Categories
Sports Strength

Is Jose Alvarado the NBA’s Most Likable Player?

An undrafted rookie point guard from Georgia Tech, Jose Alvarado has endeared himself to just about everybody since entering the New Orleans Pelicans’ rotation on January 20th; his handsy, heady play is so inherently likable that it’s hard not to fall for Alvarado’s charms. Sometime over the last two-ish weeks, Alvarado became your favorite player’s favorite player.

“He’s just a great dude. He’s full of joy, full of love. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Josh Hart said of Alvarado. “We see that. We see the hard work, we see him out there just grinding. Guys like that, you always want them to do well — in basketball, but also in life. He has all our confidence and trust when he’s on the court.”

“He didn’t back down, and I respected him,” Joel Embiid said, offering to pay a $2000 fine that Alvarado incurred during a skirmish with Embiid.  “I like that about him so after the game, I really just went up to him and I told him to keep fighting and to keep it going.”

The 2021 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Alvarado’s pesky style has translated fairly seamlessly to the NBA. Despite his relative smallness preventing him from switching onto larger players, he’s a plucky on-ball hindrance, climbing into his man’s airspace and swiping at the ball; over the last five games, Alvarado has averaged 2.4 steals (a mark that would lead the league by a sizable margin) in just 19.9 minutes per game. Like Patrick Beverley or Alex Caruso, Alvarado is the rare point guard whose defense is truly game-changing—beyond simply hectoring his own assignment, he prevents opponents from easily establishing a rhythm and getting into their offense. 

On offense, Alvarado is more steady than spectacular. More, he’s perhaps the most fuck-up-averse player in the entire league: in his 22 games so far this season, he’s accounted for just four turnovers. In this sense, Alvarado’s meager per-game stats fail to capture the true impact he carries—he guarantees that each possession has purpose. It sounds unimportant, but merely ensuring that each possession ends with a shot is a tremendous source of value; the average shot yields about 1.06 points per possession , but a live-ball turnover results in 1.35 points per possession for the other team. Simply by lowering his team’s turnover percentage by 3.2 percentage points when he’s on the court, Alvarado ensures that his team scores 5.8 more points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court than when he’s on the bench. 

While he’s on a two-way contract for now, it’s only a matter of time until Alvarado inks a guaranteed contract with the Pelicans. Alvarado is the kind of hidden gem that every NBA team hopes to unearth, but Alvarado’s play has been so brilliantly competent that that he’s become impossible to ignore. 

Categories
Fashion NFT

BAPE Announces (B)APETAVERSE NFT Project

BAPE has announced a forthcoming NFT project known as the (B)APETAVERSE, which promises to bring fans of the brand access to exclusive content “in a world of limitless possibilities”. The announcement arrived with a website that depicts a 3D rendered model of the classic BAPE logo obscured by shadows.

According to the (B)APETAVERSE Instagram the collection will consist of 10,000 unique NFTs, typical of generative projects. We’re unsure of exactly how the project will take shape exactly, but it’s probably safe to assume that the NFTs will be variations on the render highlighted on the website.

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The move comes as no surprise as industry giants like Nike and Adidas have already made moves to enter the metaverse with acquisitions of RTFKT Studios and a Bored Ape, respectively. BAPE joins a growing roster of streetwear mainstays to enter the NFT space, and undoubtedly will not be the last. As the brand that helped to popularize the ape iconography that has now become synonymous with non-fungible tokens, it only seems right that BAPE should get it on the landscape.

Stay tuned to see how the project unfolds, and in the meantime check out (B)APETAVERSE’s Discord here.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

HBO Max’s “Somebody Somewhere” Is About Finding Your People

Getting locked inside a silo is just another part of living it up in the endless fields of Kansas.

In HBO Max’s new show, Somebody Somewhere, comedian Bridget Everett plays a slightly fictionalized version of herself, a sweet yet poignant look into the life of Sam, a woman living in Kansas.

I often find myself stumped in describing what this show is actually about when others ask what the crux of the whole thing is. It’s tough to put into words because it feels a little too real; more likely with TV shows, we’re brought into a world that’s not rooted in much reality. Somebody Somewhere illustrates what it’s like to be an outsider, the one puzzle that looks like it should fit in but just doesn’t for some reason. In that same way, its title is perfect: Somebody Somewhere because that’s exactly who the show is for.

HBO

Sam begrudgingly works at a local standardized test facility where she grades essays written by students. It’s also the site where she meets Joel (Jeff Hiller), another grader. Although Sam was a little skeptical of him at first because he seems overly nerdy and enthusiastic about her, they quickly form a bond after he offers her some tissues while taking a quick step outside at work.

