Cooper’s Hawk: Worthy of Skipping Work (or Taking a Date)

Located at 583 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, IL.

I went to Cooper’s Hawk for a dinner party. That in itself isn’t unusual, but I happened to skip work to go… and it was a work dinner party where two of my bosses were in attendance. That’s the type of savagery I operate with, people. Surprisingly, I didn’t get fired and instead had to endure a night of laidback grilling from the group who struggled to comprehend how much balls it took for me to show up.

Truthfully, it got a little annoying after a while, but enduring some light ribbing was worth it to experience the delicious food at Cooper’s Hawk.

The first thing to keep in mind is that even though the name of this particular restaurant (it’s actually a chain) is the whitest name ever, it’s actually not all that posh inside. Sure, the lighting is stylishly dim, so you can’t tell if a girl sitting across the restaurant is really attractive or not, and sure, the interior is an expert combination of classic and modern architectural design.

I think the best way to really describe the physique of this place is to imagine a hipster-esque type of eatery, but an upscale version. Interestingly, there isn’t an official dress code, although I saw everything from casual sweaters to men in business suits walking out looking like they had somewhere to be.

The pricing would probably be equivalent to two or three dollar signs on Yelp (actually I just checked and it’s two). Most pasta dishes fall between $14 to $18, while genuine entrées like pork and steak range from $20 to $30.

Unfortunately, since I wasn’t paying, I had to take note of what other people in the group were ordering and, quite frankly, people were being too miserly if you ask me. Someone got spaghetti and meatballs, another person got fish and chips.

One of my bosses got a freaking salad. I am literally shaking my head.

In any case, even though I wanted to go big, I settled for gnocchi with butternut squash as my entrée. In terms of appetizers, I had no control over what was ordered, although the dishes that came were really good.

— Appetizers —

Cooper’s Hawk Calamari (12.99)

There was a lot of calamari. It was deep fried and glazed with a tastefully sweet and subtly spicy sauce. There was also a dipping sauce which I was literally too lazy to try. At first I thought it was cheese, but it was really aioli.

I would highly recommend this appetizer. There was more than enough to go around for a group of seven people. And did I mention it was delicious?

Over the Border Egg Rolls (10.99)

As you can probably guess, these egg rolls were a fusion of Mexican and Asian cuisine. It’s not the first time I’ve had egg rolls like these, and honestly I thought they were solid. They weren’t spectacular, however, and if you’re going to spend money at a place Yelp gives two dollar signs, you probably want to go for spectacular.

Having said that, it was another big appetizer, although I’m not sure if they did that because of the size of our group, or if they actually roll out (hehe) two handfuls of thick egg rolls every time. It’s definitely a double-edged sword, though, because the last thing you want to do is accidentally fill yourself with appetizers and end up shortchanging yourself for the actual entrée.

I would say if you’re in a group, go for it. If you’re there with one person, skip it… unless both of you are eating machines. If you’re there by yourself, what the fuck are you doing with your life? Find someone to spend time with, gosh!

Some Flatbread Appetizers (I Think SMH) (8.99 – 10.99)

Like I said, I wasn’t there when appetizers were ordered and I’m not actually a food connoisseur so it’s hard for me to remember which flatbreads the table ended up getting. Whatever they were though, they were worth the money.

The texture of the flatbread was perfect – crunchy, but soft where it counts. The flavors worked well together, just a symphony of colors bursting in perfect synchronization. Remember that one scene from Ratatouille?

It was like that. I would recommend these for sure. One of them definitely had a balsamic glaze, so that should help narrow it down.

— Entrée

Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash (17.99)

I don’t know why, but every time I’m not sure what to order at a restaurant, I just go for gnocchi (if they have it obviously). Usually I regret my decision because halfway through a gnocchi dish, I start to feel a little sick. Thankfully, Cooper’s Hawk did something right because this was probably the best gnocchi dish I’ve had in my (admittedly limited) experience with the world of gnocchi.

The sauce was warm and mildly sweet. The squash accentuated the dish and they gave just enough so it wasn’t overwhelming, but you could get some squash with every bite of gnocchi if you were strategic about it. The gnocchi itself had some very good filling – mushrooms and maybe some other edible ingredients.

Across the board, people’s portions looked small, but I guess I was duped because nobody really finished their meals except me and maybe one of my bosses. I would recommend this entrée, although like I said, if you’re going to a place like Cooper’s Hawk, you might as well spend some damn money and treat yourself.

