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Kevin Durant May Have Killed The NBA

Celebrating my 30th year as a Utah Jazz fan in 2017 (in exile in NYC for the whole time, like a hoops Roman Polanski) I began the 2016-17 season with deferred optimism. Last year (2015-16) the Jazz would have made the playoffs if they had not been the most injured team in the league. This year they had a contract year Gordon Hayward, an ever-improving Rudy Gobert and veteran additions of George Hill and Joe Johnson, so it was not hard to convince me that this was the year they finally became relevant again. They won 51 games, despite losing the most starters’ games to injury in the league.  They have a young core, a rabid fan base and a series win over the Clippers to give most of their players a first taste of playoff success.  And as of last night’s bitter defeat in Game 3 of the second round hope has been snuffed out. And it may have been snuffed out for the rest of the NBA for some time.

Kevin Durant – Possibly The Biggest Bitch in NBA History

I think I learned that I hated Durant for the first time last night.  I thought his decision to sign with Golden State was weak and anti-competitive (you get to an NBA Finals at 23, take the defending champs to 7 games – after BLOWING a series lead – and you decide to join your vanquisher instead of staying put?), but I did not really care that much.  I was more focused on the development of Utah and figured we would not be championship ready for a couple of seasons anyway.  But seeing the Jazz, who I think could have easily been the 3 seed this year if they had merely suffered the league average for injuries, make such strides so quickly made me feel more helpless as a fan much sooner than I expected.

The Jazz have built a team slowly and surely that could be a conten- oh never mind.

And before I continue destroying Durant, I think some of the blame for his decision rests with the fans and the media in our age of easy markers of success and low attention span.  As a Jazz fan, and a 90s hoops fan of any good team without Michael Jordan on the roster, I felt many stinging defeats, but in retrospect I am happy to have rooted for a team that was competitive for 2 decades and elite for 4 or 5 years.  Malone and Stockton are among the game’s greatest players and losing to Jordan did not tear them down as much as it enhanced the legend of Jordan’s greatness.  However, with social media, the Internet and stupidity all playing a bigger role in our lives, the scrutiny and need for an easy token of “greatness” dominates sports’ conversations.  So after Lebron was crushed, but then redeemed for winning, by a fickle and hypocritical fan base, Durant probably looked and said “The only way for me to be legit is to win a title and the media and fans will forgive my cowardice if I win, just like they did for Lebron.”  Of course, there are critical differences (Lebron joined a 47 win team and had been in a purgatory of Cleveland – never bad enough with Lebron for elite draft picks, never enticing enough for free agents. He did not join one of the 5 greatest teams in NBA history that had just barely beat him), but I cannot say that fans and media are completely blameless in creating the atmosphere that made Durant choose Golden State.  But that said, his move to Golden State was the most cowardly and bloody coup since the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones (there will be more GOT analogies).

The Decision now looks like storming the beaches of Normandy compared to Durant’s gutless decision to play for the Warriors.

But none of these things made me hate Kevin Durant.  No, it was not until late in Game 3 of the Warriors-Jazz series, when Durant cursed out the Jazz mascot, Bear, that I realized he was a bitch.  YOU (clap emoji) DONT (clap emoji) GET (clap emoji) TO (clap emoji) ACT (clap emoji) TOUGH (clap emoji) WHEN (clap emoji) YOU (clap emoji) BITCHED (clap emoji) OUT (clap emoji) AND (clap emoji) JOINED (clap emoji) THE (clap emoji) WARRIORS!

I’ll admit I was deeply frustrated that my Jazz squad had nullified Curry, Thompson (FYI – the only non-bitch superstar on the Warriors) and Draymond to bad games and the Warriors were able to rely on the Johnny Gil of their Shitty New Edition to drop 38 points.  But seeing Durant try to be a tough guy, a villain and an “assassin” has made me (I never thought I would say this) miss Kobe Bryant – who may have been a douche and a jerk, but never an anti-competitive turd.  Watching Durant emotionally flex felt like seeing Amazon do a touchdown dance in front of a neighborhood bookstore that was closing.