Though she has no recollection of who he is, Joel quickly explains that the two of them were in show choir together back in high school; he had always idolized her for her personality and singing. She feigns remembering him, though Joel says it’s okay because “a lot of people don’t remember me.” He doesn’t even say that in a sad way, but it’s in that sentence that Sam realizes what kind of person he is and that they’re more alike than she had initially thought.

Their relationship is almost like a fan somehow becoming best friends with their favorite singer. At one point, Joel even says, “God, I can’t believe I like ‘know you’ know you now.” It’s a very pure, sweet sense of adoration that’s not shown within the context of friendships very often on television. In a sense, if Sam isn’t able to love herself at the moment, Joel is going to fill that job for the time being.


While Sam clearly hates her job, it’s the one escape from living at home with her family, where she has been since her sister, Holly, got sick and passed away six months prior. Her mother is a low-key alcoholic who accidentally walks into glass doors, and her father is the opposite: a quiet farmer who’s on the same wavelength as Sam. She also has another sister, Tricia, who butts heads with her and constantly berates and questions Sam about what she’s actually doing with her life.

HBO

At work one day, Joel invites Sam to a late-night (and unauthorized) “choir practice” at a church inside a mall, though it turns out to be an underground nightclub/gathering spot for people much like Sam and Joel who feel that they don’t fit in. The spot is centered around music and getting to know one another, introducing Sam to a previously nonexistent world in Kansas. Joel ends up tricking her into singing a song for everyone, and while she was initially hesitant, she killed the show and finally felt a glimmer of real community—and happiness.

While the show is a dramedy, it almost evokes the coming-of-(mid-)age genre. From the outside looking in, it may seem like Somebody Somewhere is just a show about Sam, but in a much larger sense, it’s really about unlikely relationships, taking chances, and finding your people.

Maybe she didn’t befriend Joel in high school because he was a bit on the nerdy side; it’s something that happens without even blinking an eye in high school. We dismiss people outright just based on how they seem. And the thing is, there’s so much more to people than that—there was so much more to Joel than that. And if Sam hadn’t fought past that old belief, their current friendship would’ve never been, and he would’ve never opened her eyes to the real world. Somebody Somewhere spotlights moments like that. Taking chances—whether it be on a person, a career, or something else—can have life-changing results.

Somebody Somewhere airs HBO Max on Sundays at 10:30 p.m EST.

Categories
Sports Strength

Demar DeRozan’s Unbelievable Story Is Just Getting Started

Stepping into the lead role for the Chicago Bulls can be a tall task for just about anyone in the league. Backed by one of the most passionate fan bases in the league and the history of the house MJ built, expectations are always high in the windy city. With the pressure of building a championship squad, newly minted front-office tandem AKME (Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley) made a flurry of free-agent signings. The most significant of these signings was a three-year $81 million dollar deal for Demar DeRozan. 

While many talking heads labeled this the worst free agent signing of the summer, DeRozan has already secured a starting spot in the all-star game (The Bulls first All-star starter since 2017) and has led the bulls to the second best record in the East. Before he was hitting buzzer-beaters in back-to-back nights, DeRozan had to endure more adversity than many will experience in a lifetime. 

Born in California, DeRozan grew up in Compton, a neighborhood in Los Angeles notorious for its violence. It was the influence of his late father Frank who helped navigate him away from the streets and into the gym. After an exceptional year at USC, DeRozan was taken as the ninth overall pick in 2009. Even though his hoop dreams of making the league were a reality, there was still plenty of adversity that stood in DeRozan’s way. 

The Toronto Raptors would be the team to draft Demar DeRozan, which proved to be an overwhelming situation for the young guard. Playing his college days at USC, a school just down the road from his hometown, DeRozan never had to worry about being far from home. Upon being drafted, DeRozan found himself farther from home than he’s ever known as Toronto is  a little more than a hop, skip, and a jump from Compton. 2,517 miles away to be exact. The 2009 Raptors roster was littered with vets as well and no one for Demar to really connect with as a 20 year old kid. That would change in 2012 when the Raptors signed Kyle Lowry from Houston and paired one of the greatest bromances the league had ever seen. 