So there you have it folks. Who would have thought an eatery with a name a frat probably came up with would be so great? Plus, there’s a Westin just to the side so if you eat too much and feel like you shouldn’t drive, you can catch a room and nap your coma away.

Cooper’s Hawk also has wine tastings and they bottle their own wine too. I had a lot of wine. I probably shouldn’t have so much wine if I’m going to write about the experience later.

Anyway, check them out!

P.S. Make sure you tell the staff if you’re not done with your dish. Otherwise they might be obliged to glide in while you’re in the middle of a conversation and sweep that sucker out from right under your nose. Next thing you know, you’re stabbing the table with your fork because you’re expecting food to be in front of you.

It’s Showtime: “La La Land” Is My Film of the Year

Shoot, now you know what’s going to be at the top of the Pantheon in my 2016 Movie Power Rankings.

What I’ll always remember even when I’m fifty and drooling away on my deathbed (I peak early) is the audience as La La Land‘s ending credits rolled. There were a bunch of old people and some teenage girls; weekday screenings during the daytime usually have a demographic that reliably leans towards older folks and I can only assume teenage girls were there because Ryan Gosling is the pinnacle of human perfection.

In any case, after a heartbreaking epilogue that stabbed at our very souls over and over and over again, there was nothing left to do but sit in an emotional haze, valiantly blink away tears, sniffle like a bunch of crack addicts, and tell ourselves everything would be okay. I saw old ladies literally suffocating themselves with tissues because they were so overcome with angst while the teenage girls sitting next to me kept gasping and muttering “oh no” as this tremendous musical ended in maybe the most bittersweet way possible.

Visually La La Land is one of the warmest films you’ll see all year. It’s easy to get distracted by the catchy and original musical numbers, stunning cinematography, intimate yet grandiose production design, and phenomenal chemistry between Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling). You wouldn’t necessarily think of cynicism for something like this.

Yet it’s there nearly the whole time.

Damien Chazelle does a fantastic job in only his third directorial entry, somehow exceeding 2014’s excellent Whiplash, which one could argue is a significantly more aggressive version of this film. At the core, both films are about making it to the top, although La La Land chooses to wrap that core with a layer of romance while Whiplash flips off romance in the name of utter dedication to the craft.

There was certainly a fair amount of cynicism involved in Whiplash but one could argue there’s twice the amount here. It surrounds Mia, an aspiring actress making ends meet as a barista, and Sebastian, a musician who is passionate about a dying genre. She left college early to pursue her dreams and six years later she has nothing to show for it. He can’t hold down a steady job because he loves jazz so much he can’t stop himself from playing it even if it’s not what his boss wants.

It’s not a spoiler to say these two folks get together and they just click. They keep running into each other, which is crazy in a city as vast as Los Angeles, and eventually they end up in a great relationship. But, now you have to ask yourself what sacrifices are you willing to make for your own future… but also the future of your partner. The seductive tendrils of your dreams don’t ever go away, although Mia and Sebastian both struggle to reconcile with the reality of their situations.

Chazelle is a fucking savage though, because his idea of a resolution to this problem is to give us the worst-case scenario (that doesn’t involve death). And that’s where the second avalanche of cynicism comes in, particularly in the aforementioned epilogue.

Mia is happy. Sebastian is happy. But for the audience?

It’s devastating.

The genius of the whole thing is that the epilogue is essentially a sweeping retelling of history, a glorious case of what-could’ve-been, and that’s what makes it hurt so much more.

The violent intensity of Whiplash turned a lot of people off. They said it wasn’t realistic. I would say in this case, La La Land is one of the most sharply realistic movies of the year. To generate that type of reaction from the same movie that features spontaneous singing and dancing on a highway overpass, a posh party in the Hills, and a sequence involving outer space (!!) is not an easy accomplishment.

But, it’s the themes surrounding the story that make it so. It’s about sacrifice and love. Those two usually go together – sometimes your sacrifice is letting go of something or someone you love. It’s an eternally relevant fairytale with a sobering message at the end and it’s expertly packaged in a gorgeous original musical that is often breathtaking.

