KEEPING IT RAHEEL

Raheel Ramzanali: Some other icons Kendrick Perkins might have missed out on besides Chewbacca

Do you know this wookie? Kendrick Perkins does not. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The NBA Playoffs isn’t short of good stories this year, but the strangest story thus far has to be Kendrick Perkins not knowing anything about Chewbacca. Chewy has been in the zeitgeist since 1977, when Star Wars first hit the big screen so Perkins not knowing who he is has to be the most mind-blowing story yet.

Look, I get that Kendrick has dedicated his life to being a professional basketball player so I won’t use this prime real estate to destroy him for not knowing who Chewbacca is ; I’m the same age as Kendrick so I wanted to take the time to catch him up on other really really really popular and “new” things that he should know about as he maneuvers through life. These are things he should recognize right away if they were sitting courtside:

  • Back to the Future - While not as old as Star Wars, this classic film series has some of the most recognizable pop culture references known to man. From the self-lacing shoes that Nike recently recreated to the jaw-dropping Delorean, Back to the Future references are as important as Chewbacca. Oh, and hoverboard!

  • Barney - The big purple dinosaur was once the most-known kid programming character ever and if he sat down courtside, it would be a huge deal. I know Barney is now a tantric sex therapist, but that shouldn’t take away from his pop culture recall.

  • The Avengers - Come on, even Kendrick knows about the Avengers.

  • Pogs - Man, just unfollow me if you weren’t down with Pogs growing up. Pogs were the Beanie Babies for cool dudes. It was a life changer when Pogs teamed up with Michael Jordan to release the ultimate collaboration for sports fan. You think Supreme x Louis Vuitton was popular? Psh, Pogs x MJ was it!

  • Michael Jordan - For some reason Kendrick strikes me as a guy that totally ignored the existence of Michael Jordan so he has no idea about His Airness.

  • Crying Jordan Meme - If he doesn’t know MJ, there’s no way he knows about the MJ Crying Meme.

  • The MJ vs LeBron Debate - Hey Kendrick, all the cool kids are doing it so you better be up on this pop culture trend where we must take sides and destroy the other side’s legacy.

  • 98 Degrees - You can keep your Backstreet Boys and N*Sync, I’m here for the legacy of 98 Degrees and Nick Lachey. He was the original “damn I feel so bad for him being married to her” reality star. Even though he was with prime Jessica Simpson, he was also the first true reality star where we saw just how miserable one guy could be married to a famous pop icon.

  • Red Velvet Cupcakes - For a stretch there in 2010, Red Velvet Cupcakes were all we talked about in everyday conversation. This one cupcake generated thousands of cupcake shops and even a television show where we celebrated war, but the only casualty was deliciousness - This is Cupcake Wars.

  • Smartphones - Kendrick is gonna lose it when he learns about these “new” things that make life so much easier, yet tear us apart as humans.

  • Lil Tay - Honestly, I don’t even know what a Lil Tay is so I can’t speak on this one, but I know most people know about this trend.

 

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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