The biggest revelation of the Cavaliers playoff run hasn’t been the performances of the Big Three, Tristan Thompson, or spark plugs like Channing Frye and Matthew Dellavedova. It’s the emergence of the team’s spiritual leader, Lil Kev.
Lil Kev is a cut-out and laminated Tommy Bahama ad which offers the distinct impression Kevin Love’s not that exclusive with his Banana (Republic). From the jump, Love’s mini-Me has broadcast a fun-loving flavor. Recently Lil Kev added his own Instagram account, broadcasting his Zelig-like presence.
Whether clowning with the guys and best buddy/creator Richard Jefferson, stealing shotgun from Channing Frye or brightening the team’s adult dance party with his playful smirk, Lil Kev’s epitomized the team’s newfound joy. Or at least “newfound” in the media’s eyes.
While we’ve personally heard from players like Delly, Frye and James Jones how well the guys get along and how overblown the “unhappy locker room” meme is in the media, like a dog and his bone, there’s no separating some media quarters from their preferred prey, whether it’s accurate or not.
When Jefferson started releasing his humorous behind-the-scene Snapchats (his take on James’ Kia commercial is better than the original
), it offered a rare, unfettered and unfiltered look at how loose the team is, and how they really do spend time together outside of basketball.
As near as we can tell, it’s actually pretty unusual for a star like LeBron James to spend so much time with his teammates, including the seemingly frequent jaunts to his Akron home. But James has always deeply valued the fellowship of his teammates going back to high school.
Now thanks to Jefferson’s mini-vids we can see them in full goofy glory.
“I started to hear stuff from different people like, ‘Wow, you guys actually do hang out. You guys actually do like each other,’” Jefferson said in an interview last week. “Even with just the Snapchat it’s given people more of an insight to see, hey we do have fun. We are enjoying the process.”
It’s never that they haven’t gotten along. They’re just fierce competitors.
“We’re like siblings. We hate each other. We get pissed off at each other, but there is not bad blood here, there are not fights in the locker room, there are no cliques that guys don’t hang out. Kevin. LeBron and all of us go to dinner [together],” said Jefferson. “That doesn’t mean that later that night or the next day at the game we’re not going to be screaming and yelling at each other. It’s because we want to win. it’s because we’re competitors, and we’re trying to navigate this thing together.”
The irony is that Jefferson has never had any social media presence at all. Not Twitter or Instagram. He’s had Snapchat for a while and just decided to start posting
“I’ve had it for about a year, a year and a half, I would never use it. I would use it to look at other people, kind of how people are about Twitter, and just recently I started doing it and having some fun with it,” he said. “I view it different than most social medias... [where] I’d say there’s maybe a bit of privacy that’s lacking, a bit of invasion that can constantly happen.”
Invasion, coincidentally, is just what Lil Kev’s threatening to do to our hearts. The little square doppelganger emanates a sense of well-being and calm that suffuses the team. We took some time with him to ponder the state of the team in advance of the game, but he was as inscrutable as Bobby McFerrin’s hit/future empty platitude
Are the Cavaliers locked in on their mission? We were met with a scruffy diffidence. Is this season’s Best of LeBron still to come? His gaze was unblinking and blue. Has J.R. developed not just a handshake dance, but an entire floor routine should the Cavaliers win the championship? His lips were sealed.
Sadly, so too have been those of Will Chalker, the man behind Lil Kev’s unperturbed visage. The 36-year old British model is exactly eight years and six months older than Kevin Love, so we might have to retire the “Lil Kev” moniker, though Chalker’s evidently embraced it on his Instagram page
. (Apparently he chalks more to picture oriented media, as his Twitter is a desolate wasteland
.) Then again, at 6’1 he is several inches shorter than our hometown Kev.
According to his publicist, we were the only sports journalist to call, looking for the identity and an interview with the real Lil Kev. Sadly, they couldn’t produce even so much as a statement. (Evidently messages to and from top models in London are still delivered by barge.)
But his secret identity is now revealed. A former amateur boxer and perhaps a father (if the Instagram picture can be trusted not to be an ad), Chalker was working construction at 18 when he had a friend in film school take some shots of him. He dropped them off at several agencies and the rest is history.
In 2004 Chalker became the first male model nominated as British Model of the Year. (Damn glass ceiling.) Since 2000 he’s appeared in ads for the cornucopia of commerce – from Gucci, YSL and Louis Vitton to Dolce & Gabbana and Paco Rabanne. (So when this basketball thing washes out KLove still has options….)
We’re still hoping for a real interview. They may be explaining basketball to him. Probably have their top man, John Amaechi
, working on it as we speak. (Another area where Canada’s far ahead of its old headmaster.)
In the meantime we’ll satisfy ourself with the taciturn toughness or our own Lil Kev, the splashy ad that could (and presumably did).
We’ll be at the Q tonight for the start of the Eastern Conference Finals, where we’ll be posting video, analysis and snark. You can follow along on Twitter @CRS_1ne
. We’ll be joining Brad Russell on WAKR-1590 at 5:25 pm tonight to talk about the game. You can also catch our podcast with St. Edwards’ Coach Eric Flannery and Tim Smith on Worthy of the Jersey
You can read our postgame analysis here in the Scene & Heard blog on Wednesday morning, and check each day for new between game stories. On Thursday we’ll have an in-depth feature on Richard Jefferson.