by Anton Kudriavtsev /@TheDiesel

The world as we know it today has a menacing aura. Without thinking about it, every day we face constant threats of terrorism, nuclear war, crime, and disease. Globally, the economic crisis has brought nations to its knees, with a slow and painful recovery the only option for the luckiest among us. While attempting to protect us, governments have not put aside partisan agendas to aid the middle class, or if it’s politically in fashion, the poorest of the poor. Permeating this mindset, a religious debate has polarized, confused, and angered many proponents on either side as each subsequent holy book seemingly urging their extremist followers to force Armageddon on this Earth.

On a local level, NBA players have not been immune. From Arenas’ guns to “protect (his) family”, Tyreke’s run-ins (or drive-ins) with the law, and Delonte entering the mercenary business, athletes are increasingly looking over their shoulders. It seems like no matter how successful an urban athlete gets, there’s always negative forces trying to pull them down.

How do we deal with all of this? To take every precaution against every threat will surely drive the most rational man to madness. Some prefer not to think about these realities, some derive strength from their family, and others? Well, others just want to turn on the TV…

*The stage is set. Inside a brilliantly illuminated Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, the Figure sits in the center of a small stage, bathed in gold light as various assistants and camera crews bend to his every whim.  The room is bursting with light glitter, a perfect marriage of marble, crystal, and gold. A crowd of fifty, meticulously groomed, sit behind him and Witness the preparations. Draped in a red casual checked shirt, jeans, Men in Black “when-did-these-come-back-in-fashion?” shades, and impressive facial hair, the Figure grins.*

An assistant, covering his few imperfections with a base layer of blush, comments: “You look good, sir.” An eternity of waiting and a small nod later, the Figure co-signs: “I know this.” Turning his head towards the cameras, he bellows: “Hey! What kinda cameras are those?” An intern squirms past camera crews and nervously sputters the answer: “Umm…the ones that add 15 pounds of muscle. Just like you requested, sir.” Without acknowledgment, the Figure breaks away from his media handlers to greet his guest.

Figure: “Yo Ryne, glad you made it man.”

Ryne: “No doubt. How’s it going, what’s with all this?”

Figure: “Ah, you know I gotta do me. You’re actually just in time for a pretty big announcement.”

Ryne: “No way, can I listen?”

Figure: “Listen?!  You’re staying on set with me.”

A director informs him that he’s due on the air in 2 minutes. The Figure commands back: “Gimmie 10. By the way, who’s interviewing me again?” The director, puzzled from the question responds: “The same guy you’ve been talking to for the last 55 minutes. Ric Boucher from ESPN.”

Through his dark shades and without hesitation, the Figure spots Ric feasting on a hot dog from across the room. “Hey, Douche-er! You better enjoy that hot dog cause you’re fired!”

Before finishing his meal, the journalist is immediately escorted by three large security personnel, one of whom wags a finger while he drags him to the lobby.

Ryne: “Whoa, is that Deke?!”

Figure: “He’s my head of security, don’t worry ‘bout it.”

Ryne: “So it’s cool that I interview you? I mean I feel kind of bad for Ric…”

Figure: “Relax, he’s probably interviewing Kobe in the lobby.”

The director arranges the stage and motions for the cameras to prime their target: “we’re on in 5…4…3…”

Ryne: “Welcome back! So what’s new since the last time I saw you?”

Anton: “Well, I got sponsored by Humbling Insurance Co. I’m actually contractually obligated to say the word ‘humble’ at least 3 times in every interview.”

Ryne: “You’re kidding, right?”

Anton: “Humble.”

Ryne, after sighing heavily: “We’re just about ready to hear our guest of honour’s big announcement. Anton, the answer to the question everybody wants to know – what’s your Decision?”

Anton: “Um, in this fall…Man, this is very tough. In this fall I’m going to take my talents to SLAM online and do weekend game recaps for the Post Up.”

Ryne: “Wow! What do you say to the commenters?”

Anton: “Well, first of all I just want to say what a humbling experience it will be. I think I spoil a lot of people with my comments, the opportunity to expand SLAM’s coverage was hard to turn down. I’m gonna continue to be great. You know, my heart will always be in commenting.”

Ryne: “That was the conclusion you woke up with this morning?”

Anton: “That was the conclusion I woke up with this morning. Well that and the fact that I look better than the mirror above my bed, but that’s neither here nor there. Humbling.”

The show tapers off, credits roll, and money is suspiciously given to charity. Ryne and Anton exchange pounds, the planned charade dropped as they smile for the photographers.

SLAM and Anton: Yes. We. Did.