The Raptors found great success with the tandem of Lowry and DeRozan in the backcourt, even reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015. Any Raptors playoff success would be swiftly derailed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs’ were so dominant in Toronto during this era that Lebron James donned the nickname ‘Lebronto’. The Raptors, knowing their window was closing, had to make a move. Meanwhile in San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard was refusing to play because of conflicts with the front office. In the summer of 2018 we got one of the biggest Woj nukes ever as it was announced that Kawhi was on the move: 

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The Raptors found instant success. Kawhi Leonard led them to their first championship in franchise history in one of the greatest playoff runs of all time. Demar, on the other hand, was nearly forgotten. The Spurs struggled to consistently put up wins despite DeRozan putting up numbers that paralleled his days in Toronto. Unlike his peers, DeRozan never complained, never asked for a trade, he simply just went out and did his job. In the start of 2021, DeRozan would have to face the largest hurdle of his career. 

With his father’s health deteriorating, DeRozan would routinely fly straight from the hospital on game days, trying to get as much time in with his dad as he could. Unfortunately in early 2021, Frank DeRozan would pass after three years in the hospital. Demar would finish his contract out with the Spurs and find his new home in Chicago.

Calling DeRozan and the Bulls a good match is an understatement. DeRozan is a key reason why the Bulls are #2 in the East right now. Currently sitting at fifth in points per game putting up 26.4, DeRozan has more than earned his spot as an all-star starter. 

The next time you watch Demar DeRozan play, you’ll probably notice two huge portraits of tattoos on his shoulders. On one side, he has an image of Heath Ledger in the iconic Joker makeup, representing his long battle with mental health issues. On his other arm is a portrait of his late father Frank DeRozan. A symbol of how his father will always be right by his side. DeRozan has clearly found a home in Chicago and I for one can’t wait to see what he can accomplish in the playoffs this year. Without a doubt, the whole city is behind you Demar.

Categories
Sports Strength

Isiaih Mosley Is the Best Scorer in College Basketball

The beauty of college basketball is its bigness. Whereas the NBA is a highly scrutinized cabal of 30 organizations who are single-mindedly committed to optimizing their way to glory, college basketball decidedly is not that. Most of the 358 teams exist in relative obscurity—it’s ok if they get a little weird. Since almost no team really has the airtight personnel to play basketball the analytically “correct” way with a well-spaced offense and a switchable defense, teams are free to play basketball their way and creatively explore all the schematic studio space that the NBA has ignored. Here is a place where junky defenses like zones and presses can become impenetrable fortresses of solitude, where a team can become the 11th best offensive team in the country despite not ever really dribbling, where Isiaih Mosley (a 6’5 shooting guard for the Missouri State Bears) can firebomb his way to stardom. 

Although Mosley doesn’t necessarily lead the nation in points per game (his 21.3 points per game are ninth), he’s still the best pure scorer in college basketball—he’s the first player in over a decade to average more than 20 points per game while also shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the free throw line. While Mosley has largely flambeéd mid-major teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, he’s also shown that he can translate his production against better competition: his 40-point masterclass against a powerhouse Loyola Chicago team is arguably the best performance that any player has had all season.

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What makes Mosley special, though, is not just that he scores so much, but rather how he scores so much. Whereas most players are encouraged to do the bulk of their damage either from three or at the rim, Mosley has turned the mid-range into his own personal dojo. He’s taken a plurality of his shots in this liminal space (non-rim two-pointers comprise 45.8 percent of his diet, while only 21.3 and 32.9 percent of shots are at the rim or from three, respectively) and buries more than half of them. 

Even if Mosley lacks the oil-slick quickness that defines most great scorers, he’s such a spell-binding shot-maker and double-jointed ball-handler that it doesn’t matter; you don’t need to blow by defenders when you can always shoot over them.  In this sense, Mosley is practically peerless—there simply aren’t many (if any) wing scorers in college basketball history who shoot so accurately on such a high volume of tough attempts. 

Players like Mosley are what make college basketball so special—he’s a hot weekend in mid-March away from becoming a household name. He’s a unique player with an idiosyncratic game who has been given the total freedom to lead his team. Someday soon, Mosley will be in the NBA and conform to the aesthetic and tactical conventions of professional basketball, but that kind of projection and prognostication is the thief of joy. For now, Mosley still has at least another ten games to terrorize MVC defenses with his ahistorical bag of push shots and step-backs. Appreciate it for as long as you can.

Categories
Gaming New Releases

The Biggest Games Releasing in February 2022

The second month of the year is gonna snatch a whole lotta funds out of gamers’ checking accounts everywhere. Simply because there’s an avalanche of games and even a new piece of console hardware coming our way. So many genres are represented this February, so you should be covered by something major this month. Plus if you’re planning on being alone on Valentine’s Day this year, then you’ll totally be okay if you have any of these games keeping you distracted from all the lovey-dovey behavior. So let’s get right to it and talk about all the gaming heat that’s set to drop in February 2022!