So is there any hope? Probably not.  I mean maybe Klay Thompson could leave and maybe the overall bitch-ass-ness of the team would force it to implode, but other than that I think we may be stuck with this squad for a while.  But if there are any chances for the rest of the league here they are (with a slight Utah bias showing on one):

Lebron.  Lebron may be the Jamie Lannister of the NBA at this point (how ironic that the King is best represented by the King Slayer).  The Decision was when he pushed a kid out of the window (boooo), but he then helped a giant, unappealing woman (Brienne of Tarth = Cleveland) and we all were fans again (yay).  Well with Durant and GS being Cersei and The Mountain (a bitch and a powerful monster tandem) it may be the King Slayer who will provide us the best chance to prevent a terrible dynasty.  And, by the way, if Lebron actually does beat this Warriors team in the Finals, I (clap emoji) DONT (clap emoji) CARE (clap emoji) ABOUT (clap emoji) MICHAEL (clap emoji) JORDAN’S (clap emoji) SIX (clap emoji) RINGS!  The GOAT title will have passed and I will not longer entertain other arguments… even when it is revealed that Lebron uses HGH for milk in his cereal.

Lebron and Cleveland… GoT style

Chris Paul to the Spurs (or if not, the Jazz).  Gregg Popovich is the only superstar in the NBA besides Lebron with a shot to stop the Warriors.  And getting Chris Paul would greatly enhance their competitiveness for the next few years while Paul can still deliver (he was outstanding against the Jazz).  The Spurs are the Patriots of the NBA, except their leaders don’t like Trump, so they are even better.  With Chris Paul taking over for Tony Parker they would immediately be a legit contender again, especially if Apple updates the Kawhi Leonard operating system for 2017-18.  But if the Spurs cannot get him I would argue that the Jazz could make a compelling argument.  They have a great defense, depth at each position (except center – maybe address that in this Summer’s draft) and with George Hill injury prone and not under contract a possible place for major upgrade. And only a few teams are better than the Jazz and almost all have the pG position filled – GSW, Cleveland, Houston (Harden), Spurs, Jazz.  So basically if the Spurs cannot get Paul I think it would be beneficial to the league, to CP3, the Jazz and my mental health for the Jazz to make a deal for CP3. The pitch the Jazz make is simple – “Right now Chris, you are in the Stockton, Payton, Nash category and unless you get a title you will never break into the Isaiah Thomas category.  We are your best (non-Spurs) shot at that. So what if Utah is boring – it is beautiful and we only want you for 3 years.”

JaVale McGee accidentally injures all the Warriors. Perhaps an athletic move gone awry (known henceforth as a “JaVale”) in practice leads JaVale to land on Curry and Draymond, ending their seasons (note – I have always been a McGee fan – athletic, plays hard, goofy -pure entertainment, and oddly admirable).

Prayer – It cannot be denied that the Golden State Warriors are an unholy creation.

LaVar Ball gets his son traded to the Warriors on Draft Night and all Hell breaks loose.  Now that would be awesome.

LaVar Ball may be our last, best hope to stop the Warriors.

Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER &  ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.

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Top 10 Predictions for the 2016-17 NBA Season

Lebron James ended the NBA season on a high note last night delivering a title to Cleveland, a city over 5 decades without a sports title, despite having three major sports teams.  He defeated one of the greatest teams ever (and statistically the greatest regular season team ever) and led the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.  He did it in versatile and dominant fashion and ended all doubts that he is a top 5 all time player (I have him as 1B to Michael Jordan’s 1A).  As someone who has loved Cleveland since my first visit to the city in 2010 (my endorsement has led to a nice renaissance of the city over the last six years) and has defended Lebron’s greatness since the late 2000s I am super happy for the city, Lebron and mostly myself for being completely correct.  But now that we are left with only baseball for the next 2+ months (with a brief respite for Wimbledon) I figured I should at least compile a list of things to look forward to for next season. Here are my top 10 predictions for next NBA Season:

1) Steph Curry returns built like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – After hearing that the physical play of OKC and Cleveland damaged his game, Curry will undergo a Michael Jordan-esque commitment to weight training.  He may go overboard though as he tries to go from the NBA’s Kevin Hart to the NBA’s Rock.

A computer generated projection of what Steph Curry will look like next season (still in Under Armor)

2) Kevin Durant goes to the Miami Heat – Pat Riley goes full Vince McMahon and brings in Durant to disrupt Lebron’s eastern conference dominance. Instead of Durant, Bosh and Wade doing a big pep rally it will be Riley coming out alone in McMahon cadence: “Oh I am happy for Lebron. He won his title for ‘The Land’… BUT NOW WE HAVE A NEW SON OF THE BEACH!” and then a curtain drops with Durant coming out as Riley flashes all his rings for the camera.

