There’s a famous Barbara Kruger quote often used in reference to wrestling or other forms of combat sports: “You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men.” But even as these constructs of masculinity — that there’s something feminine or forbidden about consensually touching other men — are broken down, it’s an axiom that still appears to be true in any sport. Take basketball, for example. There’s little reason for players to touch and tumble as much as they do in the NBA, but they do it just the same.
Thank god, too — it adds energy, tension and delight to the game, and it offers a sense of homoeroticism to a hyper-masculine sport. Case in point:
On Instagram, @nocontextnba compiles perfectly captured photos from NBA games taken completely out-of-context. On numerous occasions, the players appear to be firmly gripping each other’s asses, smooching or tangled up in what would surely be an enjoyable sex position. On January 4th, Twitter user @goatedwok shared a thread of his favorites from the page, and it promptly went viral, amassing over 3,000 retweets and numerous reposts onto large Instagram meme accounts like @lit.nbamemes. Across platforms and accounts, there seems to be something hugely enjoyable about seeing famous basketball players appear to cuddle and kiss.
There are a few similar accounts for other sports documenting “no context” moments, though none come even close to the popularity of the NBA ones. @nocontextnfl on Instagram has 12,000 followers, for instance, while @fwithoutcontext, a soccer account on Twitter, has 22,000. Why the NBA version is so beloved remains unclear.
But what’s the joke here, exactly? I hope we’re all mature enough to understand that being gay isn’t a punchline. For me at least, a photo that looks like Blake Griffin and Steph Curry are sharing an invisible double-ended dildo is kind of adorable, particularly considering they’re on opposing teams. I mean, just look at this video of Kevin Durant nuzzling up on Trae Young. Even if I had the context to explain what he’s doing — presumably some form of defense — I’d still think there was something sweet and intimate about the clip.
Of course, not everyone is open-minded enough to laugh at these photos at face value. In the comments of both the Twitter thread and Instagram posts, there are numerous people saying Griffin is “sus,” or delivering weirdly punctuated lines like “Kevin Durant sayin u lucky we ain in prison boi.” These are largely jokes, too, albeit more harmful ones. There are also several comments that flat-out say these posts are bad because they seem gay, or that the behavior therein is “wrong.”
This inability to see the humor in men accidentally or unconsciously touching each other in a way that could be perceived as sexual during a televised live sporting event is ultimately far more “suspicious” in my mind. Anyone lame enough to rag on these players is probably either harboring gay inclinations they’ve yet to embrace or they’re a total killjoy. In both scenarios, I hope they get right with themselves. The world needs more affection, not less.