An NBA Finals Playlist

shaq.jpgThat one song with Method Man and RZA was OK

2006 has given us damn near the best NBA playoffs I've ever seen: Raja Bell's buzzer-beater, LeBron vs. Arenas, Mavericks/Spurs game 7. And now we've got two teams going to the finals for the first time tomorrow night, and I honestly have no idea who's going to win. This is my favorite time of year, and to celebrate, I've got a song for every starter on the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.

1. For Dirk Nowitzki: Pantera: "Walk" Preview/Buy at iTunes

The Hasselhoff song would've been the obvious choice, but Nowitzki looks like such a damn high-school stoner that it would've been a waste not to give him my favorite song from the ultimate high-school stoner band. And like "Walk," Nowitzki's greatness is in his combination of blunt power (crazy height and strength) and rhythm (speed, timing, willingness to drive). "Walk" is straight-up gorilla-metal, but it's got a certain leaden swing; it's not the full-on gallop that most great metal songs are. Also, it was Rob Van Dam's entrance music in ECW (fucking amped about this), and RVD reminds me more of Dirk than any other professional athlete, not just because of the stoner thing. RVD got boring a little while after he came to the WWE, but he's still able to pull off top-rope moves with a startling agility and beauty for a dude of his size. Dirk is the only seven-footer ever to win the Three-Point Shootout, so there you go. A caveat: Dirk's bio says he "enjoys reading and playing the saxophone in his spare time," which is some severely non-Pantera shit.

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2. For Jason Terry: Big Daddy Kane: "Warm It Up, Kane" (not on iTunes? The fuck?)

"Warm It Up, Kane" is by far my favorite example of the late-80s fast-rap thing, just stunning in force and charisma and virtuosity. So it should totally go to the guy who plays the new NBA run-and-gun style better than anyone else, maybe including Steve Nash. Also, Terry has the same wizened-veteran thing going on that Kane had even when he was starting out, and I'm thinking Kane would've also punched Michael Finley if he had to.

3. For Josh Howard: Avail: "F.C.A." Preview/Buy at iTunes

Howard isn't exactly a spectacular player, and I don't think he has "future hall of famer" written all over him or anything, but he's really strong and consistent, and the Mavs always seem to do a lot worse whenever he's in foul trouble or whatever. Avail is one of my favorite bands of all time, but they were never next-big-things or innovators or anything. They just carved out a space for themselves doing hearty meat-and-potatoes hardcore, and they did it better than anyone else. "F.C.A." is my favorite Avail song. It's also really fast. Howard is also really fast; he does, after all, play for the Mavericks. I'm reaching here, I know, but this is hard.

4. For Devin Harris: Masta Ace: "Born to Roll" Preview/Buy at iTunes

Harris is pretty much just Jason Terry but not as good. Masta Ace doesn't really sound anything like Big Daddy Kane, but he was in the Juice Crew with Kane, and he wasn't as good as Kane, which meant people totally forgot about him even though he was still fucking great. "Born to Roll" is like the most underrated rap single of all time.

5. For DeSagna Diop: Lyfe Jennings: "Must Be Nice" Preview/Buy at iTunes

Bill Simmons called Diop "the homeless man's Bill Russell." Bill Russell reminds me of Donny Hathaway. Lyfe Jennings is the homeless man's Donny Hathaway, which means he's still pretty good. The new Lyfe single about not having sex isn't on iTunes yet, so this one will have to do.

6. For Dwayne Wade: LL Cool J: "Rock the Bells" Preview/Buy at iTunes

People forget, but LL was just 16 when he was making some of the hardest rap singles that had ever been recorded at that point. He was just scarily good at his age. Dwayne Wade is 24: way older than LeBron, but just as ridiculously good, and he still has a long way to go before he peaks (unless he goes and fucks it all up like LL did).

7. For Jason Williams: Lil Wyte: "I Sho Will" Preview/Buy at iTunes

I'm sorry. I had to.

8. For Udonis Haslem: The Prodigy: "Breathe" Preview/Buy at iTunes

Haslem is big and clumsy, and he should be really terrible, but somehow he always manages to come in and grab a rebound or get a dunk exactly when he needs to, which I guess makes him a pretty good player. "Breathe" is big and clumsy, and it should be a terrible rave track because rave tracks aren't supposed to have doofy Hot Topic sneering and brontosaurus stomp-riffs, but oh my God, it's awesome.

9. For Antoine Walker: Dem Franchize Boyz: "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It" Preview/Buy at iTunes

If Walker would replace that shake thing he does when he makes three-pointers with the snap music dance, I probably wouldn't hate him anywhere near as much as I do. I guess that dance is probably hard to do when you're running back on defense, though.

10. For Shaquille O'Neal Aaron Carter: "That's How I Beat Shaq" Preview/Buy at iTunes

Dirk should stop singing that Hasselhoff song to himself and start singing this one.

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