You should never forget La La Land is more than a musical, but you should also never forget how making this a musical instead of a traditional romantic comedy is part of why this is so good. For its technical excellence combined with a deeply nuanced emotional storyline (and other reasons I’ve discussed above), I’m declaring this movie my personal favorite of the year.

The Expendable: “Mechanic: Resurrection” and What We Actually Want from Jason Statham

Less clichés, more batshit craziness.

Jason Statham has a problem.

This might not be a fair thing to say, but almost every movie where he doesn’t get to go completely off the rails is either generically entertaining or a waste of his potential. We thrive off of his unstoppable kinetic energy and the unique set of traits he brings to the proverbial table (everything from his one-liners that sound even better with his accent to some of his fight scenes that requires such an elaborate use of props, even Jackie Chan is impressed).

The vast majority of his work blends in with each other; other than his roles in the Cranks and the Transporters of his filmography, his career has been pretty much one formulaic action flick after another. The only reason we enjoy them more than, say, any other typical action film is because each one usually comes equipped with a set of those classic “Statham moments” we’ve come to love, but almost none of them expand those moments to cover the length of an entire movie.

Sadly Mechanic: Resurrection doesn’t break that trend. Instead, it joins his increasingly bland list of action films, but like most of his work, it is also a mostly enjoyable experience on a superficial level and it does admittedly have a handful of Statham-esque moments. I would argue in the big picture, it’s probably an underwhelming film, but in terms of how it stacks up to Statham’s other work, I would say it’s a good fit in the top twenty percent.

Having said that, this is a movie that’s riddled with tired and cringeworthy clichés, including a forced and rushed romantic relationship with Jessica Alba and lame fight sequences that are somehow just bland enough to be mostly forgettable and just interesting enough to make this a movie worth watching once.

I guess that’s the most frustrating aspect of this whole thing: it comes so close to being a crazy Statham movie, but it keeps walking up to the edge and then backing down. It’s almost like they couldn’t decide whether to fully unleash him, so they tried to find a middle ground.

I say fuck that.

Either burn it all down or let the man be the definitive example of a bull in a china shop. I’ve said this a billion times at this point, but it’s better to either be atrocious or excellent. Being middling is the worst. That’s not quite the description I would use for this movie, however.

All in all, it’s carried by Statham’s energetic effort, as well as a relatively quick pace that keeps things moving. Tommy Lee Jones also rocks our socks off during those brief moments he’s onscreen. The swimming pool sequence (which we kind of see in the trailers) is pretty badass. Really, it’s a perfectly serviceable late summer action flick – the type that hits Amazon Prime or Netflix and ends up being popular for a while, overshadowing the more “prestigious” titles in people’s queues.

Who has time for Oscar-nominated dramas or critically acclaimed indies when Jason Statham is waiting to blow your mind, right?

It’s a shame, though, that people don’t seem to realize Statham’s best moments are when he gets to do fucking savage things like punting a head into a swimming pool, beating the shit out of someone while he’s on fire, or fighting off henchmen in a fight involving lots of lots of oil. His list of iconic cinematic moments is only rivaled by other masters we recognize through one word: Pacino, Denzel, Sandler.

We really don’t need any more half-assed movies starring Jason Statham. Hell, we don’t need any more semi-competent movies like this one. We need more movies like Crank and the Transporter trilogy (fuck off, Ed Skrein). Please, Hollywood. Don’t fuck this up for us. Or for Jason Statham.

Super Rash Bros: “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” Is Worth Seeing (Once)

Starring an underrated cast led by Adam DeVine’s equally underrated (or should we say underappreciated?) face.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is one of those comedies where a lot of people go in with low expectations, only to find themselves feeling a potpourri of sensations ranging from happiness, revulsion, and empathy, to even pain.

The happiness? Probably from the relief of having garnered a fair deal for their money – if not an outright bargain depending on when they go to the theater – as well as the general sense of euphoria one gets during a movie they particularly enjoy.

The revulsion? Probably from having to see something that either walks right up to the proverbial line… or plows right through it. Sacha Baron Cohen, for example, is an infamous instigator of destroying any and all lines in his path.

The empathy? Probably from seeing one of the characters reveal his or her fatal flaw. Maybe they’re stupid, or stinky, or a sasquatch. Whatever the case may be, they enter confession (and this can happen in a public place or in the presence of many people unbeknownst to the individual) and re-emerge to redeem themselves.

