1. Chris Paul: !!!!!
Chris Paul! Unstoppable! Unforgettable! Probably some other "Un-s", too! Chris Ryan, whom you might remember as your regular Rankonia writer, nominates our hometown hero for this week's top spot:
"I've watched every minute of the Grizzlies-Clippers series. I've seen Tony Allen try to stop Chris Paul. I've seen Mike Conley, Jr. try to stop Chris Paul. I've seen Allen, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol try to stop Chris Paul together. I've seen O.J. Mayo try to stop Chris Paul for 90 feet and I've seen Quincy Pondexter try to stop him at the last second. It just doesn't matter. I don't think I ever really knew what it meant for an athlete to be unstoppable until I saw Chris Paul play basketball in the fourth quarter and overtime. Now that I do, I certainly won't forget it."
1. Claude Giroux: All Claude Everything
I am obligated by William Penn blood oath to award any Philly athlete the top spot in Rankonia, but Sarah Larimer really makes a compelling case for the Flyers forward: "Katie Baker is right. It is pretty much impossible to dislike Claude Giroux. Apologies to that Monet bro, but Giroux is now my favorite dude named Claude. Let's all start a Claude Giroux Fan Club. We can get T-shirts that say 'Are you taking this faceoff here?'
"'Before they even dropped the puck, he came over and he told me watch the first shift,' Danny Briere said after the Flyers' 5-1 win. 'When he did, I didn't know what to say to him. He's been our leader all year and once again he took another step in that direction today. It was simply amazing, plain and simple. He was possessed.'
1. Clinton Portis, The Fund-raiser
I miss Clinton Portis. You miss Clinton Portis. We all miss Clinton Portis, I think, which is why it's exciting that the indispensable D.C. Sports Bog noted on Tuesday that Portis is set to appear at an upcoming fund-raiser for President Obama, hosted by Vice President Biden. Are we one step away from a Biden Pockets Straight shirt hitting the market? I really, really hope so.
2. Fidel Castro, Past-His-Prime Lefty
We expect a tearful apology from Chuck Klosterman any day now. In Spanish. "His relationship to baseball remains eternal. All that is required is his lack of death!"
1. Ryan Madson, Breadwinner
When you say "YOLO," Andy Greenwald says "Butterscotch Krimpets":
"Pour out a little liquor — or at least a little baking soda — for Reds pitcher Ryan Madson. You know how stats dorks like to measure everything in baseball against replacement players? Ryan Madson is the replacement player. First the Phillies replaced him with Dropkick Murphys Stan Jonathan Papelbon, despite Madson’s agent, the dreaded Scott Boras, insisting that the Phillies had offered his client $44 million first. Then came the devastating disclosure that the closer’s UCL had been torn completely off the bone, requiring the replacement surgery known as Tommy John. But neither bit of news stung as much as the revelation that local hoagie-roll bakery Liscio’s hadn’t even waited for the ink on Papelbon’s contract to dry before replacing former spokesman Madson with hungry Houston transplant Hunter Pence. Stay strong, Mad Dog! May you return next year, stronger than ever and in a LeBron-esque carb cloud of double-zero flour. Like yeast, a good pitcher/bread spokesman can’t stay down for long."
1. Rick Barry Angry Face
Dan Fierman was first to nominate this meme-worthy facial expression, then Bill Barnwell jumped in with this explanation: "I'm nominating Rick Barry for his role in trying to calm down the Warriors crowd during the Chris Mullin fiasco on Monday night, but specifically for his death glare in this photo. I saw this and I instantly started doing my homework, stopped asking my brother why he was hitting himself, apologized to everyone I've ever wronged, and broke up with every single one of his female descendants. Sorry, Mr. Barry!!!!!!"
1. Brandon Marshall, Will Now Winter in Chicago
Bill Simmons chimes on in on the Bears' big trade acquisition: "When you're an All-Pro WR on a team that's trying to do everything it can to sign Peyton Manning, only you get dumped for two third-round picks right in the middle of the courting process I mean, that can't be a good sign."
2. Jarrad Page, Bo Knows!
Bill Barnwell dusts off his no. 16 Royals jersey: "It is my duty to nominate former Chiefs and Patriots safety Jarrad Page, who appears to have finished a somewhat bizarre six-year NFL career by signing a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers to play baseball. Page, who apparently impressed the Dodgers in an open tryout, was selected three different times in the MLB draft before moving on to football. Page spent two years playing baseball alongside football at UCLA, and, well, his performance record isn't sterling. In 221 at-bats over two years, Page put up a .195/.270/.285 line while striking out 94 times. Because we grew up in the early nineties, though, we are nostalgic for baseball/football crossover players and want them to return. So yay Jarrad Page!"