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‘Dying Light 2 Stay Human’ – February 4 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, PC – Steam)

Once again, it’s time to tap into your nimble avatar’s masterful parkour skills as you navigate a massive landscape that’s overrun with the Infected. In Dying Light 2 Stay Human, “The City” will become your new home. And under the role of a Pilgrim, you’ll be pulled between two stables whose futures will be impacted by the decisions you make and the actions you take. With a more serious focus on storytelling, a much larger world to explore, and that same meaty melee combat the first Dying Light was celebrated for, Dying Light 2 Stay Human is gearing up to be one of the years’ early contenders for Game of the Year.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Dying Light 2 Stay Human.

Be sure to check out our review for this game right here.

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‘OlliOlli World’ – February 8 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC – Steam)

The OlliOlli series offers a fun side-scrolling spin on the extreme sport of skating. Development studio Roll7 is going extra big with this third series entry and making sure it adds a bit more character to all the proceedings. OlliOlli World brings back the addictive trick-laden runs featured in the series’ last two games. But this time, you’ll get to mix it up with a wide range of uniquely designed personalities and embark on side quests to keep things interesting. If you’ve been waiting to scratch that lingering Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater itch, then OlliOlli World might be the cure you’re looking for.

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‘Sifu’ – February 8 (PS5, PS4, PC – Epic Games Store)

Revenge is a dish best served cold. And judging by the dangerous wave of baddies that’ll come your way in Sifu, you’re going to be serving them all in the most excruciating way possible. After your family meets their unfortunate end at the hand of assassins, you set out to vanquish them the only way you know how – use your martial arts skills to beat them into submission. But get this – once you die, you come back to life a bit older. And with that perk, you’re revived as a stronger fighter but also a much frailer one. Sifu’s unique revival gimmick and an overall nod to classic kung fu films mean it has a whole lot going for it.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Sifu.

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‘CrossfireX’ – February 10 (Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One)

When we tell you Crossfire is huge in Asia, we’re talking HUGE! The PC military first-person shooter has an insanely large player count, plus there’s been a Chinese TV show dedicated to it. Oh and by the way – Crossfire also got a movie in the works. Publisher/developer Smilegate Entertainment is looking to garner the same type of overwhelming popularity in the States that Crossfire has accrued in Asian territories with the release of CrossfireX. This is pretty much the console version of the PC game – it’ll come with a free-to-play multiplayer component and a single-player campaign developed by Remedy Entertainment (Max Payne, Control). The furious gunfire looks awesome and evokes Black vibes, which excites us greatly about everything CrossfireX has to offer.

Here’s everything else you need to know about CrossfireX.

Be sure to check out our review for this game right here.

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‘The King of Fighters XV’ – February 17 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PC – Steam)

After months and months of character reveal trailers, open betas, and finalized team lineups, SNK is finally ready to drop the full version of The King of Fighters XV in our laps. The 15th installment in the Japanese publisher/developer’s premier fighting game series has gotten a nice visual upgrade over its predecessor that’s easy to recognize. This upcoming fighter’s roster may be smaller than the one featured in the last series entry, but it’s still great since it features a nice mix of series regulars, shocking returns, and welcome newcomers. The new “Shatter Strike” mechanic and the new MAX Mode tool give players a lot more to work with and more exciting combo paths to tap into.

Here’s everything else you need to know about The King of Fighters XV.

Be sure to check out our review for this game right here.

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‘Total War: Warhammer III’ – February 17 (PC – Steam)

One of Sega’s current pillars as far as IPs go is the Total War series. The latest foray into the strategy RPG series focuses on the tabletop wargame universe known as Warhammer Fantasy. Total War: Warhammer III features three warring civilizations (Grand Cathay, Kislev, and the Ogre Kingdoms), which can all align themselves with one of four factions themed after the “Chaos Gods” (Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh). You can expect to get embroiled in real-time tactical battles across the games’ sweeping world and get caught up in nail-biting moments of diplomacy with rival factions along the way. Fans of turn-based strategy and real-time tactics have a lot to look forward to here.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UxDWGW7Z67I" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed‘Horizon Forbidden West’ - February 18 (PS5, PS4)</code>
‘Horizon Forbidden West’ – February 18 (PS5, PS4)

Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy has a new journey to embark on. And this time, that grand adventure will transport her to the “Forbidden West,” which is a post-apocalyptic region that encapsulates parts of California, Nevada, and Utah. With a red blight overtaking the region, deadly animalistic machines on your tail, and vicious raiders to contend with, Aloy’s hands will certainly be full. Thankfully, she’ll come armed with plenty of arrows for her trusty bow and traps in order to stay ahead of her robotic animal foes. And with the new ability to swim underwater, a new “Valor Surge” system, and a retooled skill tree, Aloy will have even more tools to rely on during her mission to save her homeland from certain doom.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Horizon Forbidden West.

