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Abe Beame knew the Nets were pretenders all along.
Of all the cultural shifts we’ve seen in the last 15 years, there’s a chance the ascent and eventual primacy of the Kardashian’s is the most stunning and important story that explains where mainstream American culture has gone. They’re an easy group to mock, but take them lightly at your own peril. They have a fluency and understanding of what America thinks and wants without rival – one dating back to the late aughts when Kim Kardashian became famous for sex tape she made with Brandy’s little brother. Back then, her family was viewed as attention-starved strivers trying to book a seat on the C-List freak show margins of the reality television industrial complex.
Of the many savvy cultural reads that the Kardashians made, one of the most important that they were some of the first to recognize professional basketball players as a new class of young American royalty. As the economics of the league took off, along with the salary cap, NBA athletes went from merely rich, to ultra-wealthy. Not to mention they were young, cool, fashionable, and among the most gifted athletes on Earth. No longer were basketball players sturdy, God-fearing family men w married to their college sweethearts; they were some of the most eligible bachelors on Earth. The Kardashians helped them make that transition.
But much like the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant Softball Team, a trend began to emerge as each hooping love interest of the Kardashian and Jenner family (and whatever Scott Dissick is) had some tragedy befall them. And so the Kardashian Curse was born.
There are no stats to correlate Travis Scott’s relationship with Kylie Jenner and the tragic events that occurred at 2021’s Astroworld Fest – or Kanye’s relationship with Kim Kardashian and literally almost every second since that ended. But with the NBA athletes (nearly all of whom were active in the league when their respective relationships began), we have a decent sample size of measurable, empirical on-court performance that can either “prove” or “disprove” the curse’s existence. It’s also a varied subject pool. The Kardashian selection of athletes very much mirrors their ascent in culture: they began dating benchwarmers, veterans and role players like Kris Humphries and Rashad McCants, and slowly rose to the upper echelons of the league with stars like Ben Simmons and James Harden.
Of course, the Kardashian Curse isn’t real. In fact, when diving into the stats and specific case histories, exploring the “curse” reveals more about us, and our relationship with celebrity than it does about them. But in evaluating the effect these relationships had on the performance of these players, we can at least attempt to consider a new 21st century metric, one that could actually prove invaluable to teams considering prospects or free agents: How does the athlete, the organization, and the media around them deal with a sudden, unprecedented level of attention on their personal lives?
Lashing accountability for this fluctuation in performance to the women these men are romantically linked to is a depressingly old playbook that you can trace back in America to Mamie Van Doren and Bo Belinsky, but it’s always been a part of cultural discourse. You can even go back to the Bible and Greek mythology to read puerile misogynistic stories about a woman who gloms onto a strong man and drains him of his essence. The intent here is not to uphold the mythology, but to challenge it.
It’s a difficult concept to qualify, not unlike a player’s clutch performance in crunch time. You can imagine a future in which a team like my beloved Yankees, who have a somewhat tragic history of bringing in talent that has performed incredibly in smaller markets, only to crumble in New York’s highly scrutinized and pressurized environment, says “No Thanks” to an elite prospect because his numbers slipped during the few months he dated a random former Disney Channel starlet.
And so this growing subject pool gives us the opportunity to consider the tabloidization of the modern athlete. It’s an opportunity to consider, as the player travels from the edge of a box score to the front pages of the supermarket trades, who is doing amazing, sweetie?
(Apologies to DeAngelo Russell, Kyle Kuzma, and Chandler Parsons. You weren’t included here because the rumors of you dating Kendall Jenner were shaky and couldn’t be confirmed. In the case of Parsons and Jenner, I didn’t feel comfortable writing about it.)
Rashad McCants – Khloe (August 2008 – January 2009)
The former Tar Heel star and 2005 NCAA champion has the distinction of being the Kardashian’s first foray into the league. McCants also makes for a fairly easy subject for our study because he played in the NBA for four years, and his relationship with Khloe essentially played out over the course of the 2008-2009 season – his final in the league. McCants was a bouncy, undersized two guard, the type that doesn’t really exist anymore but once had a place in a different league. You could see an idealized journeyman version of his career that stretches over a decade and features him as a gun for hire bench microwave type.