The pain? Probably from aching ribs after any particularly funny incident. By the way, isn’t it interesting how a lot of comedies can be funny without causing aggressive laughter? I’ve always thought that was interesting. If you’re particularly sensitive, you may also experience pain from jerking your body around during a really gross scene; this is something you’ve probably done exactly once in every Sacha Baron Cohen movie.

Mike and Dave achieve those four things through a variety of ways, although the main one might be by simply being a better movie than most people think it will be. It’s the opposite of Central Intelligence in that regard, which – despite starring Kevin Hart and The Rock – never really managed to be more than middling.

Here? That’s just not the case. Adam DeVine and Zach Efron star as out-of-control brothers who are requested by their family to significantly tone it down and grow the fuck up. They have a habit of annihilating family events, and their sister’s wedding looms in the near future. Their sis is understandably concerned, so she asks that they bring nice, respectable girls as dates to prove they are committed to bettering themselves.

The plot thickens immediately, as the Stangle brothers decide it would be a genius idea to place online ads asking for nice girls who would like a free trip to Hawaii. The fact that they don’t end up getting murdered is a relief, I think, although the ensuing events after they find Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) are a disaster in their own right.

By the way, this is all loosely based on a true story in the same way that Transformers film franchise is loosely based on Michael Bay’s childhood wet dreams – you’re basically getting the core requirements here. And if you care to know, the actual brothers make a cameo appearance at the wedding event; I’ll leave it up to you to decode who they are (it’s brief, so don’t blink).

If it sounds like I’m assuming you’ll see this movie, don’t be surprised. Not only is it the type of movie people find themselves enjoying at least a little bit, but it’s also the type of movie that will show up a lot on TV in a few months. You’ll have plenty of chances to see it, and I recommend you do it once.

Is this a legendary movie? Of course not. Is it great, or even very good? Honestly it isn’t. But it is this: fun, entertaining, and sometimes embarrassingly endearing. Mike and Dave is the cute little cousin you have who picks their nose and eats boogers in public, but it’s still cute for some reason.

Of course, there’s some raunchiness involved too; I don’t think seeing your sister have a monster orgasm would be funny, but it sure is when we see Adam DeVine go through it!

Speaking of DeVine, that dude has got to be one of the most underrated individuals in Hollywood right now. While I doubt he’ll ever get mainstream critical acclaim (although he could, considering what Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey were able to achieve at their respective peaks), he’s one funny motherfucker.

He might also have the funniest face in Hollywood – a delightful blend of Miss Piggy and the Pillsbury Doughboy. It’s not too difficult to make people laugh when they see you cry, but DeVine has a special knack for it. Any emotion he goes through is hilarious, whether it’s pride at “saving” someone’s life or showing his insecurities in the form of a rambling, incoherent rant.

In other words, he was put on this planet to make people laugh. You can’t necessarily say the same for straightforward looking guys like Marc Maron and Joe Rogan, for example, but take a peak at DeVine and you just can’t help sneaking a chuckle here and there.

Just like taking one look at David Robinson or Michael Jordan makes you think they were made for basketball, you can say the same for DeVine and comedy. Really, the closest comparison I can think of at the moment is probably Steve Rannazzisi who portrays Kevin on The League. Both guys not only look funny, but they just seem to have an inherent talent in facial comedy as well.

I think it’s safe to say Adam DeVine carries a decent portion of the load for this movie, although it’s worth pointing out Aubrey Plaza is secretly incredible here and Zach Efron continues to show he can actually participate in “mature” films. Anna Kendrick does okay – I’m just not a big fan of her in general, but she is tolerable in this instance.

This is a lot of words for a mostly average comedy, but basically this is what I’m trying to say: see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates just once. You don’t need to see it twice. But I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good time, and that’s what matters when we go to the movie theater, especially in these increasingly tumultuous times in our nation.

Burn Notice: “Central Intelligence” Wastes the Next Big Comedy Duo’s Potential

All you need is a little Hart, a big Johnson… and a better movie.

This is one of the first comedies I’ve seen in a while where I was legitimately disappointed by the time the ending credits were rolling. I’ve always tempered my expectations with comedies and horror films – they’re the most fickle in terms of quality and I think the most subjective as well – but I genuinely expected Central Intelligence to be a solid flick.