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‘Destiny 2: The Witch Queen’ – February 22 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, PC – Steam, Google Stadia)

The latest major expansion for Bungie’s ongoing first-person shooter Destiny 2 is finally within arms reach. The Witch Queen marks the return of Savathûn, The Witch Queen, the sister of Oryx, who should be familiar to those who played through the first Destiny’s The Taken King expansion. You know the drill here – you’re going to be treated to a whole new location to venture through, plenty of new story missions, a new raid, and plenty of balance adjustments & significant changes to the game’s ever-changing meta. The introduction of the new glaive weapon elicits a ton of excitement on our end!

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Steam Deck – February 25

After some disappointing delays, Valve is finally ready to launch its handheld gaming PC hardware for eager adopters. The Steam Deck is a mini-powerhouse that lets players enjoy any of their Steam Library games on the go. They’ll look pretty dammed good, too – this little handheld is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 powerhouse that makes your PC games look and run as efficiently as possible. The Steam Deck might not replace your Nintendo Switch outright, but it’ll still offer you a nice mobile gaming alternative should you be lucky enough to get one.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/kYYrpBms2Iw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed‘Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream’ - February 25 (PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC - Steam)</code>
‘Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream’ – February 25 (PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC – Steam)

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy managed to be one of the most heartwarming and incredibly jovial JRPG experiences of 2021. Now, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream marks the return of another fan-favorite protagonist from Koei Tecmo and Gust Co. Ltd.’s beloved JRPG franchise. Sophie the Alchemist embarks on a new journey to search for a lost friend that she lost contact with while exploring a mysterious dream realm. And during this new venture, Sophie will make new friends, use her alchemy skills to craft new items, change the weather on the fly, and take part in action-packed battles.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/E3Huy2cdih0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed‘Elden Ring’ - February 25 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, PC - Steam)</code>
‘Elden Ring’ – February 25 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, PC – Steam)

OH ELDEN RING! This dream collaboration between development studio From Software (with director Hidetaka Miyazaki in tow) and famed fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin is ready to give “Soulsbourne” addicts something new to get consumed by. Elden Ring offers big changes to the subgenre’s familiar formula by introducing a freely explorable open-world, a trusty horse that lets you engage in mounted combat, and summoning mechanics that lets you call on the assistance of various spirits you encounter during your difficult trek. It’s up to you to make your way through the Lands Between and restore the Elden Ring.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Elden Ring.

Be sure to check out our review for this game right here.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sHViN83fdnI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed‘Grid Legends’ - February 25 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, PC - Steam)</code>
‘Grid Legends’ – February 25 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, PC – Steam)

Before Gran Turismo 7 hits the road, development studio Codemasters is coming out of the gate first to offer its take on the world of racing simulators. Grid Legends looks to provide gearheads with a ton of content to get lost in – this one’s going to feature 130+ tracks that are split off between real-life tracks and street circuits. And with 100+ vehicles to choose from, you’ll have plenty of racing goodness to get caught up in during your extensive time spent with Grid Legends. As for the single-player campaign, get ready to hop into the game’s “Driven to Glory” mode and map out your racing career via a documentary-style presentation.

Console Ports

Life Is Strange: Remastered Collection’ – February 1 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia)

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX Cloud Version’ – February 10 (Nintendo Switch)

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue Cloud Version’ – February 10 (Nintendo Switch)

‘Kingdom Hearts III + Re Mind Cloud Version’ – February 10 (Nintendo Switch)

‘River City Girls Zero’ – February 14 (Nintendo Switch)

Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection’ – February 17 (Nintendo Switch)

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

Prime Video Celebrates ‘Reacher’ with The Reacher Challenge in Atlanta

Amazon Prime’s new series Reacher is set to make its premiere on February 4th, and to celebrate the new show, Prime put on a special event this past weekend in Atlanta to get fans and viewers hyped up. Yesterday, Prime had a special Reacher activation challenge and Atlanta’s The Battery/Truist Park, and ONE37pm attended the event to get a feel for what we could possibly expect from the series.

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I’m an Atlanta girl (and have been for the past ten years), but for those that don’t know, The Battery/Truist Park is the official home to the 2021 World Series Champions Atlanta Braves, which made it a great family-friendly location for this Reacher activation. Luckily the weather was beautiful as well which added to the fun, and the general area surrounding Truist has tons of activities and restaurants, which made the day full.