But it wasn’t in the cards. McCants was always perceived as a headcase, making early and completely justifiable criticisms of the NCAA. He struggled with injuries and an unpleasant on-court demeanor in the wake of the great early-aughts Timberwolves team built around Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.
After the KG trade, McCants was thrust into a larger role on a rebuilding team and had his best season in his third year where he started occasionally and averaged 14.9 points per game in 26.9 minutes. To attempt to put this into perspective, I compared Rashad’s third year to the third year of arguably the best sixth man who ever lived, and it’s not really fair and there’s a million caveats and nits to pick, but consider:
I’m obviously not advocating the idea that in a different world Rashad McCants could’ve been Jamal Crawford for a multiple of physical and temperament-related reasons, but it’s also fair to assume that someone who was demonstrably more effective than that player wouldn’t be out of the league in a year. But that’s what happened to Rashad – arguably because his love life took a turn going into the 2008 season.
Introduced in the Fall of 2008 by friend Reggie Bush (who dated Kim Kardashian after Ray J), the relationship played out through the end of the year, dissolving in early 2009 because Khloe alleged, on an episode of Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami, that they hacked McCants’ voicemail and discovered he was cheating (McCants claimed it was an event staged for the show. It was allegedly filmed, he says, after they separated and they didn’t have his number.)
McCants regrets the relationship and claims it’s the reason why he didn’t become a $60-70 million dollar player. The statement feels like an easy buck-passing excuse, but there is an interesting element to consider. The end of the aughts was a fascinating period in the league. The 3-point revolution hadn’t yet occurred, it was the last gasp of David Stern’s authoritarian rule – as it was for the old school paternalistic coaches who largely treated their players as employees.
The NBA athlete wasn’t quite celebrified yet, and the Kardashian’s weren’t full-blown celebrities – more sweaty paparazzi hunters clinging to the lowest rung of American celebrity. My vague and anecdotal recollection of the relationship was with the carnivalesque amusement and horror I associated previously with Dennis Rodman and Madonna. This kind of tabloid shit just wasn’t something an NBA athlete would be associated with. So there’s at least a possibility that McCants, nowhere near the talent or personality of a Rodman, made himself a spectacle and distraction, cast himself from the perspective or grouchy old white men like then Wolves President Kevin McHale, as “not serious about basketball.”
Off-court issues aside, McCants saw minor drops in nearly every significant category in year four, both during his relationship to Khloe and after. Fearing the Timberwolves didn’t want to commit to re-signing him, he requested a trade and got one to the Kings, In over 34 games in Minnesota, most of which was in a relationship with Khloe, McCants saw drops in PER, True Shooting, Free Throw Rate, Turnover Rate, Win Shares, and VORP. The numbers tell the story of a player in a crucial contract year who lost focus.
After that season, McCants would never play another game in the league.
Lamar Odom – Khloe (September 2009 – 2013)
I’ll tread lightly with this one, not just because New York City legend Lamar Odom was one of my favorite players in the aughts, but because we’re dealing with addiction and real tragedy here. Chalking it up to some tabloid invention doesn’t seem fair or responsible.
Lamar Odom’s arrival announced a future of tall, position-less, unimaginably skilled players. He was successful basically everywhere he went in his career, regularly logging gaudy, balanced stat lines as he guarded five positions. But trouble followed him as well. He had a traumatic childhood scarred by untimely deaths. He blew a shot at being drafted #1 by the Bulls and ended up a Clipper, then bounced to the Heat where he learned what it meant to work hard and execute via Heat Culture, then was packaged to the Lakers in the Shaq trade where he finally realized his potential.
Lamar and Khloe met at a party for Ron Artest in Hollywood at the end of 2009. Three weeks later, they’d be married in a ceremony at Irving Azoff’s place. In 2010-2011 he won 6th Man of the Year and the Lakers lost to the eventual champion Mavericks.
