Four years after the NBA came down on Vince Carter for listening to his iPhone during pre-game warm ups, LeBron James would don a pair of Beats by Dre at the Beijing Olympics and suddenly, heavy would become the head that wore the headphones. Here we are in 2015, and before tipoff even the nattiest stars must be caught trekking through parking garages, heads squashed between two rumbling cushions of sound.
It turns out a lot of players will readily sharing what they're listening to. But most of the time — as in the case of Washington Wizards star John Wall, who is a Lil Durk fan — the truth can be underwhelming. That's why I thought it'd be fun to play DJ and pick a song I feel best personifies the individual game of some of my favorite Rockets — call it an exercise in personal anthems.
1. Patrick Beverley: "War" by Chief Keef
Throughout his career, Patrick Beverley has been locked in a cycle of owning up to mistakes and proving people wrong. He starred in a documentary his senior year of high school; left University of Arkansas after being found guilty of academic dishonesty; played in Ukraine, then Greece: in no time it's 2013 and he's at the helm of an NBA playoff team. The road has been bumpy, and he's had a lot of explaining to do, to fans, to coaches and to media.
But ask Jrue Holiday. Ask Russell Westbrook. P-Bev wants war, and no explanation is necessary.
2. James Harden: "Jumpin Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones
I'm a believer in straight, dirty ass rock 'n' roll. It's a crossfire hurricane down in the paint, and the way Harden catches the ball, coming off a screen — the way he's already squared up and he's springing on the soles of his feet — brings Keith Richards' opening riffs to mind. It's called "revving," folks, and pretty often the result is two and one (Jagger: "1, 2!").
Now that the Bearded One is lighting it up on defense and has both ends burning, there's no denying it's alright now for the NBA's leading scorer: In fact, it's a gas.
3. Trevor Ariza: "Simply Beautiful" by Al Green
When Al Green whispers "All you gotta do is call me" on this smooth, otherworldly afterthought of a track from I'm Still in Love with You, I can see Ariza hunched over in the locker room after a close win, bopping his head in agreement. After all, only a couple weeks ago the small forward was quietly averaging the most minutes in the league. (Chicago Bull Jimmy Butler has since overtaken him.)
The slow jam's willowy minimalism also reminds me of Ariza's Zen-like defense: At 6-foot-8, the guy is basically a high-speed balancing act.
4. Donatas Motiejunas: "Quiet Storm" by Mobb Deep
Yao Ming's journey into the English language was always witty, charming and diplomatic. D-Mo, on the other hand, dived right in. At a press conference the night he was drafted, the Lithuanian took the opportunity to cobble together a challenge to Dwight Howard (coach Kevin McHale: "Whoa there, big guy!"). A couple months later, after a win in the summer league, the 7-footer told reporters, "If you're scared of wolves, don't go to the woods."
This season has found Motiejuanas in stealth mode. The storm has quieted, he's shooting 47 percent from the field, and a new nickname has been glimpsed on the horizon: Motielajuwon.
5. Dwight Howard: "Halo" by Beyonce
Harden is first in the league in free throws attempted, Dwight Howard is fourth, but considering Harden wants to be fouled and Howard definitely does not, one thing is clear: Dwight Howard might be a diva, but he's not soft. No big man can take over a game as utterly as the eight-time All-Star can.
Considering Harden wants to be fouled and Howard definitely does not, one thing is clear: Dwight Howard might be a diva, but he's not soft.
"Halo" is proof that Beyonce is a force of nature in her own right. Both stars could use a little tenderness, though, as well as a strong supporting cast: The Destiny's Child-less diva howls her way through this chorus with about as much finesse as Dwight bricking free throws.
6. Corey Brewer: "Anarchy in the UK" by Sex Pistols
The Rockets snagged Corey Brewer, and the Houston Zoo now has its very own baby giraffe. The lightning quick, doddering small forward out of Florida has injected the Rockets' play with all the veering, weaving and crashing that makes punk rock so addictive. The Sex Pistols themselves liked to play in the open court: Practically incapable of recording in the studio, onstage they were brilliant, opening up new vistas of what music could mean.
Likewise, sometimes when Brewer's on the floor, it can feel like you're watching ice hockey.
7. Jason Terry: "Sweet Mental Revenge" by Waylon Jennings
Now that we're deep into the season, a lot of us have lost the irrational feeling that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey let the wolf into the hen house when he traded for the Rocket killer. Terry hasn't shot stellar, but there's no denying he's a great locker room presence; also, he and Harden play beautiful two-ball together.
I chose this country standard because its viciousness reminds me of Terry's competitive nature. You might say the veteran shooting guard is more interested in his opponents' shorts than the jersey he's wearing, since he's been known to wear a pair to bed before game time to give him that sweet, sweet mental edge.
Curtis D'Costa is a professor of English at Houston Community College and an avid Rockets fan.