LEBRON! LEBRON! LEBRON!

3) Russell Westbrook Has The Greatest/Worst Season in NBA History – With Durant gone, Russell Westbrook will average 38 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, 15 turnovers and shoot 36% from the field,  He will actually tear both ACLs midway through the season and still play all 83 games.

4) The Knicks Sign Harrison Barnes – Harrison Barnes was tremendously awful in the last three games of the Finals (seriously – Nick Anderson level mind issues may have occurred – it looked like Barnes was aiming his shot in Game 7).  He may have cost him a lot of money, but in Montana there is one team president who probably thinks he can snatch Barnes at a discount.

5) Demarcus Cousins punches his coach – Every season needs a controversy and Cousins seems to be on the edge of all NBA talent and 30 for 30 cautionary tale.

6) The Utah Jazz Make the Playoffs and, inspired by Cleveland, start calling Salt Lake City “The Lake” if they don’t already – Hey, I am a Jazz fan so give me this one.

7) The Minnesota Timberwolves Begin Frightening the Entire League – Great new coach, loaded with young talent (and about to add another lottery pick). I think T-Wolves make the playoffs and everyone realizes that Towns-Wiggins are coming for all of you like the White Walkers in Game of Thrones (GOAT episode last night by the way)

8 ) Lebron Haters Go Completely Silent – This is the only way to tell that Lebron has been great.  Look for them to reappear in 2019 to declare that Lebron is not THAT great.

9) David Blatt Joins ISIS – I think we can all agree that joining a terror organization is wrong, but Blatt is as close to being justified as anyone could be.  Watching Tyronn Lue’s “coaching” get praised has to be killing him. He comes from Europe to Cleveland and is spit out by the heart of rock n’ roll?  Not on his watch!

I will have my vengeance in this life or the next

10) Steven Adams pledges his loyalty to Daenerys Targayan – Kahl Adams should date Emilia Clarke raising his celebrity profile during what should be a breakout season for the OKC big man.

Going to make a lot more money so he should be part of a new power couple

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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Who is the Next Lebron James (for trolls)?

The NBA season got started last night and Lebron James and the Miami Heat easily dispatched with the fully recovered Chicago Bulls.  With three Finals appearances and back-to-back titles for Lebron in the last three seasons, only those with Tea Party-to-Obama level hate/obsession with Lebron can still find fault with the man as a player.  He has delivered in every single way that critics demanded and now he is to that next level of “Can he be the greatest of all time” phase of his career, now that he is clearly “one of the all time greats.” (Please click HERE for last year’s tour de force post before Game 7 of the Finals or this gem from right before Lebron’s 2012 Game 6 against the Celtics, i.e. I have always been right). But before the Lebron Tea Party gets fired up and starts spouting Michael Jordan stats at me, that is not the point of this blog.  The point is that in our Internet troll, never apologize, just-move-on-to-the-next-potential-carcass-for-www-vultures culture, it is time to start picking apart NBA stars who are the next “he sucks because he has not won a title” guys.  Never mind that in history, if Lebron ends up as a top 5 or better player of all time we will eventually regard players who lost to him as all time greats anyway (no one really rips Malone, Barkley, Stockton, Payton, or Ewing anymore for not defeating Michael Jordan – in hindsight it merely elevates Jordan’s legacy for vanquishing so many worthy opponents).  And never mind that all of these guys on the list are under 30 years old.  Because we are in the age and spirit of Twitter, the Internet is sure to be full of blogs questioning the heart, commitment, skills and toughness of lots of guys in the next year or so.  So here are the guys I think are up for the New Lebron (for trolls) Award:

(Quick Side note – I think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is sort of right to be annoyed that he is always left out of GOAT discussions – 6 MVPs, 5 titles, all-time leading NBA scorer and a high school and college phenom who fulfilled all of his promise – just a thought – even though his sky hook was sort of like a video game cheat move that respectable gamers would ban each other from using).