3. Evan Turner, Scottie Pippen, Basically
In four games as a starter, the former no. 2 overall pick is averaging 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He spent the first year and a half of his career doing some interesting things, some silly things, or nothing really at all. But ever since he replaced Jodie Meeks in the Sixers' starting lineup, he's been a powerhouse. Forget Linsanity (you probably already have) (what up, Knicks), this is EVANDEMONIUM.
1. Clint Dempsey, Forza Nacogdoches
He kicks in your voice, American! Brian Phillips nominates the USMNT/Fulham titan. I second that nomination. And you third it. Dempsey scored the match-winning goal against Italy in Genoa last week, giving the national side its first-ever victory over the Azzurri.
Meanwhile, back in England, Deuce has been on a tear, scoring twice against Wolves last weekend. But here's the best part
1. Sam Bradford, Thrives on Pressure (He'd Better!)
Bill Simmons gives the Rams quarterback a really heartwarming pep talk: "Hey, Sam? Your Rams are about to trade the electric, 4.41-running, Heisman-winning, acronym-nickname-ready franchise-saving RG3 for a shitload of players and picks. If your team sucks next season right as RG3 is kicking ass in Cleveland/Washington/Denver/wherever, the fans are going to oh, wait, the Rams barely have any fans. But still."
2. Pat Knight, Motivational Speaker
Chuck Klosterman nominates the Lamar coach, who truly is his father's son: "Pat Knight, for delivering a press conference that fits under the rare media classification of 'unnecessarily honest.'"
Now, when a new NBA star is born, it's good to have someone who has been through it all to help him along the way. But we could not have asked for anything better than Metta World Peace becoming the Kris Kristofferson to Jeremy Lin's Barbra Streisand. Knowledge jewels right here: "Do we talk about him? Yeah, we talk about him. We think he needs a better haircut I don't like that style. You're in New York, the fashion capital. Change your haircut, OK? You're a star now. Wear some shades. Shades, OK? Put down the nerdy Harvard book glasses. Put on some black shades, OK? With some leather pants. Get some swag."
1. Mario Manningham, Hands
At the risk of ostracizing myself from my employer and my hometown, I am giving this week's Rankonia scepter to Mario Manningham. I can't believe I am about to write these two words about a New York Football Giant: Nice. Catch.
1. Chris Paul, Guillotine Operator
Yes, Blake got the hosannas, headlines, hallelujahs, and holy shits. Yes, Blake the Destroyer killed everything with The Dunk on Monday night. But if the ringing in your ears subsided in time, you might have noticed Chris Paul playing a solo version of the executioner's song against Oklahoma City in the fourth quarter. When Daequan Cook and Kevin Durant decided to start long-range bombing the Thunder back into contention late in the contest, Paul found a gear that I believe is called "Step on Your Throat." Eyewitness Robert Mays had this to say: "Surgical shit. In person you see how easy it all is for him."
1. Lionel Messi, Best Athlete in the World
We dole out a lot of false praise in Rankonia. So understand that I'm saying this with the intensity of 1,000 Daniel Day-Lewises: Lionel Messi is the best athlete alive right now. Last season, he scored 51 goals for Barcelona and Argentina in the 2010-11 season. He's already got 33 this season, taking his club tally to 211. Maybe you need a refresher course:
1. Gregg Popovich, American Exceptionalist
Simply for this searing, classically Popovichian statement about whether Ricky Rubio needs to adapt to American culture: "They're more cultured than we are … Like we're the cultured ones? Are you serious? Have you watched TV lately? Have you seen what Americans do? How many languages do you speak? And you wonder how they're going to adjust to our culture? I hope they avoid it and keep their own!"
1. Kellen Moore, Boise State
This week's Rankonia throne-holder comes from blue-turf enthusiast Chuck Klosterman: "Has anyone ever gotten jammed so much in one week? Boise loses one game to TCU ... yet gets sent to the unseen MAACO Bowl to play totally irrelevant Arizona State. Moore ends his career as one of the five most successful college QBs ever and doesn't even get an invite to the Heisman ceremony in New York. It's almost like the NCAA is trying to erase them from existence."