The activation was interactive and consumer-friendly and gave passersby the opportunity to take part in a series of physical challenges that mimic the missions Jack Reacher must undergo throughout the show. The activation was along the lines of a crazy obstacle course (think The Challenge, Survivor, etc), and each participant received a set of ‘Reacher Rules’ prior to starting the challenge.

From there, the participants had to go through a hyper-active obstacle course consisting of tasks like breaking out of jail, climbing walls to escape, finding clues to get to the next task, and plenty more including unexpected roadblocks.

Amazon Prime
Reacher Activation Mock

It was competitive, challenging, and fun to watch from the outside looking in (I wasn’t bold enough to participate). Each participant received a photo and souvenir and the end of the challenge for their personal keeping, making it a truly memorable day.

Once again, Reacher will make its debut on Prime Video this Friday and will follow the life of Jack Reacher, a veteran military police investigator who enters civilian life when he is falsely accused of murder. The show stars Alan Ritchson as Reacher, Willa Fitzgerald, and Malcolm Goodwin amongst others, and will be one to add to our winter TV lineup.

Categories
Sports Strength

Anfernee Simons Is Ready for the Spotlight

The NBA is defined by its superstars, and when you look at a team like the Portland Trailblazers it’s hard to notice anyone other than perennial all-star guard Damian Lillard. Pulling up from 35 feet and hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, “Dame Dolla” is must see TV. And while Lillard has put together a Hall of Fame resumé over the last few years, 22-year-old Anfernee Simons has quietly waited in the wings, internalizing lessons from Lillard’s success . 

A 6’3 guard from Florida, Simons became the first American player since 2005 to get drafted straight from high school when the Blazers snagged him with the 24th pick in 2018. Entering the NBA, Simons was considered a long-term project, the kind of player who could help usher in the next era of Blazers’ basketball rather than contribute to the current one. When asked about his relationship with the then-rookie Anfernee Simons in 2018, Lillard candidly responded: 

“When he gets about 25 I’ll probably be close to on my way outta here. So for me it’s different because I see him as he’s gonna be a star here when I’m on my way out. When that day comes, I want to be like ‘yeah, when he first got here, I was his vet.’”

With Lillard having been sidelined since mid-January with some ominous, vague abdominal injury, Simons has been thrust into a starring role for the first time. In his 23 games as a starter in Lillard’s absence, Simons has averaged 23.6 points and 6.1 assists per game. Even more impressive, he’s somehow become more efficient despite significantly amping up his volume—over this stretch, he’s posting sparkling 58.2 percent true shooting rate and nailing 42 percent of his threes, despite taking a hefty diet of unassisted shots.

When Simons has the ball, it’s almost impossible to ignore the similarities between him and his starrier mentor. Like Lillard, Simons is comfortable hoisting jumpers off the dribble from far behind the three-point line and expertly carves out space to get his shot off in the pick-and-roll. Too, Simons displays a similarly determined, no-nonsense attitude. Just as Lillard is known for taking absolutely no shit on the court, Simons maintains the same steely, even-keeled expression even as he drops 40 on your favorite team. 

Having led Portland to a 12-11 record during his tenure as a starter, Simons is a much-needed bright spot in what’s become a fairly grim season. But rather than simply collecting stats on a bad team, Simons is genuinely creating opportunities for his team that wouldn’t otherwise exist. After a few lackluster years during the expiring daylight of Lillard’s prime, it’s all but inevitable that Trailblazers enter rebuild mode in the near future. When that day comes, they would make a crucial mistake not building around Simons.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The History and Creatures of Jabba’s Palace

It’s sort of funny that they call it a “palace” when the whole place is really just one huge, poorly-lit lair for a massive slug to chide whichever visitors deign to show up.

The Book of Boba Fett has shone a new light on the iconic Jabba’s Palace, and though we were only at the site for a small portion of Return of the Jedi, it has become one of the most well-known locations within the Star Wars world. In many ways, its popularity is fairly similar to that of Boba Fett, who also had limited exposure yet became a major point of fascination to fans.

Origins
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Jabba’s Palace came to fruition first as a B’omarr Order monastery, though Jabba eventually took it over and decided to make it his hub for a crime empire. It’s located on Tatooine in northern Mos Espa at the edges of the Dune Sea, with a frighteningly quiet walk to its entrance. The outside of the Palace was always guarded by an overly-aggressive TT-8L/YZ Gatekeeper Droid, which kept tabs on the comings and goings of the Palace.

Prior to Return of the Jedi, Hutt had some dealings with Darth Vader, which—after almost being killed by him—eventually led Jabba to grant him access to bounty hunters Boba Fett and Black Krrsantan. Fett was tasked with killing Luke Skywalker after he destroyed the Death Star, though Fett never was able to complete the task.