Imagine my surprise when I’m artificially trying to meet my expectations by forcing myself to repeatedly laugh at shitty joke after shitty joke. I mean, on paper, Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be an unstoppable duo. While I’ve always been a little concerned with Hart’s turn from standup comedian to actor, I’m willing to concede his films are generally acceptable.

And yes, it is becoming increasingly clear that Kevin Hart is the homeless man’s version of Eddie Murphy; nothing he makes will be as good and as iconic as Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, or Norbit, but he’s still a genuinely funny dude. Pairing him with a popular and talented star like The Rock should be a surefire way to make comedy gold.

Besides, if Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell can make it, surely they can too? The answer is… NOPE! I guess not!

Part of the problem has to be how much was given away in the trailer. Seeing what I assume was a CGI version (or just a fat suit, I suppose) of a tubby The Rock was the highlight; people were laughing their asses off when the trailer would come up in previews. After prolonged exposure however, it’s not as funny. Not even close.

Speaking of trailers, they have a chronic problem nowadays where they give too much of the plot away, whether it’s Drive or Terminator: Genisys. Comedy trailers give away too much of the best jokes and horror trailers give away some of the creepiest moments (or some prime jump scares). Central Intelligence wouldn’t be much better if the trailers had been more ambiguous, but it certainly would have helped.

Look, there’s nothing deep about this. It is just a really underwhelming movie that feels like it has no soul. It’s worse than both Ride Along movies so that should speak volumes. I think you could argue it’s probably the most disappointing film of the summer.

You can try to turn your brain off but it isn’t going to help. It’s not one of those movies. It’s simply not enjoyable and that is so disappointing. I know this is in hindsight, but it is truly a troubling sign when people are funnier and more lively when they’re promoting a movie, than in the actual movie itself.

What makes it even sadder is that Central Intelligence isn’t bad enough to be funny in a “good god, this is terrible” kind of way. It’s just a middling action-comedy with two stars barely trying with an incompetent script. In the world of comedy/horror, middling is instant death. You either have to be good, or absolutely atrocious. You can’t tread water, or you’ll end up getting eaten. Maybe by a shark.

I mean, fuck – at least we knew before going into something like Independence Day: Resurgence that it would suck ass, you know?

Pinch Hitter: “The Lobster” Is Not Your Typical Bisque

That awkward moment when you’ll get turned into an animal if you don’t find true love within forty-five days.

There’s a lot of questions I have about the dystopian society showcased in The Lobster. These are questions that theoretically should have been in answered in the movie itself, although I think they thought it would be cute if things were left as vague as possible. Or perhaps it was an act of laziness.

Sometimes it seems like a movie can be quirky or bizarre just for the sake of being quirky or bizarre. I feel like The Lobster falls in that category. While it operates on an alluring premise – you get turned into an animal if you don’t find true love eventually and you are apparently forbidden to be a member of the film’s version of a normal world unless you have a partner – we just don’t get enough background information on this wacky society.

Add in the fact that you can tell almost from the beginning that there’s something terribly wrong, and you can’t help but wonder just what exactly this fictional world is all about. Why does everyone speak in such a stilted manner, almost like the actors are reading from cue cards? Colin Farrell, a wonderful actor who almost managed to singlehandedly save the second season of True Detective through sheer will, looks like he’s a college offensive lineman being forced to take a theater class.

Some might call this comedy; The Lobster has often been coined as a black comedy, after all. I just think it’s stupid. Nothing about the movie makes sense, and although there are a lot of technical aspects to appreciate, I would consider this to be something of an indie art piece that is more coherent than your typical Nicolas Winding Refn film only by default. Not by accomplishment.

The movie is like a rough draft for a potentially amazing film, only everybody decided to say fuck it and make whatever they wanted without any regard for the final product. Some might say this dystopian world’s background is irrelevant because there’s so much symbolism in the movie; the method in which you find your partner is through whether they are compatible with you and that usually entails sharing some kind of unique trait. That could range from something significant like having a limp to being nearsighted, or even something as superficial as liking berries.

Who is the Big Brother of this film? Colin Farrell’s character gets sent to a hotel where he must find true love within forty-five days or he’ll get turned into an animal of his choice (a lobster). He has an okay time, it seems, before he fakes being compatible with a psycho bitch. That doesn’t work out so he runs away and lives in the woods with a bunch of other loners. That’s where he meets Rachel Weisz’s character. They are both nearsighted, and therefore compatible.