That offseason the Lakers included Lamar in one of the most bizarre incidents of the last 20 years in the league, a failed trade with the then New Orleans Hornets that was overturned by David Stern. It’s the incident Odom points to as the beginning of the end. He requested a trade, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak immediately sent him to Dallas.
Things fell apart quickly for Lamar. He was a disappointment on a badly fumbled post-championship roster. Odom lost a cousin tragically during the lockout and understandably canceled an extended offseason workout regimen. His issues with substances began to spiral out of control and he was released.
Consistency was a problem in Dallas, but it wasn’t the only problem. The next season, just two removed from being Sixth Man of the Year, he played all 82 games for the Clippers but was a shadow of himself. His three point % dropped from 38 to 25 to 20. His per-36 was a nightmare and his shooting percentages dropped across the board.
The reality show Khloe & Lamar ran on the E! Network between 2011-2012 during the abbreviated Dallas season. Khloe filed for divorce in 2013, the last season of Lamar’s career. The persistent rumors of drug abuse and infidelity probably had more to do with the decision than his on-court performance. The paperwork on the divorce hadn’t been finalized in 2015 when Lamar had his infamous health scare at the Love Ranch, a Las Vegas brothel, and Khloe suspended the divorce so she could make medical decisions on his behalf as he lay in a coma. She stayed by his side for four days.
Khloe is the tragic hero of the Kardashian family. I’d argue she’s the person more responsible than anyone for the Kardashian’s dalliances in the league. I’d also argue she’s the most genuine, supporting, and wronged in the relationships she’s had with NBA athletes. And yet, when you look at the history, she has more to do with the perception that fate punishes the Kardashian love interests than any of her sisters.
Kris Humphries – Kim (October 2010 – October 2011)
It’s easy to reduce the narrative of the brief Humphries/Kardashian union to an American tragedy about celebrity, manipulation, and heartbreak, because that’s essentially what it was: A Gatsby-like relationship between an earnest, lantern-jawed, simian-browed Power Forward from Minnesota and the rich, glamorous society girl who ran with a fast, rotten crowd. Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries were engaged in May 2011, married in August on an E! special titled Kim’s Fairytale Wedding, and divorced 72 days later.
Humphries was a high school and college star, drafted by Utah with the 14th pick in 2004. At least culturally, it was a good landing place for him. He was a traditional ass-and-elbows post bruiser, a slightly up-skilled garbage man in the tradition of Adam Keefe or a poor man’s Paul Millsap. The type of player that’s essentially been left behind by the league, but may have had more interesting plans for Humphries had he emerged today. He found the Jazz and Jerry Sloan at the exact wrong time in a loaded front court with Carlos Boozer, AK-47, Mehmet Okur, and Jarron Collins, and ended up in Toronto.
He soon bounced to New Jersey and finally got some real burn. By 2010, Humphries established himself as a double-double machine. During the 2011-2012 season, he was introduced to Kim by Jordan Farmar. That year Humphries had his greatest season – with a starting slot and sure-handed efficiency, he averaged nearly 14 and 11 on 48% shooting on a terrible Nets team. The next season at Barclays, Humphries lost his minutes and was an afterthought, possibly due to the increased focus and attention by the media and fans after his relationship failure.
The divorce dragged out in court and somehow wasn’t resolved until 2013. In the interim, Humphries kicked around the league with lackluster stints in Boston, Washington, Phoenix, and Atlanta. He never touched double figures again. In 2019, Humphries wrote this harrowing Players Tribune piece about his experience as a celebrity husband and his regrets – what it provides more than anything about these early Kardashian relationships is context.
Now that the Kardashians are mono-name superstar celebrities and the lines between “traditional” fame and “reality” fame have been erased, it’s easy to forget that the family and everyone associated with them were once seen as bottom-feeders. Humphries discussed the boos that he would receive from bloodthirsty crowds, and it’s a reminder of how puritanical and callous the culture could be – and how novel a situation like Humphries’ was only a decade ago. The least exceptional player on the court inadvertently made himself a huge distraction. 2016-2017 was his last in the league. When you look at his Basketball Reference page, the most glaring stat for year-to-year were the minutes. After 2012, he never really got another opportunity.