We get our first look into Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, as it’s a major place of interest given the fact that Han Solo was frozen in carbonite and brought to be housed at the Palace. The film’s first half-hour is devoted just to the scenes at the Palace and in the area surrounding the Sarlacc pit.

Leia shows up to the Palace—disguised as a bounty hunter, Boushh—to free him alongside Chewbacca as her faux captive, and though she’s successful in releasing him from the carbonite, she’s caught by Hutt.

Although they’re held captive there for a little, Luke comes by the Palace and tries to save them but ends up being captured, as well. This leads to the infamous scene at the Sarlacc pit where Jabba’s entire team is killed, including Boba Fett (or so we thought).

Notable Characters
Lucasfilm Ltd.

With a large staff and collection of shady bounty hunters who liked to hang around, Jabba’s Palace was quite the party, as Hutt would even hire the Max Rebo Band to play alongside singer Sy Snootles. This conglomeration of individuals gave the palace its underground feel, with a few sticking out a bit more than others.

Jabba the Hutt

It’s not Jabba’s Palace without the slimeball in charge, Jabba the Hutt. Head of his criminal empire, Jabba knew the ins and outs of the bounty hunting world, always keeping tabs on his crew with an aggressive, no-nonsense attitude. Of the Hutt species, he held no empathy for others and was ruthless, leading him to become one of the most feared beings on Tatooine and in the galaxy.

Boba Fett

The most well-known bounty hunter at the palace, Fett is quiet though always calculated, occasionally playing the role of Jabba’s secret weapon. However, he eventually falls into the Sarlacc pit while lending support on the barges in the Dune Sea.

Bib Fortuna

Bib Fortuna served as Hutt’s majordomo, an extremely pale Twi’lek who did a better job at creeping everyone else out than what he was really supposed to be doing. He clearly didn’t have much loyalty to Hutt, as Fortuna eventually took over his throne following Jabba’s death at the Sarlacc pit.

Oola

Though not many know her name, Oola was the green Twi’lek enslaved by Hutt, who was chained up next to him. However, she didn’t last long, as she was thrown down his trap door and killed by the rancor.

Iconic Creatures and Droids
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Though the characters had technically larger roles, the creatures and droids within Jabba’s Palace really made it what it became, as they gave the palace its distinctive look and feel.

Salacious Crumb

It’s really not Jabba’s Palace if the iconic Kowakian monkey-lizard, Salacious Crumb, isn’t there. Though his only real purpose was to nest in the crook of Jabba’s tail and scream-laugh at the visitors who stopped by, Crumb has become one of the most beloved creatures at the palace.

The Max Rebo Band

Who’s better at bringing overall good vibes than the man himself, Max Rebo? This lovable, squishy-looking Ortolan helmed the band of his same name, which played an assortment of jazz for everyone who hung out at the palace.

Sy Snootles

Sy Snootles (what a name) performed with the Max Rebo Band in her unforgettable performance at the palace, singing the song, “Lapti Nek,” a Star Wars classic that is currently stuck in my head.

Joh Yowza

Yowza, a Yuzzum, was also featured in the performance of “Lapti Nek,” for which he provided some additional vocals in the updated version of the film.

Pateesa, the Rancor

A lovely creature that lives beneath the trap door in Jabba’s Palace, the massive rancor takes down every victim that’s dropped down to him without a second thought. I do have to say that one of the saddest moments of Star Wars is seeing his trainer, Malakili, so incredibly sad after it’s killed in Return of the Jedi.

Gamorrean Guards

Gamorreans are practically synonymous with Jabba’s Palace—they’re the brute strength of the bunch and guard the palace, though they can be fairly clumsy sometimes, like when one of them fell down the trap door in Return of the Jedi.

Buboicullaar (Bubo)

This creature was a weird, bulldog-looking frog with a spiked collar who served as a guard dog for the palace. Though it didn’t seem like he was really doing much, he was actually a trained assassin who worked with the Imperials.

BT-16 Perimeter Droid

The first droid we encounter at Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, the BT-16 Perimeter Droid hilariously scares C-3P0 as he’s walking in. These droids primarily acted as forms of security as they walked the halls of the palace and were equipped with different sensors and blaster cannons. In The Book of Boba Fett, we see this droid walking around outside of the palace as security, as well.

EV-9D9 and 8D8

EV-9D9 controlled the torture chamber of the palace, where she took apart various droids and tortured them, though she was just hired as a mechanic to deal with the droids that came and went. She worked alongside 8D8, another droid who dealt more so with the Gonk droids, which he also tortured. Overall bad vibes here. However, he ends up working for Fett in The Book of Boba Fett, serving as the majordomo of the palace.

