories with low points totals, as they’re 5th from bottom in terms of points scored per game. It is an ugly style of play, disjointed and slow, and it is unlikely to win many fans outside of Memphis.

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Is it coincidental that this Memphis team, when you consider the evidence of their ugly style of play, contains so many weird looking dudes? The answer is yes, it is. But still, it seems fitting that this bash and crash team, deservedly proud of their pragmatic and effective, if unappealing style, also buck the trend of the supermodel sports star. There are a lot of weird looking NBA players, I mean, being seven foot tall makes you an aesthetic anomaly straight away. But have so many of these future radio stars ever been on one team before.

I’ll start off by saying, Marc Gasol is not one of these aforementioned uggos. He has a sort of lumberjack ruggedness, a very traditionally handsome feller (unlike his brother). But him aside, the Grizzlies seem to be brimming with uneasy on the eye basket-ballers.

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Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful, baby.

Zach Randolph

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Despite the certainty that Randolph must be an athlete in peak physical condition (how else could he be playing so effectively in the NBA) the Grizzlies power forward gives this strange impression of being heftily barrel-chested, like a mildly overweight man sucking his gut in when an attractive woman walks by at the beach. Also, it might be just the head band, but his face looks so compressed, like he’s the headgear they use in amateur boxing.  And because he’s so active on the boards, the sight of his flabby arms flailing, and face grimacing, is an assuredly common one in games against the Grizzlies. But compared to the others, Z-Bo’s a regular George Clooney.

Kosta Koufos

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Oh brother, Kosta, please. How ironic it would be if he played for the Clippers. The manifest-destiny style of male pattern baldness is tough for any man to take, even a successful NBA centre. But the decision to dust off the electric razor, set it to 0 and go to town is one that should come sooner rather than later. There’s literally no reason for Koufos not to go the full skinhead on top, I mean, the intimidatory factor alone would only help a centre impose himself in games. And while you’re at it, shave that god-awful Amish face furniture as well.

Nick Calathes

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At the risk of repeating myself, somebody get this man a pair of clippers. A lot of dudes don’t understand, bushy sides make the top look even more wispy and off-putting than it already is. I’m sorry Nick and this might sound harsh but you are currently cultivating a very convincing impression of a guy you wouldn’t trust to watch children. Even Nosferatu, to which Calathes has a passing resemblance, knew that the chrome dome was the way to go. Try modelling yourself after Jason Kidd, on the court and on the scalp.


Tayshaun Prince

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The final player on this Tod Browning style fantasy team is the Grizzlies small forward (or should it be skinny forward), the Skeleton Prince himself, the Twig, yes, you got it, it’s Tayshaun Prince. Length is a huge asset in the NBA, and Prince certainly appears to have it, but it may just be an optical illusion because of how thin his limbs are. He looks so frail you wince every time he jumps for the ball for fear of his legs snapping when they come back down to earth. Obviously, his looks are deceiving, he is an elite defender. But at 34, after 12 years in the league, you’d think he’d be able to put some meat on those bones.

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It can be tough to look at sometimes … the players, not the winning record. 

These players are all good players; it could even be argued that Randolph is the best player in the league at what he does. And they all have made the Grizzlies an incredibly hard team to beat this season, despite their aesthetic limitations. So this cheap crack at their shortcomings in the beauty departments isn’t meant to denigrate them as players, or the Grizzlies as a team. I just think it’s funny that such visually disagreeable group of dudes have been able to be so successful lately playing such a visually disagreeable style of basketball. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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And stay proud of it Memphis.

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