This new group of loners is led by Léa Seydoux’s character and Seydoux explicitly forbids any type of relationship outside the boundaries of friendship. The penalties are harsh, as Colin and Rachel both find out, and the movie’s plot holes continue to grow and grow and grow as they struggle to find a way for both of them to be compatible, leading to the film’s climactic and frustrating ending.

Their struggle is the most ludicrous thing I’ve seen in theaters this year. Like I asked before, who is this society’s version of Big Brother? Why are they regulating people in this oddball fashion? And what is the deal with the speculations of how one must be compatible with another? What constitutes a valid shared trait? How technical can we get with this? Colin and Rachel are presumably both humans, which means they share a million things in common. Is that not enough?

Look, I get what The Lobster is trying to say. I really do. It’s a harsh lesson about our own world, a world where Tinder is a viable option to find someone and “Netflix and chill” is actually a thing. Okay, so we suck. And it’s clear our downfall in how we view relationships is similar to how the people in the movie do the same. Colin and Rachel are “compatible” and they do allegedly fall in love, but it’s from what we would consider a really terrible reason. Would you love someone just because they got random nosebleeds like you? Probably not.

It’s social commentary, but the way it’s delivered is truly disappointing. The Lobster shows us a world without reason. In many ways, that’s our world today, where Donald Trump is a serious contender for POTUS and where mass shootings happen around the world every single day. It’s a mad world.

Maybe The Lobster is onto something here. Maybe some things just can’t be explained and trying just doesn’t cut it. Whoa, what a turn of events! Is it possible The Lobster is a brilliant film after all!?

That’s on your hands. Watch it and see for yourself. What I can say for sure is that this is a movie that’s weird, occasionally slow, usually beautiful, and undoubtedly polarizing.

Double Team: Allen Allen and Other Intriguing Hybrid NBA Players (Intro)

What if you could combine any two NBA players from any era?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering ever since I saw a Facebook post asking which of the following duos you would want to merge into one hybrid monster: Bird/Magic, Westbrook/Durant, MJ/Kobe, or Curry/Draymond.

Those are some uninspired suggestions to say the least (MJ + Kobe = plain redundant, for example) so I’ve made some of my own. I also asked around so there will be a few that were created by friends and/or coworkers.

It’s the type of question you can think about for hours and the sky doesn’t even begin to scrape the definition of a limit here. You can literally combine any two NBA athletes you want. Do you want to combine Reggie Miller and Hakeem Olajuwon and create a freak of nature with a historically great post game AND perimeter game?

How the fuck do you stop Reggie Olajuwon? Impossible!

Or what about Popeye Cassell (Popeye Jones + Sam Cassell), infamous for freaking out defenders and fans with his deranged eyes bulging out of his alien-esque head?

See how inherently fun this thought experiment is? Having said that, it’s a lot more fun to think of combinations that actually help each player in the equation. So yeah, it would be great to create Reggie Olajuwon, but that’s almost like cheating. It’s fun to think about, but let’s try to be a little reasonable here, okay guys?

Without further ado, let’s start with the original inspiration for this whole shebang.

ALLEN ALLEN = Allen Iverson + Ray Allen

Iverson’s Pros

The Answer was known for being a tenacious ball handling slasher who consistently penetrated into the paint for difficult layups and floaters which were made even more difficult by his height (officially 6 feet, but more like 5’11”).

He was legendary for breaking ankles and crossing his defender in spectacular fashion. At one point he did the same to MJ himself and in the footage you can hear Phil Jackson call out “Michael” when Iverson gets the ball. Didn’t matter. Although MJ didn’t completely break down, he did technically get crossed and Iverson knocked down the midrange jumper.

Although he’s also known for his infamous rant about practices, he was a fierce competitor who took one of the worst post-merger teams ever all the way to the NBA Finals where he faced a Lakers team featuring Shaq and Kobe at their physical peaks. That Lakers team was undefeated in the playoffs until Iverson took Game 1 pretty much by himself. The 76ers were swept after that point, but it was an impressive feat nonetheless.

As an athlete he was pound-for-pound one of the purest in history. He could have played any sport and succeeded at the professional level. There’s no question.

Iverson’s Cons

He was not a good shooter. His ability to finish in the paint didn’t stretch out to the perimeter and his career field goal percentage was mediocre for a shooting guard playing in the modern era (FG%: 42.5, 3PT%: 31.3, FT%: 78.0).