Kim has publicly apologized for how she treated Humphries and admitted she never wanted to go through with the marriage. She attempted to reach out to him multiple times in the aftermath, and saw Humphries just once after their separation. That was in 2015 when she already had one of Kanye’s kids and was pregnant with another. He wouldn’t even say hello.
According to possible background internet bullshit, Humphries is now a real estate agent, developer and has money in a number of fast food franchises. But I’ve also heard that he lives where he grew up, on a lake in Minnesota. On clear and quiet summer evenings, he can be seen by neighbors at the end of the dock behind his home, reaching across the lake with his arms outstretched towards a green light flashing in the distance.
James Harden – Khloe (June 2015 – February 2016)
Between the summer of 2015 and the All-Star break in 2016, in one of the strangest chapters in the lives of both members of this couple, James Harden traded (what I imagine was) a long line of Houston strippers named after desserts for a tabloid relationship with Khloe.
It’s probably the weirdest season in the middle of Harden’s peak run with the Rockets. In 2014-2015 he notched the first of what would be three second place MVP finishes (winning once, in 2017-2018), In a five year stretch, there was only one season Harden didn’t finish second or win MVP.
In 2016, the Rockets stumbled to a .500 record coming off a miracle Western Conference Finals run the year prior (think “The Josh Smith Game” against the Clippers, which we’ll return to later), good for eighth in the West. They were blown out in a Round 1 gentlemen’s sweep to the 73-9 Warriors. The machinations behind the scenes were even stranger.
It was a transitional year, the end of the Dwight/Harden battery in Houston, as Harden demanded throughout the season, but had to wait until the offseason for Dwight to abscond to Atlanta. In a bizarre turn of events, Kevin McHale was fired just six weeks into the season. It was allegedly Harden’s doing, as he began to flex his muscle as de facto president of the franchise, a role he’d play for years while GM Darryl Morey did his best to appease his star.
You can step back and paint a picture: Harden enters his diva era with full control of his team, at the peak of his on court powers, and enters into this celebrity relationship with Khloe. As one might expect, it didn’t go well.
Khloe’s account of the relationship is that Harden pressed for a monogamous, long-distance relationship (while she offered something less committal,) then proceeded to be unfaithful. Harden claims he resented the media scrutiny that came with dating a reality television star and professional celebrity, which either strikes me as disingenuous or means Harden is the most oblivious human being on Earth – two equally feasible scenarios.
Harden now describes that season as the worst of his career, and he’s not far off. Looking at 15-16 in the context of his peak, the counting stats are more or less static but the advanced numbers are damning. He hit his lows in PER, VORP, True Shooting, and came close in Win Shares. He set an NBA record for turnovers in a season with 374 (a record he’d break the next year by nearly 100 more, still most all-time). He’s attempted to tie some of these issues to the relationship with Khloe. The record suggests he consult a mirror.
Jordan Clarkson – Kendall (March 2016 – July 2016)
Kendall has the sharpest eye when it comes to scouting talent of all the Kardashian/Jenner sisters. There are some biological reasons for this as she’s over 10 years younger than both Khloe and Kim, and therefore can draft players still in their primes without eliciting an “ick.” Rashad McCants didn’t have a tenth of Devin Booker’s prodigious talent.
During Kobe’s final season in 2016, she started her journey through the game modestly with Jordan Clarkson, then a sophomore bench scorer on the Lakers For a few brief months, they became concert buddies.
Kendall may prove to be the member of the family that debunks this silly and arbitrary curse as Clarkson has had one of the most bulletproof role player journeys through the league. He’s been to the Finals with LeBron and was awarded Sixth Man of the Year in 2021. He’s currently in his peak, averaging 20 points per game for an overachieving Utah team.
Kendall and Clarkson’s relationship seemed like more of a low-key fling, where he ultimately said “No thanks” due to a familiar refrain: the athlete, valuing his privacy, didn’t appreciate how public the relationship was, uninterested in being a character in the tabloid news cycle that is the Kardashian lifeblood. Kendall was frequently linked to other men.
