We are now two weeks away from the 5-month anniversary of the Great Stopping: March 11, 2020. A day that will live on in American history on par with November 22 or perhaps in time even 9/11. As if out of a hallucinogenic dream, the Jazz-Thunder game was suspended, the infamous Rudy news broke (and let us never forget this), then I hear Tom Hanks has COVID…and suddenly everything escalated to a fever pitch so searing hot that I wasn’t sure what the world would look like when I woke up.
Despite the heavy-handedness of this opening, which feels impossible to avoid even on a site of this light nature, I say this to say: it has been (almost) five months since the last NBA game, and I am starved for sports. Starved.
I was so desperate that I actually built my entire week schedule around the hopelessly underwhelming ESPN H-O-R-S-E tournament in April. To quote JJ Reddick, “H-O-R-S-E could not be worse.” (Also let’s please make a note to circle back at the gender-wealth disparity that show illuminated. Mike Conley was in his indoor, private Batcave-level gym and was playing Tamika Catchings in her driveway with a hoop that looked like it was from Dick’s, her son filming, and the roaring wind altering her shots. Who do you think won?)
So when Matisse Thybulle dropped the first episode of his NBA Bubble vlog “Welcome to the Bubble” on June 11, 2020, I lost my mind. Let me pause to say, everything about the NBA Bubble continues to boggle my mind. I constantly try to imagine what I would think (how I would react!) if a year ago you told me that 22 of the 30 NBA teams would finish the season in a pandemic battling force field, borderline 28 Days Later level “bubble,” in Disney World where they will live in isolation for 3 months. Even as I’m writing this it feels impossible. If you believe in the multi-verse, how did we land in this one!?
I dropped everything and watched “Welcome to the Bubble” ep. 1 with the vigor and interest of a group of 50-year-old white guys at a Michael McDonald concert. I was blown away. I loved seeing the plane. I loved seeing practice. I loved watching this rookie fulfilling his duties by bringing the team Chick-Fil-A—during a freaking global pandemic!!! So listen, I already knew and liked Thybulle as a player before the vlog, then when I saw it, he catapulted to “one of my guys” status. Then last night when he dropped episode 5 everything changed:
I finished the video last night on my couch around midnight and sat there awestruck. Is Matisse Thybulle the nation’s (or at least this website’s) prodigal son? This man is 23-years old. He is an NBA rookie. When I was 23-years old I was back in my old room at my parents house after being fired from my gig playing in the pit for the Media Theatre and trying to claw my way forward. (Alright, I do not want to sell myself that short, by the end of that year I was a licensed K-12 teacher in MA and the general music, band, and chorus teacher at the New Hingham Elementary School. So I’m not a total burnout. But I’m no Thybulle!)
To start with, this man is legitimately good at his job. Zach Lowe has called him “one of the best defensive rookies ever.” He threw down this dunk in a scrimmage last week (which he wisely exhibited at the end of ep. 5). He’s averaging 1.4 steals in sub-20-mpg of playing time and shot 37% from deep until the All-Star game. This dude is real! He’s going to be an NBA starter (I am curious if that will be in a Philly uniform ultimately…)
I’ll put it like this, I would expect that we’re going to be watching Thybulle play basketball in 2030. Or let me put it a different way, he’s no Troy Daniels—who also has an NBA Bubble vlog and is terribly charming and handsome to the point he should model, but I’m honestly not even sure what team he’s on… (Also Troy, your entire ep. was you golfing… maybe show us some behind-the-scenes stuff?)
Thybulle’s vlog conversely looks fantastic. It’s so damn good! What the hell Matisse? You could legit have a career doing this. The cuts where he opens the fridge door to put in one Red Bull, then closes it and it’s magically full, it’s gold! I had real questions pertaining to whether he was editing it himself. But then in episode 3, he shows us all, yup it’s him.
In this terrific New York Times article by Scott Cacciola about Thybulle and his vlog, we learn that he has been a photographer for years and has real experience and passion in the visual arts. And also that it takes him 5 hours to edit each video. Thank you for the effort and love Mr. Thybulle! I will say, in an effort to keep it 100, at times I do think the vlog gets a little trigger happy with the cuts. That said, I recognize that I am 10 years older than Thybulle and that young folks need hyper-Tasmanian Devil level stimulation as to not turn to their phones. So, perhaps this is more on me.
But the real turning point for me last night was the discussion about Social Justice and the Black Lives Matter movement that took place between Thybulle and his teammates Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn. Wow. I mean just wow. Just seeing these guys sitting around this (honestly not that great looking) Disney lounge talking about making an impact, sharing a collective and distilled message, and growing as leaders during this historic time, I thought it was incredible. I was blown away.
Every single time I see a young POC addressing these issues with elegance and pose I always think: HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO DO THIS?? At 23 I could barely tell you what I was having for dinner, much less contribute substantive dialogue about our country’s history and state of systematic oppression and white privilege. Matisse’s maturity, insight, delicacy…so much respect.
Matisse Thybulle, you’ve stolen my heart and you’ve captured my imagination. I am such a believer in you. I thought your vlog was the hottest new thing on the block when you were showing us bubble dinners and getting Mike Scott’s shoes per your rookie duties.
The fact that you have now elevated this platform to illuminate and further the discussion around social justice… You’re something else. I’m excited about Matisse Thybulle’s NBA career. I’m excited about Matisse Thybulle’s art/creative career. I’m excited about Matisse Thybulle’s post-NBA career. Simply put: I’m excited about Matisse Thybulle.