At University of Kansas people take basketball pretty seriously. The day-long infomercial that is ESPN’s College GameDay hit all the usual talking points when it set up shop in Lawrence last Saturday: The inventor of the game was the program’s first coach and is laid to rest less than three miles from Allen Fieldhouse, a shrine Jay Bilas calls the St. Andrew’s of college basketball. There are the five national titles, 55 conference championships, Wilt the Stilt, Danny & the Miracles, “The Shot” by Mario Chalmers, and only eight head coaches in 115 years.
Thankfully, the current crop of players doesn’t always wear the weight of history. That was apparent after a locker room celebration at Ohio State starring freshman phenom Ben McLemore turned into the greatest GIF in KU sports history.
In the heartland, that crazy bastardization of the Russian Cossack Dance is now simply called “The McLemore.”
Seldom used freshman guard Anrio Adams isn’t going to best McLemore on the hardwood, but he’ll hold his own in a dance battle as this incredible sideline celebration attests.
All that brings us to the team’s take on the Harlem Shake, which has racked up nearly 2 million views since it was posted Friday.
Was there any doubt this group would hop on the most ubiquitous dance craze in recent memory? Nope, and they executed it masterfully. As a KU basketball diehard and amateur Internet scholar, allow me to offer a few observations:
1) Viral videos, as with basketball, are all about timing. This hit just as the meme had peaked in popularity but before it was played out. With the hyper-speed with which this meme overtook the internet, that was a tiny window. It’s like a team peaking just as the tournament starts. Well played.
2) Justin Wesley (who averages less than half a point per game) was the catalyst behind the video and, to be honest, I wasn't expecting him to come that strong with it. Front and center sporting a kilt, he absolutely kills it. This performance bodes well for Wesley’s silver screen debut playing Wilt Chamberlain in the upcoming Kevin Willmott film, Jayhawkers.
3) Backup point guard Naadir Tharpe gets co-MVP honors along with Wesley. He nails his role as Robot Guy, an ode to Dave Chapelle.
4) Much like during KU’s three-game losing streak, I found myself screaming at Elijah Johnson, "Seriously, what the hell are you doing?!" He’s the one creeping around the room in a black mask and stocking hat.
5) A proven dancer, Anrio Adams is conspicuously absent. Cue the transfer rumors.
6) Jeff Withey and Jamari Traylor should start an acoustic power duo. They'd sell out the Bottleneck tomorrow.
7) Whether on the hardwood or in an Internet dance video, Kevin “the Custodian” Young (shoutout to Fran Fraschilla) always brings great energy yet is content to stay in the background. This time it happens to be in a Jason mask and green button-up.
8) Niko Roberts might be into infantilism. He looks a little too comfy in that bib and adult onsie.
9) Travis Releford is never going to wow you with his athleticism or his dance moves or but the fifth-year senior is rock solid and remarkably consistent. Also, his Instagram game is on point. Got ‘em!
10) The team’s most talented player, McLemore is finally embracing his role as number one option. Sometimes the best player has to don a chicken outfit. The young fella steps up.
The Harlem Shake meme is reaching the eye-roll and backlash stage at this point, but not before the Hawks showed everyone how it’s done. If this year’s NCAA tournament suddenly morphs into You Got Served, I’ll take KU going all the way in my bracket.
Screengrab via YouTube