I took a shot at looking at Clarkson’s numbers through the relationship, which would cover the final month of the season on a very bad Lakers team, but it was the same erratic variance that characterized much of his season, with some scoreless 30 minute 0 point nights, followed by 12 point nights, followed by 26 point nights. What Clarkson represents is the modern era of the Kardashians in the NBA, where they had been a constant presence as a sideshow for nearly a decade, and as a result, dating one largely became normalized.
Tristan Thompson – Khloe (August 2016 – 2023)
Yet another bleak chapter in Khloe’s journey through life and the NBA. Her most recent and longest “lasting” relationship was to former Cavs glass-cleaning roll man and LeBron commission check Tristan Thompson.
Of the many things that anyone who does their homework will come away admiring Khloe for is her taste in the game. While Kendall seems drawn to the young, hyped, talented, bright and shiny players, Khloe’s taste is more esoteric, and perhaps even more refined. “She knows ball”. With the exception of Harden, she seems drawn to selfless players who don’t need plays run for them to cook, who contribute to team success just outside of the spotlight, much like Khloe herself.
Unfortunately, Thompson’s selfless on-court nature had little to do with his performance as a partner. Going into the 2016 season, their relationship began conspicuously, as Thompson was awaiting a child with his then partner, social media influencer/Instagram model Jordan Craig. From there, it’s been fruit from a poisonous tree, with multiple infidelity scandals, including conceiving a child with another woman in December 2021, which led to a separation. But now there’s a possible reunion.
The numbers tell their own story. Thompson began dating Khloe in the immediate aftermath of the Cavs miracle victory over the Warriors in 2016. After being criticized as a shortsighted cash grab by “GM LeBron”, he was the backbone of the Cavs muscular defense against the smaller Warriors in those Finals and was a plus/minus monster, including an incredible +32 in Game 6 (and his deal was eventually seen as one of the best contracts in the league, post cap spike). The next three years in wine and gold were productive for Thompson, with his offense coming and going, but his rebounding is what continued to make him an asset to the Cavs. He had a Rodman-esque nose for boards, able to get position on larger 5s and bully smaller wings as he established position, averaging a double double towards the end of his (and LeBron’s) tenure in Cleveland.
The wheels really begin to fall off during Covid. The LeBron-less Cavs didn’t make the bubble and the next season in Boston, Thompson’s numbers collapsed. He was miscast in a modern offense that thought it could work around his offensive deficiencies and lean on his physical defense and rebounding, but it couldn’t. Part of the issue was Thompson’s game became anachronistic, replaced by monsters like Mitch Robinson and Robert Williams III, who have his same innate instincts plus freak athleticism and size.
There were rumors he was a bad culture fit in Boston, and was unceremoniously shipped to Sacramento. Last season he bounced between Indiana and Chicago unspectacularly, and is currently unsigned with no real prospects at 31. Seems to be less a case of The Kardashian Curse than the curse of the self.
Blake Griffin – Kendall (September 2017- March 2018)
Kendall’s first “real” NBA relationship, and her first relationship that could potentially contend as an argument in favor of “The Curse”. A year after her relationship with Jordan Clarkson fizzled out, Kendall was spotted around LA with Blake Griffin. Griffin was a former number one pick, an explosive athlete who had matured into a polished and dangerous focal point for the Clippers offense during their Lob City period in perennial contention, built around the nucleus of Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan.
Despite a history of serious injury issues, the Clippers signed Griffin to a max extension at five years, $175 million. The narrative at the time was the Clippers had celebrated their franchise player by throwing the bag at last, establishing the kind of continuity and respect great organizations need to build history. In retrospect, it was a craven and pretty grotesque effort not to lose an asset.
Two months after securing generational wealth, Griffin called off his impending marriage to his longtime partner and the mother of his children, Brynn Cameron (a former USC basketball player who also had a child with Matt Leinart) to begin his relationship with Kendall. Just two months later, Griffin suffered a sprained knee that put him on the shelf for a month. Then in early February, Stan Van Gundy, coach and president of operations for the Pistons, made a panic trade in a vain attempt to save his job, sending a host of assets to the Clippers for Griffin.