The formula I use is a non-scientific combination of talent + exposure + opportunity + fun to watch (because trolls especially love trashing people who are fun to watch so they appear more grounded and knowledgeable):

8. Carmelo Anthony – I think he barely makes the list because very few people outside of NY believe that Anthony really has the game or mentality to actually lead a team to a title.  I think after the Knicks get bounced in the first round of the playoffs this year people will sort of justifiably stop even worrying about whether Melo is a champion.  But for this year, being in NY will be enough for there to be lots of “Melo is not a winner” chatter.  I actually agree with this one.

7. Blake Griffin – one of the most fun players to watch makes him a prime target for armchair experts to question his commitment (HE’S ALSO IN LOTS OF FUN COMMERCIALS!) and whether he is working on his game enough. Because Chris Paul gets the “amazing leader/culture changer” label that Kevin Garnett got to have going to Boston, the main heat will continue to fall on the fun, but flawed star.

6. Steph Curry – Since he was so explosive last year (and as fun to watch as a guard as Griffin is as a big man, probably even more fun) that gives trolls an immediate chance to be the first to declare Steph Curry “overrated” or “lacking in championship DNA.”

5. Paul George – the darling surprise of last year’s playoffs is a very complete player. Young, rangy, plays well on both sides of the floor are all good qualities, but a year after America even discovered this guy if he loses to Lebron again, instead of giving greatness credit to Lebron they will start asking of a 24 year old, “Will he EVER win a title????”

4. James Harden-Dwight Howard – Dwight (or Da-Wight if you are any number of excitable black journalists on television) Howard is such a (somewhat deservedly) reviled doofus in the NBA that I think they will tire of bashing him and allow some of their hate to drip on to James Harden. Like George, Harden shocked dummies last year with how well he played as a number one target (which then forced people to switch from praising Harden to troll the Oklahoma City Thunder for being “so stupid” to let him go) that now trolls are hoping they can start calling him overrated and say that he and Howard are not winners, if they do not win in their first year together in a very deep western conference.

3. Deron Williams – not as good as a few of the players listed below, but trolls love burying guys forever and if Deron cannot make a serious title run with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez then he will have done the least with the most among top tier teams.  And Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are not serious enough to hate and Pierce and Garnett are now 45 year old champions so it all falls on Deron.  He may not be considered as good as some players on this list, but haters and trolls smell a carcass near the end if he fails to win and that makes them salivate.

2. Derrick Rose – Injuries and hate of the Heat have given Derrick Rose a pass (hate of Lebron forced people to ignore that Lebron shut Rose down late in the 2011 series when they played), but now that he is healthy, has a team people think can challenge the Heat and he stayed out all last season (the haters and trolls started to take a whiff of Rose when he sat out the whole playoffs, as if preparing for a full attack on him if he fails to dethrone Lebron in 2013-14).  The nation loves Rose as an anti-Lebron, but he may become their new Lebron if he fails to make noise this year.

1. Kevin Durant – I saw it happen last year on social media and it pissed me off.  Durant went from “I might take him ahead of Lebron if I had to start a franchise today” guy to “He cannot lead a team and is not complete enough (even though he went to the playoffs without his two best players that he had going to the Finals the year before).”  Ignoring that he was a 3 time scoring champ by age 24, that he led a team to the NBA finals at 23 and that his game continues to methodically improve, haters did not have Lebron to hate anymore so they moved on to the next best thing. Which is the best compliment one can give to Kevin Durant.

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Salt Lake City Thriller

Yesterday I was part of a magnificent game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Kevin Durant scored almost at will, but Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer also had great games.  With less than two seconds left in the game Deron Williams hit a game winning shot over two Thunder players to give the Jazz a one point lead.  What is quirky about this is that it occurred on the corresponding season game on my video game yesterday morning as I left for the airport.  Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes life imitates video games. (or another true example –  sometimes a hockey player that “dated” your ex scores a goal on you in NHL10).

The day did not start with good omens.  As I got on my Delta flight to Salt Lake City I observed an Indian family of four sitting in my row of three.  I had an aisle seat because my legs are a long, awkward nuisance and I cannot physically sit in the middle seat or a window seat unless absolutely necessary.  The family, whose English was limited, but whose baby’s screaming was proficient, looked at me with this look like the father in Blood Diamond who did not want to be separated from his family.  I just said, “I can’t switch seats with you because your seat is a window and I am a giant.”  So my trip to Hoops Mecca began with breaking up a family.

