Rihanna's appearance at Game 1 of the NBA Finals to throw shade at Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors has added a necessary wrinkle to a trilogy finale that feels as disappointing as the third Matrix movie. Bad Gal RiRi is trying to support her boy LeBron James and get into KD's head, while Durant is doing all he can to ignore the chatter and focus on the task at hand.
With an NBA championship on the line, who cares about a pop star talking smack from the sidelines? We, the under-stimulated fans, care, even if Durant says he doesn't.
After a merciless rout in Game 1, why wouldn't we? We need some intrigue while we wait for the Cavaliers to finally show up to the cataclysmic final act of the NBA's version of the Holy Trilogy. Let's break down Rihanna's epic mind games and try to figure out how the Warriors can combat Cleveland's pop music nuclear option. For the culture.
Step 1: Haterizing
KD went 7-of-8 from the free throw line, taking care of his business on the way to a monster 38-point game. That didn't stop Rihanna—who caused ABC color commentator Jeff Van Gundy to spit up his chewing gum and do an old-timey double-take when she arrived at her courtside seats—from throwing out a hearty "BRICK!" heckle when Durant stepped to the charity stripe. This started the beef, and Durant tossed the eight-time Grammy winner a pointed stare as he ran back on defense.
The last thing a good heckler wants to do is motivate his or her target. It was a tight first quarter at that moment, but it deteriorated into a not-so-tight rest of the game.
Step 2: Beware the Halftime Pep Talk
Kevin Durant already has a 2012 Finals loss to LeBron under his belt to motivate him. That trauma is part of why he left Oklahoma City to join the radioactive Godzilla in Oakland. So when Rihanna walks out to her courtside seats with a singular mission to throw Durant off his game, it should be no surprise that he pushes back harder.
If someone equally as famous or more famous than me showed up to my job with the explicit purpose of ruining my life, I'd be just as determined as Kevin Durant to disappoint the hater.
It's like if another sportswriter broke into my hotel room in Oakland and refused to stop calling my analogies and pop culture references "labored" and my sentence structure overly convoluted. I'd probably hide in my bathroom for 15 minutes, call my mother for advice on how to get the upper hand and then come out with a soliloquy that would make William Shakespeare consider a fallback career in masonry. KD did just that, taking the halftime period to prepare himself for the ultimate annihilation of Rihanna's evening.
Step 3: Dab as a Domination Distraction
The third quarter of Game 1 was the response to Rihanna's hastily thrown together "LeBron is still the king" IRL think piece, with Durant pausing to acknowledge his superiority as he served face to RiRi after a made three. Maybe you can interpret this as the basketball equivalent of the playground ponytail-yanking taunt that signifies a hidden attraction. Maybe KD is spitting game at Rihanna through his deliberate, complete decimation of LeBron and the Cavs.
Who doesn't love the edgy, distant bad boy? To most NBA heads, Durant turned to the dark side the moment he joined the West Coast evil empire. He's now the classic rebellious high school kid throwing on a black leather jacket and cutting class to smoke under the stands in the football stadium. How can she resist?
Well, the truth is, it's easy. She can dab the pain away.
Step 4: Play Hard to Get
As of now, Rihanna seems like she's won the battle. She blows off KD's boasts, walks through the crowd like the queen she is and declares that "the King is still the King" as she exits the arena. But KD can still get the upper hand by no-selling the whole encounter.
"I don't even remember that," Durant said when asked about the RiRi incident we all witnessed on national television and (Pon de) replayed a thousand times on social media. Sorry man, we all remember the entire thing.
"Don't get into that trap, man," Steph Curry advised, dishing his most important assist of the evening. What better way to declare that you've taken the crown than to pretend the battle never happened? Of course, Rihanna's Twitter currently features exactly zero mentions of Kevin Durant, the Warriors, Steph Curry, LeBron James or the NBA Finals. Despite KD's best efforts to blow it all off, Rihanna has fought this battle to a stalemate, because she's so far above it all, she's barely breathing Earth oxygen.
Until Durant gets a ring (or maybe a Grammy for Best Original Song), there's no winning for him. This is going to continue in Game 2, and maybe beyond. The only way to break the deadlock is for Rihanna to show up courtside at Oracle with Warriors adjacent fan Drake, a bottle of wine and Russell Westbrook in an official photographer costume. If that won't have KD shook, nothing will.