By March of 2018, the relationship with Kendall was over, as was Griffin’s tenure in the league as a bankable superstar. He later faced a lawsuit from Brynn Cameron suing him for $258,000 a month. Kendall was named in the suit as the reason Griffin called off their marriage. They ran into each other a few months later at Kendall’s sister and Travis Scott’s partner Kylie Jenner’s birthday party. Kendall was there with her then new boyfriend Ben Simmons. They ignored Blake completely and it was allegedly super awkward.
It went so fast, that factoring in the injury, there are barely any real numbers to crunch here. You can look at the Griffin case and make a decent argument that Griffin’s own dumb decision-making, plus his body breaking down, neither of which is anyone else’s fault, was the architect of his demise. But the immediacy and severity of Blake’s fall could perhaps cause a less rational person to look at this and say it was 100% the product of a supernatural curse.
Ben Simmons – Kendall (June 2018 – February 2020)
At the end of 2018, Ben Simmons was capping a campaign that netted him Rookie of the Year and was the source of tremendous excitement in Philadelphia and the whole league. He had realized his long awaited #1 pick promise as a seven-foot, elite playmaking point guard who was also a Defensive Player of the Year level talent. Then he began his relationship with Kendall Jenner. The couple split two years later, right before a once-in-a-century pandemic descended on the world. Months later, a bad playoff series in the bubble changed the trajectory of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise, Ben Simmons’ career, and probably his entire life.
A few things have to be taken into consideration when we talk about Ben Simmons and his unprecedented year away from basketball. For starters, in terms of the actual time he spent with Kendall, his on court career maintained its promise of stat stuffing excellence across columns. Simmons was logging points/rebounds/steals/assists splits at historic levels. In 2018-2019 in particular, the single season he was in a relationship with her from beginning to end, Simmons showed incremental improvements across his game, logging his highest point per game average. Had Kawhi’s miracle buzzer beater rimmed out in Game 7 of the eventual championship-winning Raptors gauntlet semifinal series, we might be having a wildly different conversation right now.
So there isn’t much in the numbers, besides looking at his historic disappearing act down the stretch in the Sixers seven game semifinals choke job against an overachieving Atlanta team that suggests Simmons has ever seen any sort of decline in his game due to the Kardashian Curse.
But we all know what happened next: following that Atlanta series and a few uncharitable comments from coach Doc Rivers and co-star Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons first demanded a trade, then claimed mental health concerns prevented him from suiting up for the team after signing a max extension for $170 million in 2019. The Kyrie vaccine situation rubbed James Harden, now a Brooklyn Net, the wrong way, which created an opportunity for Simmons to end his season-long staring contest with Daryl Morey and the Sixers. For the first time in NBA history, two Kardashian exes were traded for each other.
The relationship between Bendall™ seemed strained from the beginning, as it started when Simmons allegedly cheated on his then girlfriend, R&B genius Tinashe. Whether it’s true or not, they began dating immediately afterwards. Simmons has had several short stint relationships with fitness influencers (it seems like there’s a “fitness influencer” in almost every athlete who eventually dates a Kardashian’s past. Who are these people? How many “fitness influencers” are there and why the near perfect circle overlap between basketball players who are into them and Kardashians?) When they were together, there was a lot of on again off again, as Ben was based out of notorious east coast backwater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Kendall is a jetsetter, model, reality star and reps a tequila brand that comes in a bottle shaped like the number 8. There was the occasional rumor of cheating, but generally it has the tinge of a “Let’s hang out when we’re on the same coast” sort of arrangement.
To blame any of Ben’s circumstances on Kendall is to ignore the red flags and blaring sirens that have surrounded Simmons since before he entered the league. At LSU, he exhibited the exact same reluctance to push himself, and specifically a reluctance to shoot, that would haunt his pro career. This season he’s finally returned to the court for Brooklyn and even shown some flashes of what he once was, but nothing more. On a team tailor made for him, he’s attempted 10 or more FG attempts twice, and can go weeks without attempting a single free throw.