Despite his success given his small stature, it was ultimately detrimental as his teammates had to cover for his shortness, to be blunt. While he averaged over two steals per game in his prime – almost three during his MVP season – he was a liability on defense in the long run. I mean, he wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t locking people down either. Which is okay.

His over-reliance on his natural ability brought his career to a screeching halt immediately after averaging 26.4 PPG for Denver in the 2008-09 season. While his alleged hatred towards practice was overrated, it’s also true he was infamous for partying like fucking crazy right before a game… and then going out and dropping forty on the opposing team.

Even though he led a terrible team all the way to the NBA Finals, it’s debatable whether you could actually win a championship with him as the best player. A low-efficiency, high-usage, turnover-prone player who wasn’t even six feet tall? Yikes!

Ray Ray’s Pros

Undoubtedly the best shooter in basketball history unless Steph Curry dominates for at least five more years. Although he was never part of the elusive 50-40-90 club, his career percentages are impressive nonetheless (FG%: 45.2, 3PT%: 40.0, FT%: 89.4). Not only was he a historically great shooter, but his stroke was beautiful. It’s probably the most gorgeous jumper ever.

He was incredibly consistent, part of which he attributed to his “mild” OCD. On game days, he would arrive a reported THREE hours early for shooting practice – usually his second of the day, by the way – and it’s well-documented that his consistent training routine is a good portion of what led to his continued efficiency all the way through his last season in 2014 (he’s still a free agent, technically).

In his prime he was no slouch athletically. While he certainly wasn’t on the same level as Iverson, he could dunk with considerably more authority than most of the other shooters we consider historically great.

Finally, he was Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game, an okay Spike Lee flick that featured two noteworthy sequences: Ray Ray in a threesome and his unscripted 1 v 1 game against Denzel Washington, who portrayed Jesus Shuttlesworth’s dad. A number of basketball players have been in movies, from Kareem in Airplane! to a whole bunch in Space Jam, but let the record show Ray Allen was one of the better athlete-actors out there. That counts for something!

Ray Ray’s Cons

Not much, honestly. When the 76ers reached the Finals under Iverson, one of the teams they eliminated were the Bucks. Call this revisionist history or whatever you want to call it, but there’s some rumblings that there was some tomfoolery going on and the Bucks – and Ray Ray – should have been the ones to advance.

Either way, Ray Ray may not have had as flashy of a career as Iverson, but he sure played longer and more efficiently too. He played the right way, really, and although you also couldn’t win a championship with Ray Allen as your best player, you literally could if he was one of your top three guys. Hence, his time in Boston.

He also helped save part of LeBron James’ legacy when he nailed that clutch shot in the NBA Finals a few years ago against the Spurs. It’s the greatest shot in NBA history. It’s his to own, all by himself. And Bosh, because he had the awareness to toss the offensive rebound to Allen, who somehow backpedaled a few feet without looking down until he was simultaneously behind the three-point line AND inbounds and in the same motion caught the pass and fired the ball as Tony Parker charged towards him amidst thousands of hysterical Heat fans.

Just an iconic, legendary, historical moment.

Final Analysis

Aside from instantly creating a marketable name in Allen Allen, this hypothetical player would be unstoppable. This is a relationship that undoubtedly benefits Allen Iverson more, so let’s take it from his perspective. Imagine if AI retained all his original abilities, but was suddenly the greatest shooter ever as well.

Now he can preserve his body that much longer, be significantly more efficient, and help space the floor out. Defensively, things would be mostly unchanged, although if we’re taking physical changes into account as well, it’s worth noting Ray Allen is officially listed as 6’5″.

Add in Ray Ray’s legendary work ethic and suddenly you’ve got a player who actually knows what time management and priorities are and is completely focused on bettering himself as a player.

In my opinion, a combination of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen would yield an NBA superstar whose ceiling is making the Hall of Fame as one of the top twenty players ever, if not higher. It’s the perfect combination. If Allen Allen was the best player on your team, there’s a good chance he’d lead it to a title. Is it guaranteed? Not necessarily. But it’s closer than either player got by himself – and Iverson got pretty damn close.

That was a very detailed breakdown of Allen Allen and why that hybrid works so well, but further installments of this series will feature more duos and get to the point a little more concisely. Consider this a very wordy teaser!