When I arrived in Utah I was blown away by the white landscape. And the snow capped mountains as well.  Seriously, the scenery was beautiful and there were actually more minorities than I expected. Granted, it had the diversity of a NYC law firm, but that was better than what I expected, which was the diversity of Friends.

Nice view of Salt Lake City's surrounding mountains and demographic metaphor.

Among the pre-game highlights were standing on the street named after John Stockton and seeing a sign that indicated that drinking was not illegal in Salt Lake City.  Expectations were getting obliterated by the minute!

I'll have a lemonade.

I went to the arena around 6 pm (one hour before game time) to look around and to spend money in the gift shop like a crack addict in New Jack City.  There were also several groups, who apparently did not make the cut for halftime shows – a series of awkward child dancing routines.  I think everyone who knowingly shows up to pre-game early to watch this (that isn’t related to the kids or an unknowing out-of-towner) should be automatically registered on sex offender lists.

Terrible.

Something else I noticed was how many doors I held for people in Utah without getting a thank you.  Perhaps it’s a cultural thing or perhaps I have been too harsh on Manhattan as the King City of Rudeness.  Or maybe it was just a coincidence. 

In the Energy Solutions Arena my seats were so close to the court that I could actually see concern on Paul Millsap’s face when he looked in my direction and saw me wearing his jersey.  His thought may have been – why is that grown man wearing my jersey? And why is he so big and not playing? 

Geeked out.

The pre-game warm-ups featured the Jazz mascot “Bear” who is a anthropomorphous bear who comes into the arena on a motorcycle to greet the Jazz starters.  It sounds weird, but it makes perfect sense for a team called the Utah Jazz.

The aptly named mascot, "Bear"

When the game started I felt like I was at a Tea Party rally.  There were angry white people yelling things at black men they did not support that made no sense.  It seemed like at the beginning of the game the emotions ran much higher than rational thought.  Every call that was made against the Jazz drew jeers, no matter how right the call was.  And the young woman sitting next to me was literally overflowing with bad heckles – her best was shrieking that Russel Westbrook (pt guard for the Thunder) should call himself Westbrick!  The guys next to me were a little better because they kept calling Serge Ibaka (center for Thunder) Chewbakka (which I got laughs for when I did a decent Chewbacca impression).

The game was going well for the Jazz early, but Ibaka (ggggggggggggggg) helped keep the Thunder in the game.  At halftime the Jazz were actually down 1.

There various amounts of intermissions provided humor.  There were the dancers, who shook their breasts and asses with great vigor, but because they were dancing to oldies half the time I guess it is less dirty than other franchises who dance to Whitesnake and Timbaland.  It was around this time that I heard my first and only anti Obama comment from the people behind me.  That was 7 less than I expected.

There was also a brief acknowledgement of the Salt Lake City Bees who were either a minor league baseball team or a separatist militia. Oh wait – there were a couple of brown people with them.

Minor League Baseball or Right Wing Militia? - you decide.

I of course did yeoman’s work at the concession stand, but drew a “You don’t want cheese???” more incredulous than any I have ever received when I purchased some soft pretzel bites.

The second half turned a good game into what may have been the NBA Game of the Year to this point.  Deron Williams got filthy, CJ Miles alternated his play between Kobe Bryant, Dr. J and J-L Cauvin, solidifying him as unquestionably the most frustrating Jazz player. Carlos Boozer started dunking like a madman, but then Kevin Durant  happened.

Kevin Durant is my favorite player in the NBA not on the Utah Jazz.  He is built like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, but has such an effortless and smooth game.  He will be the chief rival against LeBron’s James’ upcoming dominance because just as LeBron is so physically gifted, Durant has incredibly innate basketball gifts.

An artist's rendering of Kevin Durant.

So the Durant show began and he just started pouring in points.  The game eventually was tied by Georgetown alum Jeff Green’s three pointer (as if the Law Center experience was not enough of a reason for me to hate G-Town) with 8 seconds left.

It was at this point that I noticed something odd – as legitimate passion and tension rose during the game:  the fans were not saying stupid stuff.  It seemed once they had to focus solely on exciting action they had no time to make inane and unfunny comments.  I grew to appreciate the crowd’s enthusiasm (though the Korver-to Millsap Jersey ration left some unfavorable in my mind – though I don’t begrudge the chicks for shrieking for Kyle Korver a/k/a Ashton Kutcher with a jumpshot).