It’s hard to assign blame to Kendall or the greater Kardashian collective. Another theory is the culprit is actually “The Hinkie Process Curse”, which came first, and between Simmons and the similar and equally unprecedented shooting woes of an impossible second #1 pick bust Marquelle Fultz, represents the darkest and most powerful curse that the NBA has ever seen. So maybe it’s one curse trumping another, or maybe the dueling Kardashian/Hinkie curses formed a complex symbiote curse tetrahedron that collapsed on itself then exploded in a curse supernova which took Simmons, and the 76ers down with it. I will personally take this matter to curse arbitration and I’ll be back with a final decision in several months.
Devin Booker – Kendall (April 2020 – October 2022)
Kendall rebounded from her relationship with Ben Simmons in only two months, moving from the Eastern Conference, closer to home in LA with Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker.
This is once again a scenario where, if there’s any correlation worth drawing between off court romance and on court performance, Kendall seemed to bolster the career of a young star. The relationship was kindled at the very outset of the pandemic, which I still don’t fully understand, with a quarantine road trip to Sedona, Arizona. The relationship was full of flirtatious IG comments, posted stories, dates to family functions, and meals at expensive shitty restaurants for rich and famous people. I’ll say with the exception of Khloe’s marriages, off pure projection alone, this feels like the most “real” relationship covered in this investigation. Purely off speculative social media breadcrumbs, the pair seemed to have a real bond and affection for one another.
Leading up to that season, Devin Booker was perceived as an immensely talented empty calories scorer, a bucket getter who can do everything on the court but win. But when the league resumed in the bubble at the end of that Summer, presumably spent at least partially with Kendall, Book led a suddenly feisty young, coherent Suns squad to an undefeated record and just nearly missed a playoff berth.
The next season Chris Paul brought his late career Michael Clayton act to Phoenix, and under his tutelage, the star backcourt reached the Finals and even jumped out to a 2-0 lead (Kendall was courtside for Game 1) before Giannis and jacked the series and the ring. The next year, the Suns were a regular season juggernaut and the odds on favorites to win it all before they ran into a hellbent Luka and Jalen Brunson, who beat them to death and did what may wind up being irreparable damage to this nucleus in one of the most bizarre (and possibly Covid influenced) Game 7s in playoff history.
What’s interesting about Book is how consistent the numbers have remained as the Suns’ fortunes improved around him. Almost every major stat, advanced or otherwise, has been static, with marginal defensive increases, offset by some natural decreases in playmaking as Paul significantly lightened his offensive load. But the eye test is something else. There’s a bite to him since the Bubble, a nastiness that has replaced the aloof detachment that characterized the first four seasons of his career. In other words, GMs: If you have a young talented star playing able but unmotivated ball on a middling team, might I suggest a road trip with Kendall Jenner to get him over the hump?
Chris Paul* – Kim (2014 – September 2021)
So let’s start with the concept that I don’t believe much of what has come out of Kanye West’s mouth the past few months. I think the most important, the most insightful bar of his entire career was his claim that: “I’d be worried if they said nothing” on “Father Stretch My Hands (Part 1)”, he’s addicted to attention, and has lost the ability to differentiate good from bad. So much of what he’s put out there the last few months seemed designed to provoke outrage and conversation, and to his credit, was successful in that endeavor. But once again, in the interest of scientific rigor, let’s not leave out what could be a critical entrant in our study.
On December 1st, 2022, on a day in which Kanye spewed vitriol so foul Alex Jones felt the need to jump in and correct the record, and a day that got him banned from Elon Musk’s Twitter, Kanye’s final act was setting the internet on fire with a claim in a somewhat cryptic tweet, that he “caught” his wife with Chris Paul. It’s not the first time West has leveled this accusation against what appears to be an innocent bystander. He’s done the same, publicly, with Meek Mill, which he later retracted and apologized for. The day after this tweet went viral, Page Six published the account of an anonymous insider rebuking the accusation and claiming this is a pattern for West, using Kim and her supposed infidelity as a shield when he gets himself in hot water for saying crazy shit.
