I saw Greg Oden at a Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles once. This was back in 2011, when he was just entering the free fall phase of his basketball career. I remember how much space he took up on his side of the booth and the enormity of the black tee draped over his shoulders. He had that old leathery catcher’s mitt look about him – I think 23 in Oden years is 306 in human years.
That’s Los Angeles in a nutshell: sometimes you see Greg Oden at a chicken joint; or Donald Glover coming out of a yoga studio; or Fred Durst meandering around like a sad kitten put out by its owner.
But I’ve only ever hooped with one dude in L.A. that has a Q-rating. And, to be honest, this dude’s Q-rating would be low – assuming Q-rating correlates with batting average, he’d be comparable to Brandon Inge.
I recognized him from that HBO show How to Make it in America, which aired for a few seasons at the beginning of the decade.
How to Make it in America was basically a failed attempt at turning Entourage into a New York City story of an over-privileged white guy who’s too lazy to do anything. And so, to avoid the cookie cutter, he launches a clothing line that becomes successful because… you know, white people.
The dude I hooped with played Cam, the white guy’s good-natured yet bumbling Latino sidekick. Cam served two purposes for the show: comic relief, and to co-sign on the white dude’s streetwise.
He’s probably better known now for his role in the 50 Shades of Grey series. But, again, he’s not one of the main characters getting beaten with a riding crop, so it’s debatable how much recognition he has for this.
I mean, it wasn’t until midway through our last game that we were like “hey isn’t that that dude from that show?”
Cam rolled to the court with his (or just a) girl, which I liked. A woman who supports her man’s hoops habit and pretends he’s MJ even if his jumper is broke, is a keeper. She was also very attractive – to borrow something Woody Allen once wrote about a lady friend of Earl Monroe: she was packed into her spandex with an ice cream scoop.
We were playing on this ragged, rundown court – the type of court that has mountains of concrete on one side and dirt patches on another – next to a school. I also liked that this dude was willing to ball up on the type of court that blows out ACLs and rips Achilles. Hoopin’ outside is a lost art.
Now, I can’t stress this enough: the comp that day was bad. Typical of ball in Los Angeles, we’re talking careless fadeaways, dribbling with your head down, and generally looking to do the complicated thing when the simple thing would suffice. I suppose that’s what happens when a city spends damn near 40 years learning their basketball from Magic and Kobe, the two least imitable players out there.
Take this with a grain of salt, but Cam was a decent player. I mean he’s literally five-feet tall, so he’d get mauled at Venice Beach. But, he was capable. He had a decent handle, and some know-how of playing (pickup) basketball. He really wanted to play up-tempo, run the fast break and dish. I don’t remember him shooting much – I can visualize the funky form of his jumper from when he was warming up – or at all. But he had a few solid passes on the break.
He also hustled on D – which is always nice. That was his game; he was in a constant state of motion. Which I suppose is ironic, given that his character on that show was supposed to be a dude who got by (or tried to) on the hustle.
He was an okay player – but he also had this way about him, like he thought he was better than he really was. He yelled “come on big-man” a little too smugly for my liking a few too many times. It was just a gut feeling he gave me.
You could probably call it self-confidence, or over confidence. Maybe that’s why he’s succeeding in a business that’s impossible to succeed in. Maybe he just has a warped view of himself as a ballplayer.
At the end of the day though, a pass first ball handler in L.A. is as beautiful as it is rare.