A week or so ago, in an act of pure and beautiful truth, Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons, a multi-talented Australian, played a game in a pair of shoes with a tribute to anti-fascist legend “Egg Boy,” a heroic young man who publicly smashed a raw egg over the head of Fraser Anning, a right-wing Australian senator who blamed Muslim immigration for the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In repping Egg Boy on his kicks, Simmons let the world know in no uncertain terms that he stands against the omnipresent wave of white politicians who align themselves with the forces of xenophobia and ethno-nationalism in light of their vile messaging spilling over into mass violence.
Would that we could say every NBA No. 1 overall pick from Australia shared Simmons’ convictions.
This week, Andrew Bogut signed with the Golden State Warriors. The move was pretty surprising from all angles. Bogut’s agent apparently didn’t even know his client was talking to the team until the deal was done. The Warriors, reigning champions who seem poised to take the title again, don’t really have any specific on-court needs, even if Bogut theoretically shores up their big-man defense a bit. He hasn’t even been in the NBA this year, playing in his home country, where he won the Australian National Basketball League’s MVP award.
It’s a strange happening that adds to Bogut’s already very deeply strange career arc. Bogut has been mostly excellent when he played, a good defensive center with some post ability and decent hands. But he’s also been injury-prone, in ways both banal and freakish, and his personality has occasionally rubbed people the wrong way.
In 2007, Bogut, in the league for about two years at the time, gave an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in which he calmly said some loaded shit about his NBA colleagues. “The public’s image of NBA players is true, a lot of them get caught up in the hype and do video clips with rappers and all that crap. They want bling bling all over themselves and drive fast cars… There are guys who drop a hundred grand for a chain. The public’s got it right—a lot of NBA stars are arrogant and like to spend lots of money and have lots of girlfriends and all that.”
It was a time, late-Iverson, post-Malice at the Palace, where the NBA was just emerging from an era in which the public discourse around the league was insanely gross and weird, where “bling bling” and disparaging allusions to sexual behavior had some real vicious coded meaning. Bogut, speaking to his home country from far-off lands, was totally willing to fulfill the role of a dude who was better than the league he was deigning to play in; a pillar of white sanity in a world of non-white madness.
He continued: “The smarter guys don’t do that. They like to live a regular life and want to retire and be set up. About 80 percent of them go broke by the time they retire or come close to it.” Presumably, Bogut was including himself in his analysis of who was smart and who was dumb. He clearly has an entrenched idea of himself as an exceptionally smart guy. But is he?
In the last few years, Bogut, who keeps up an active social-media presence, has flirted with the kind of cultural and intellectual signifiers that define the alt-right in America.
For instance, here he is, mocking the notion that gender is a social construct while quote-tweeting Rita Panahi, a right-wing-ish Australian columnist:
...and here he is, SMHing gender nonconformity again, sharing an article about non-binary kids who begin to have periods:
Or sharing a tirade from YouTube grievance comedian Issac Butterfield entitled “WHY I HATE FEMINISM.” It just sort of goes on like this for a while, Bogut smarmily quote-tweeting and sharing vaguely right-wing crap about gender and whatnot for page after page after page:
Does he like Jordan Peterson, the weepy-boy Western supremacist and gender-conformity warrior whose work is an entry point for alt-right keyboard warriors the world over? Of course he does!
Bogut is either too canny or too moderate to embrace the hard shit, for the most part, but he did have some questions about Pizzagate for a while:
Very smart, as you can see—a genius, unlike other dudes in the NBA who own gold chains and things of that nature.
In reading these dopey tweets, Bogut doesn’t come off like a grifter, the way most of the famous people who indulge in this kind of ideology on the internet do. He doesn’t seem like he’s trying to get on Fox News, or sell brain pills, or do speaking tours about race realism—at least not yet (retirement can get boring). The Warriors know about Bogut’s political invocations—how could you not, they’re all over the internet—and could have not signed him to avoid controversy. (Bogut has deleted many of his controversial tweets.)
But they know their roster and their organization, and how Bogut, who was on the team before, interacts with them. His teammates and his coach, who have nearly all expressed anti-Trump sentiments in some form or another (they don’t even get a cursory White House invite at this point), also don’t really appear to mind his weird politics all that much. They think of him as a weird, sarcastic, tension-diffusing-type locker-room presence, which is pretty normal—people work with people who they disagree with all the time. The local media, always thirsting for content, might normally be more keyed up by this stuff, but Bogut has a good way with reporters—being white and having a disarming accent goes a long way—and doesn’t really get roasted for it in newspapers or blogs or anything.
The Warriors’ increasingly wealthy, white fanbase is probably mostly used to interacting with half-dumb white guys who read shit on the internet that lines up with their preconceived notions about privilege and gender and all that shit. Joe Lacob and the Warriors’ organization’s ideal fan is less concerned with the fringe-signaling of washed-up centers they sign to shore up their playoff rotation, and more concerned with how nice the TVs in the team’s new Chase Center Skyboxes, located in the heart of San Francisco (instead of stinky ol’ Oakland) are.
In this, Bogut really is the perfect signing for a Warriors team that is looking to abandon their longtime home and embrace their role as the basketball team for Tech’s Wealthy Elites. He’s rich, privileged, half-informed, driven to distraction by algorithmic content delivery, and totally convinced he deserves it and no one else does. Poetic, really.