The only known direct photographic evidence we’ve ever had between Chris Paul and Kim came at an event in 2010, pre Kanye, and it was actually Paul’s mild mannered insurance salesman persona, Cliff Paul, but there is one strange and disturbing item that we didn’t even understand at the time, that would seem to support Kanye’s accusation. This Picture was Tweeted by Drake in the rollout for Certified Loverboy in September of 2021. At the time, the jerseys seemed like a reference to the third, or 9/3, the date the album dropped. In retrospect, with Drake embroiled in a vicious beef with Kanye, the message comes off as something entirely different.
No other party directly involved in this alleged situation has ever gone on record to discuss the matter. Perhaps they felt they didn’t need to, with the author of the plot’s recent insanity serving as the perfect cover to let the accusation fade away, as it largely has. But, as a treat, since much of this piece has been research and stat crunching, let’s engage in a bit of speculative fiction, and live in a world where this has not only happened, but one in which the Kardashian Curse is a very real phenomena that has direct and immediate effects on the party involved with said Kardashian. Using Chris Paul’s playoff history, beginning with Kanye’s marriage to Kim and ending with the posting of Drake’s picture sometime around the Certified Loverboy rollout in September of 2021, I’ll irresponsibly surmise when this alleged transgression may have occurred.
I want to make it clear that I consider Chris Paul one of my favorite players of all time, and if you look at his numbers beyond the playoff series losses, he’s always been good to great in the multiple blown series he’s played parts in, certainly more a question of bad luck than anything he’s specifically done. But in the name of science:
July 10th, 2021 – Night before Game 3 of the Suns/Bucks NBA Finals:
With the Suns in their current state of both on and off court disarray, there’s a chance we’ll look back at July 10th, just weeks before CLB dropped, as the closest Chris Paul would ever come to a ring. Could it also have been the night Chris Paul risked it all because Kim happened to be in Wisconsin for some reason?
September 1st, 2020 – Night before Game 7 of Thunder/Rockets Western Conference First Round:
Chris Paul had a golden opportunity to exact vengeance against James Harden, the teammate who so hated being held accountable for lapses and bad decisions, as well as playing with someone maniacally focused on winning, he had him shipped out of Houston, to what was supposed to be his retirement home in OKC. Instead, Paul delivered one of his finest seasons, wrangling a three guard backcourt of SGA and Dennis Schroder and willing them to an unlikely playoff bid. The Thunder were pesky, stealing three games from the sleepwalking Rockets, and were on the verge of shocking the world in Game 7. But after coming out and making a bold and pointed statement about the importance of handling pressure and delivering in the clutch, Paul completely folded in the final two minutes with several uncharacteristic mistakes. Could his mind have been on the night before, perhaps on a takeout order from Turkey Leg Hut for two, enjoyed in a nearby hotel?
May 9th, 2019 – The Night before Game 6 of the Rockets/Warriors Western Conference Semifinals:
In all likelihood, the second best chance Paul ever had if winning a ring would’ve been this season, when the Warriors lost Kevin Durant for the season in Game 5 of their second round series with the Rockets. When Durant went down, Houston finally had their shot, with a weak Portland team waiting in the Western Conference Finals, and the eventual champion, but very beatable Raptors with Kawhi after that. Instead, they couldn’t even force a Game 7, with some seeing it as a possible last ride for an aging Paul. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall, and threw caution to the wind the night before the big showdown with the most infamous Kardashian.
May 14th, 2015 – Break between the Third and Fourth Quarter of Clippers/Rockets Western Conference Semifinal Game 6:
It’s 2015 in Obama’s America, Blake Griffin is still a star, and the Clippers are dangerously close to shutting the door on the Rockets. In fact, at one point late in the third they’re up by 19, and they go into the fourth up 13. Chris is on the bench relaxing, when from behind the bench, an acquaintance from LA bends over and whispers in his ear that he’s urgently wanted for a brief but necessary moment back in the locker room, and to come alone…