Respect the Villain

Illustration for article titled Respect the Villain
Photo: Kevin C. Cox (Getty Images)

Madison Square Garden has a lengthy history of transforming mortal men into full-fledged villains, and in standing on the shoulders of notorious tormentors like Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan, Atlanta Hawks superstar Trae Young is the latest to embrace such infamy.


Prior to Atlanta’s first-round series against the Knicks, there were serious questions about whether or not the 22-year-old was up for the task. But after averaging 29.2 points and 9.8 assists throughout the course of a campaign that ended with a merciful 103-89 coup de grâce, the Hawks finished the series 4-1 and are advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Just don’t expect Knicks ambassador Spike Lee or the rest of their constituency to be courteous in defeat.

Throughout the course of the series, Young not only disemboweled the Knicks with his play, he also did it with his mouth. New Yorkers responded by doing everything humanly possible (more on that later) to break his spirit, but much like everything involving Knicks owner James Dolan, their quest ultimately concluded in failure.

There was the time Young sent the Knicks to bed with no dinner in Game 1:


There was the time Knicks fans chanted “Fuck Trae Young!” as Game 2 drew to a close. Then after becoming the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in his first two playoff games, he retorted with a defiant: “I’ll see you in the A!”


There was the time a fan spit on Young in the same game—the team responded by issuing a formal apology and banning the offending party from the arena indefinitely—and in true villain form, Trae didn’t let that shit slide:


And Young bowing at half court after nailing the dagger to eliminate the Knicks is the blueprint for a villain’s origin story:


Congratulations, Trae. You are officially a Knicks villain for life.

“The bow is something I did in high school after the game-winner,” he told reporters after he did the Cupid Shuffle on the Knicks’ grave. “Leading up to this game, I know where we are. I know there’s a bunch of shows around this city, and I know what they do when the show is over.”



Elsewhere Wednesday night, the Washington Wizards’ season met its untimely end after a 129-112 haymaker ended their series (4-1) against the 76ers. Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal also fueled trade rumors after declining to pledge his loyalty to the team moving forward.


“I haven’t even [...] we’re not gonna think about that, or even talk about it, right now,” Beal said after scoring 32 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in yet another gut-wrenching Washington loss. “I haven’t thought about none of that, as of yet.”


There was also the Temecula Clippers, who inched one step closer to a second consecutive playoff implosion after Luka Doncic said “If Benzino doesn’t need a neck, I don’t need one either!”—then proceeded to deliver a 42-point eruption that gave the Mavericks a 3-2 series lead against Los Angeles’ other team.


After falling to 3-2 in their own series against the Suns, the Lakers are clinging on to dear life, too. But with LeBron playing on one leg, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope nursing a quad- contusion, and Anthony Day-to-Davis out with a Grade 1 groin strain and whatever other injuries he habitually suffers while brushing his teeth or opening the fridge, the reigning champs can at least point to injuries as an excuse. Whereas much like the Tin Woodman, the Clippers just have no heart. Plus when’s the last time you saw a player glare at his teammate like this for missing a shot to tie the game?


It’s bout to be a long summer in Temecula.

Finally, I’d like to express my condolences to the Memphis Grizzlies, who were also put out of their misery Wednesday night with a lopsided 126-110 defeat. Thankfully, Memphis’ future is extremely bright, so after they shake this elimination off, expect them to do serious damage next season.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.



Watching Lakers fans’ attitudes devolve from brash, haughty bravado to finger-pointing, pearl-clutching and just flat-out whining has been the sweetest fruit.