In overtime the Jazz had the ball with five seconds left and the atmosphere was electric – just check my 3,898 Tweets during the game (www.Twitter.com/JLCauvin).  Boozer got the ball handed it off to Williams who nailed a jumper over two defenders with 1.1 seconds left.  (Please see that on my Twitter feed I wrote about the ending of my video game an hour before Williams re-played it in real life).  That was awesome.

Life imitating EA Sports.

Kevin Durant ended up missing a game winning shot thanks to CJ Miles gently slamming Durant’s forearm, but Durant was not going to get the call for a few reasons. One – Kevin Garnett had made a public and expensive complaint about Durant getting calls. Two – Durant over-dramatized the foul with leg flailing that only drew attention from the actual foul on his wrist.  Three – it did not happen on my video game.

So the Jazz finish up the J-L Jazz tour in dramatic fashion, giving me a 5-0 season at Jazz games.  It was a phenomenal trip and a phenomenal game.  Now I need my plane to leave already so I can play Utah vs. Houston before tonight’s game.  If it happens again I’m calling Hollywood about a sequel to the Gerard “My native accent always creeps in to any role I play” Butler “film” Gamer.

Stockton & Malone - the reason I'm a fan in the first place.
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My Top HBO Characters of All Time

Being 2 discs away from finishing 6 Feet Under via Netflix I was thinking of how amazing the roster of HBO shows has been.  This also happened because I was watching Lost last night and thought, “Wow, this is supposed to be one of the best shows on Network television and it is basically a big budget mediocrity.”  Other than The West Wing and Arrested Development I don’t think I have seen anything on Network television to compare with HBO’s level of quality (all due respect to the CSI fans who adore that crappy franchise).  AMC is doing some good things (the slightly overrated Mad men and the very under-praised Breaking Bad), but HBO really is the cream of the crop (even though True Blood and Big Love, the two flagships shows at this point, are not close to the incredible things HBO produced last decade).  And I know that some people out there love Showtime, but having watched several episodes of Showtime shows they feel like a good junior varsity team to HBO’s state title winning varsity. 

So without any more explanations or caveats here are my top 13 HBO characters of all time (apologies in advance to the Crypt Keeper, the cast of Not Necessarily The News, everybody from Dream On (terrible) and The Larry Sanders Show (never saw it, but heard it was good stuff back in the day):

13) (tie) Dennis Hof – Cathouse and Lafayette – True Blood.  This is the only reality character on the list, but how can a guy who looks like Rush Limbaugh and acts like pre-wheelchair Larry Flynt not be on the list.  the Cathouse series, which follows a real life Nevada brothel features many women have sex, which is a relief because at least when you turn it on ou know what you are getting, as opposed to the HBO Real Sex series which could just as soon ambush you with a segment on nursing home gang bangs as they could with attractive women.  Dennis is the supreme scumbag that makes the show go with his array of women from the daddy issue-riddled, to the tranny looking one to the midget.  One thing is obvious – he has had sex with all of them.

Don't be fooled by her smile - he's definitely fu-king her.

Speaking to HBO’s diversity, Lafayette, the drug dealing, sassy gay black short-order cook/male prostitute on True Blood is only the first of two gay black men on this short list.

Hooker please.

12) Murray – Flight of the Conchords – The show’s first season was very good.  The second season was incredibly mediocre.  With all due respect to Jemaine – Murray was the extremely poor man’s Ari Gold on this show, literally.  Sadly, the actor that plays Murray is intent on beating the dead horse in a series of new commercials for some product where he is basically playing the same character, but with far fewer laughs.

Murray? Present.

11) Ralphie – The Sopranos. Sadly Ralphie only got two seasons on The Sopranos (3 & 4), but he won an Emmy for the second one and created a character hated above all in his first season and then, once accepted, became the funniest character on the show.  For me, his signature line will be after being confronted by Tony Soprano after beating to death a stripper carrying his child he simply yelled, “First of all she was a whoooour!”

Bad temper, good sense of humor - it's me!

10) Samantha – Sex and the City.  It would be hard, even for a misogynist, to leave off all characters from HBO’s third most popular show of all time. So I picked Samantha, who turned man-like sexual cravings into “empowerment” for women ages 17-60.  My favorite scene of hers may have been when she was dating Smith, a model who would be more likely to visit Samantha in the course of volunteer work at a nursing home than to actually bed her, and she runs into her ex-boyfriend Richard at a party. In front of Smith she goes upstairs with Richard and gets railed from behind and then comes down crying to Smith, saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”  Message? Empowerment.

