This started, as far as I can tell without making any effort to learn, as a conversation on Twitter about which NBA players qualify as superstars, and then about the question of what qualifies an NBA player as a superstar. To be, well, almost fair to its participants, “superstar” is one of those obnoxious sports-words, profoundly alienating to non-fans, that gets chucked around a lot without a lot of consideration for what it means or whether it means anything or ever was supposed to mean anything, like “supermodel” but for jocks. Or “freedom.” Every once in a while, it is probably healthful in some way or another for people to try to re-align the word to some consensus meaning, even if that conversation, in the case of “superstar,” is just as horrifying and repellent to outsiders as the word itself.
So. What is an NBA superstar? What qualifies somebody as one? Is it based solely on how good and successful they are on the court, or does it incorporate a measure of their celebrity as well? Do they have to have in some way transcended the sport to earn the “super” part of the thing? Put another way: If the only people who know of a given player are dedicated NBA fans, is that player a superstar or just a regular star or what? The answer to all of these is that I don’t give a damn! But the conversation spawned these tweets, which I love:
“Cabron James” is the headliner here, but don’t overlook “Rotman” and “Pipen” and “The shack.”
Anyway, this tweet led the Defector staff to the only place it ever could lead us: asking a selection of Defector moms how many NBA players they could name off the top of their head. Here’s what we found.
My mom again, 20 minutes later:
I also asked my wife (who is a mom) to name NBA players, but in person rather than over text. She named Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Steph Curry, John Wall, Shaq, Bradley Beal, Larry Bird, Russell Westbrook, and Dennis Rodman.
There you have it: The NBA superstars.