Jabba’s Palace – Present Day
Lucasfilm Ltd. / Disney+

We hadn’t seen Jabba’s Palace for quite a while by the time the post-credits scene in The Mandalorian‘s Season 2 finale rolled around. Now that we have The Book of Boba Fett, we’re getting to know the palace from a completely different angle, looking into parts of the building that we were never able to see prior to this.

For one, there was a kitchen with robot chefs who cook food? And the two chefs were actually designated as sous and executive chefs? I thought the only things that were served at Jabba’s Palace were the disgusting Klatooine paddy frogs that Hutt ate at his throne. At this point, I want an MTV Cribs episode of Jabba’s Palace because there are bound to be more interesting finds throughout the whole place.

As for the fate of the palace in the next two episodes to come, it seems like whoever ends up winning the war between Fett and the Pykes will become the true owner of the palace. While the Pykes may have a larger team on their side, Fett’s army is proving to be quite the bunch with tons of different strengths, which will make the famed bounty hunter tough to beat.

Categories
Gaming New Releases

So What’s Bomb Rush Cyberfunk All About?

The term spiritual successor gets thrown around a lot in the world of gaming.

And that ongoing trend has been kept intact due to a wealth of inspired development studios that go out of their way to create something entirely new yet familiar that harkens back to the greats of the past. Some of the best examples of successful spiritual successors include BioShock (the spiritual successor to System Shock 2), Undertale (the spiritual successor to EarthBound), and Stardew Valley (the spiritual successor to Harvest Moon). The enjoyment that comes from playing games that revisit the winning concepts of dormant IPs while mixing in its own flavor to stand out is simply unmatched.

Independent game development studio Team Reptile is cooking up something incredible that evokes memories of a classic Sega franchise that’s only gotten two installments, sadly. And as the creatives behind the super flashy and inventive game known as Lethal League Blaze, it makes all the sense in the world for them to throw their weight behind a project that’s a love letter to Jet Set Radio. That game is Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.

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For all the old heads who need a quick reminder and the younger generation of gamers that never heard of it, here’s a brief primer on Jet Set Radio. It first hit the Dreamcast back in 2000 and floored everyone that played it thanks to some revolutionary cel-shaded visuals, a quality soundtrack, and a gameplay loop that incorporated inline skating, spraying graffiti, and evading the feds. An equally amazing sequel in Jet Set Radio Future arrived on the original Xbox back in 2002. But ever since then, the series has gone on hiatus. Judging by the sequel’s disappointing sales in the US and Japan (it only sold 80,000 units in the US during its initial six-month sales window and only moved 28,433 units in Japan), it’s easy to see why Sega has largely abandoned any new entries within the Jet Set Radio series.

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Enter Team Reptile. It’s clear that they took notice of the Jet Set Radio fanbase that cried out for a new game and lamented Sega’s non-usage of the IP in any meaningful way. The studio is going all-in on a game that pays homage to its inspirations in every way, shape, and form. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk incorporates everything that made Jet Set Radio so memorable – it relies on a cel-shaded art style to deliver striking visuals, features an original soundtrack full of catchy tunes, and throws in a super charismatic cast of characters to zip around the city & tag graffiti with.

As you zip around various metro locales on your inline skates, skateboard, or BMX bike, you’ll be tasked with painting graffiti around it until your raise your REP to the point where you can challenge that area’s local crew. You’ll need to put your “boostpack” to good use if you’re looking to bomb all the available graffiti spots you can find. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk isn’t just centered on tagging different spots around town and running into rival crews, however – there’s a deep tricks system in place here that pushes players to land clean maneuvers in order to gain more boost power. Mixing together tricks and graffiti tagging together via combos will do a whole lot to increase your boost power even more and activate “Bomb Rush Mode,” which helps you gain infinite boost power for a limited time. Watching this game’s spray-painting masters in motion while they grind, slide, wall-run, and perform sick tricks in mid-air is awe-inspiring.

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And in a very cool nod to Bomb Rush Cyberfunk’s spiritual predecessor, the game will rely on the musical stylings of Japanese composer and DJ Hideki Naganuma. It just so happens that Hideki did the OST for both Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future, which makes this collaboration between him and Team Reptile a match made in heaven. By the looks and sounds of it, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk has all the makings of a true passion project that will hopefully build upon the solid foundation built by Jet Set Radio. With a release planned for sometime in 2022 on the Nintendo Switch and PC (Steam), the anticipation for the finished product is running high. This cel-shaded beauty certainly looks like a sleeper hit in the making.