You don’t have to be an NBA fan to know that the finals — basketball’s Super Bowl, played out in a best out of seven scenario — are currently going down. The Golden State Warriors are facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the coveted championship title. Having won the first three games, Golden State players could get their rings if they beat the Cavs in game four. I don’t care either way. What I am interested in, however, is the pop culture myth that many people think a Warriors victory will confirm: the Kardashian curse.
Playing for the Cavs alongside LeBron James and Teyana Taylor’s husband Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson has been catching the most side-eye from discouraged Cleveland fans. Many people insist that his relationship with Khloé Kardashian has brought about the bad luck that his team is experiencing in the finals. Our very own Carolyn Todd documented the superstition guiding fans’ thoughts about the finals, and acknowledged how silly it is indeed. However, we need to demystify it once and for all.
Ironically, I think that the perfect starting place is the possibility that it may be true. Let’s consider that players like Reggie Bush, Kris Humphries, Lamar Odom, and now Thompson stopped performing at their best capacity when they entered relationships with Kardashian women. There is a rational explanation for that. Would they be the first people who found it difficult to focus on work with the excitement of a new relationship thrown into the mix?
For what it’s worth, the Kardashians are not normal women. They are at the top of the entertainment media food chain, and anyone closely associated with them is destined to get swept up into the hype. In the same way that a completely unknown woman might find it hard to keep up at her 9-to-5 job if she started dating an NBA player, and was suddenly subject to scrutiny from the general public and the media, players like Thompson are submerged into a world of publicity they didn’t know before. Even Odom admitted that dating a Kardashian made him more of a commodity, not the other way around. That’s a lot of pressure, even for big, strong basketball players.
Yet still, these players’ professional performance is still their personal responsibility. Partners should be supportive of each other — and from what we’ve seen, Khloé has no problem cheering her man on from the sidelines — but they shouldn’t have to absorb responsibility when men start slacking at work or become unfocused. Perhaps Thompson needs to seek some additional activities like meditation to get some more work/life balance. Or maybe he should break up with Khloé if he wants to prioritize his work and thinks she’s a liability. It’s his responsibility to make that difficult decision. To say he’s cursed, though, is a reach.
Beyond the curse itself, the Kardashians are often framed as the antithesis to successful and well-built Black men like those who play professional sports. The Kardashian women's public image supports the trope of the beautiful opportunist, out for money and/or fame. Even though the Kardashians may be sitting on fortunes that would make many NBA players jealous, Black men feed into the Kardashian brand in certain ways, making it easy to accuse the women of not being in these relationships for the right reasons. That’s a deeper conversation that I’m more than willing to have after my own 9-to-5 responsibilities are in order. The point is that I get why a myth about a Kardashian curse is easy to get behind, for sports and pop culture fans alike.
Personally, I’m wary of any conspiracy that shifts the blame away from men for their own fuck ups — according to NBA fans, Thompson has been fucking up — and onto women. There are always gaps in that logic. So the next time a LeBron fan tries to suggest that you’re doing too much as a member of the Beyhive, remind them that their super-masculine fan club put faith in a young wives' tale about the Kardashians to excuse their loss. Who’s irrational now?