That's the number of sexual partners Sam Jones established as meaning "empowered."

9) Lester Freamon – The Wire. The first of three characters from The Wire.  Quiet, unassuming and the best detective on the show.  My favorite moment, after coming up with evidence off of a soda can to potentially catch a cop shooter he is asked what unit he’s from. He replies with a straight face: “pawn shop.”  You have to watch the show to get that, but it was great.

The smart side of police work.

8) Tony Soprano – The Sopranos.  Nothing much needs to be said, except for the fact that he is only the second best character on the show (and no, the Bada Bing club is not #1).

Mommy issues.

7) Kenny Powers – Eastbound and Down.  Racist, stupid and angry. If he had not been a baseball player, he might have been leading a Tea Party movement.  Who knows if the shows subsequent season(s) will match the perfection of the first, but it takes a special character to make the line “I love you April, and not just in a make me come kind of way,” mean something, especially when said at an 8th grade dance.

Author of "I'm fu-king in and you're fu-king out!"

6) Al Swearengen – Deadwood. In a word? Cu*t.

Tony Soprano, if Tony did not have so much respect for women.

5) Ari Gold – Entourage.  This show is like watching the Cleveland Cavaliers play basketball a few years ago. It was LeBron James doing amazing things and four guys around him barely keeping up.  I thought after the first season they should have spun the show off and made it about Ari. They didn’t and now it’s a mediocre show with one dominating star.  But he still makes the show worth tuning in to each week that it’s on.

90% of all positive things on Entourage are a result of Ari Gold.

4) Omar – The Wire.  People reading this may have expected Omar at #1, but that would be too easy. I figured I’d sneak up on you like Kenard and… well, I don’t want to give away anything to the people who are just getting over their fear of Negros and Negro-filled shows, but Omar was the most entertaining character on the best show ever for sure, but he’s only my #2 from it.  Indeed.

If you thought he'd be #1 you were wrong.

3) Nate Fisher – Six Feet Under.  I don’t think any character on any HBO show (or any show for that matter – though Walter White on Breaking Bad is doing a nice job) has taken as varied an emotional journey as Nate Fisher.  At times he is both the most identifiable and the most polarizing figure on this unbelievable great show (Seriously, the fact that at one point HBO had The Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, The Wire all at the same time is like an NBA team having LeBron, Kobe and Kevin Durant at the same time – I think The West Wing would be Dwayane Wade for this analogy). 

Women would learn more by watching him than by watching Sex and the City (caveat - you may or may not like what you learn).

2) Tony Soprano’s Mom – Perhaps you forgot about her because she only made it on to the first two seasons of the show, but it says something that the show went from an A+ to an A without her.  The idea that a woman could be evil or just experiencing dementia, or possibly both was brilliant and gave Tony the best conflict on the show until he and his wife hit the skids in season 4.  Tony’s Mom was an absolutely brilliant character and played brilliantly.  Menacing and funny all at once. 

It's been a while, but don't forget how great/terrible Tony's Mom was.

1) Stringer Bell – The Wire.  I had a friend once tell me that she was going to see the movie Obsessed with that handsome black guy and Beyonce.  I replied that’s Stringer Bell from the Wire. She replied, i don’t even remember him from the Wire.  There are only two possibilities here and I will just propose the second – she missed the first 3 seasons of the Wire.  Omar got all the hype, McNulty got all the posters, but I found the intelligent criminal Cain to Avon Barksdale’s Abel the best HBO character of all time.  Watching Stringer try, but fail, to bring the Barksdale drug business into the legitimate world of Real Estate showed that the “legit” world is just as corrupt as the drug trade (as my brother told me – what is so different than the operation of Starbucks and the corner boys in The Wire – you give money and order to one person, then walk around to another area to pick up the product – he was kidding.  The difference is obvious – if coffee were made illegal a lot more white people would be killing each other than black folks on The Wire). 

On a side note, I was told a couple of years ago that the actor that played Stringer was a doorman at Caroline’s at night while he auditioned during the day.  More evidence that everyone in the comedy business except comics can make money. Congratulations Stringer Bell – you are #1.

Former doorman at Caroline's makes good.