Straight Bangin'

BY JOEY LITMAN DROPPIN' KNOWLEDGE

Published February 20, 2003

J ohn Rubadeau, my boy, is one of the finest human beings on the planet and certainly one of the finest professors at the U. The man taught me a great deal about writing and helped expand my vocabulary. I hope he's not reading my column today.

Jason Pesick

I offer this praise and pretext because I am about to ignore a plethora of standard words at my disposal in the ol' personal dialect in order to focus on just one, a word that I use colloquially in no less than four ways. The word is "bangin'," and I don't hear nearly enough people employing it.

Likely, this neglect stems from the public's confusion. Is bangin' a verb? A noun? An adjective? Isn't it the abbreviated gerund form of the verb "to bang?" However, after this column, no longer can the mass, speaking public lean on the crutch of ignorance.

First, bangin' can be used as an indefinite adjective meant to denote a positive characteristic. For instance, last week during a phone conversation, I asked my friend Kim (pronounced, with a Scottie Pippen-like drawl, "Kee-im"), "How was your trip to Las Vegas?" Kim replied, "Oh, it was bangin'." Similarly, Michael Jackson tried to credibly assert the existence of any sort of heterosexuality in his body (I'm laughing too) by introducing his song "You Rock My World" with a skit celebrating the comeliness of a female, saying of her, "Yeah, she's bangin'."

The term is not limited in use solely as an adjective, though. Bangin' is most commonly the second part of a predicate.

Sometimes, it's a gerund substituted for "having sex": Over the break, I'm gonna be bangin', son or who's bangin' in that bedroom? Other times, bangin' might refer to answering the telephone. That use of the term was popularized by Jim Rome, a broadcasting personality, who would often say on air, "We're bangin' phone calls." Those without a talk show can use the term as well. I, in fact, was bangin' some calls last night until "Ed" was on. (Oh, what a slept-on program.)

Bangin' as gerund is similarly applicable when expressing the notion of stasis, or performing the routine. How did I spend my time last weekend? I was just doing my thing. I did the laundry, ran some errands, paid some bills. I was bangin'.

There are situational uses of the term that are also acceptable. In the hip-hop world, "to bang" is substituted for the standard "to fight" with some frequency, and that phenomenon makes the sentence, "We we're bangin' and he took out his brass knuckles," perfectly legitimate. In basketball, playing near the hoop - attempting lay-ups in traffic, grabbing a rebound while another player caroms into you, defending a basket-bound penetrator - is often called "bangin' inside."

Having read the preceding examples, many people should now have a nearly full grasp of bangin' and its accepted usage. The next step is for everyone, myself included, to use bangin' with enough frequency that my friend John not only hears it, but also later reads about it in his cherished (and rightfully so) American Heritage Dictionary. With those goals in mind, I challenge everyone to embrace bangin' over the break. If we can all just use the term in three different ways each day, I think it will catch on.

So that no one thinks I am ignoring my duty, I'll participate in the challenge too. I am having lunch with both of my grandmothers next week and while they'll surely be completely confounded, I'll tell them, "I was bangin' the other day when I saw this bangin' girl walking down the block. Taken with her beauty, I started bangin' phone calls." The looks on their faces will be bangin'.

If the season ended today: Regular readers of this column (there are probably three) will notice the debut of a new feature this week. Through the end of the NBA season, I will be ranking my top five MVP candidates as of the publication date). In my mind, MVP is exactly what it stands for given the caveat that a player's team isn't atrocious (because if you are great for a terrible team, then you're simply Ricky Davis), and thus my list will reflect which players have been most valuable to their respective teams this year, not who's the best player or who would win in a theoretical vacuum.

5) Ben Wallace - A two-dimensional player, yes, but without him, the defensive-juggernaut Pistons would never get a rebound and miss the playoffs. With him, they have the East's best record. And, defense has to count for something.

4) Kobe Bryant - If Shaq and Kobe weren't on the Lakers, the team would win 15 games, maximum. Instead, the Lake Show is tied for eighth in the West, and Shaq has not been Shaq this year, although the hobbled version is still good. Kobe has been unstoppable.

3) Tracy McGrady - The league's leading scorer also boards and passes for a contending team with no size. Any club that is close to the playoffs having relied on Shawn Kemp in the post is miraculous, and the Magic's magic man is TMac.

2) Kevin Garnett - Do-it-all Garnett is the only guy averaging 20-10-5, and he's the catalyst at both ends of the floor for a T'Wolves team whose second-best player has perhaps been Kendall Gill. Garnett was the leading candidate until the Spurs went nuts on their Western Conference road trip.

1) Tim Duncan - Tony Parker is small and can't shoot; Stephen Jackson is inconsistent; Bruce Bowen can't score; 40-year-old Kevin Willis (!) is currently starting at center; and reigning winner Tim Duncan makes all those shortcoming irrelevant for league's hottest team. TD has beautiful fundamentals and has become NBA's most consistent player. Double-double man Duncan may double-dip on the MVP.

- Disagree with Joey's picks? E-mail him at litmanj@umich.edu.