- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
3. Care about everyone n their feelings.
4. Have an extreme and a rare breed of confidence in yourself.
5. Swagg all the time.
He recently posted those guidelines on the picture-sharing service Instagram, which is the BasedKing's only means of reaching his followers. The voluminous and sometimes vulgar tweeting habit that Smith had as a freshman played a pivotal role in Pitino's banning the team from Twitter. The BasedKing's Instagrams are harmlessly weird. They tend to feature fictional subjects of his kingdom—cheesy family images that might have appeared in psychology textbooks—and riffs on his hashtag catchphrase, Maybe #YouWillGetLucky.
Two standard examples: a photo of a mother and her two daughters smiling at a computer monitor is headlined, MY KIDS AND I LOVE WHEN THE BASEDKING EMAILS US, and captioned, "Mom, Jenna and Katie were so happy I invited them to a #TeaParty. Maybe next year #YouWillGetLucky and get an invite." In another photo a sad woman's face is overlaid with the line BASEDKING WON'T LET ME BE TEAM WAFFLE HOUSE, and captioned, "Hannah is #Unlucky. Maybe one day when #SheGetsLucky she can participate in all #WaffleHouse events."
These are real events. The BasedKing holds tea parties at a Waffle House near Louisville's airport, where he indulges in hot, caffeinated beverages against the advice of Hina, who worries about their dehydrating effect. He once had to rescue a fully cramped-up Smith from a postpractice cold tub. When the BasedKing permits himself java, it is instead called a Coffee Bar Mitzvah because everything must have a festive title. But he always orders the same All-Star combo with a light waffle, mixing the grits and the scrambled eggs, then dousing them with sugar. This final touch, he says, "wakes up the food."
The person who always lucks into Waffle House invites is Dark Slime, a nickname that when translated from BasedKingspeak means "black best friend." Dark Slime is Michael Baffour, a 6'2" guard from Lexington who came to Louisville on an academic scholarship with no intention of playing hoops. But Smith befriended Baffour at freshman orientation, persuaded Pitino to let him join the team, and now they're inseparable roommates. Dark Slime and the BasedKing have fantasized about developing their own cartoon; the Senegalese-born Dieng, whom they view as a wise older brother or a sort of giant wizard, would be their third character.
There's one constant about the BasedKing, according to Dark Slime: "He always feels lucky." This feeling often manifests in a desire to play the lottery, even though Dark Slime deems the activity foolish. Baffour is fond of a story from March 2012, when the BasedKing bought a $2 scratch-off advertising a $50,000 jackpot. "Russ scratched it off; all the numbers matched; and he started screaming and jumping around in the convenience store, convinced he had won 50 grand," Baffour says. "It was the most excited I've ever seen him. The guy at the register scans the ticket and says, 'Oh, dude, it says you can win up to 50 grand, but all you won is seven dollars.' Russ stopped jumping around. Of course, he put the seven dollars into more scratch-offs, and he walked away with no money."
The BasedKing did not let this dent his spirit, because unwavering confidence has been the secret to how he has flourished in the real world. Before he was Based, as a freshman struggling with injuries and buried on the bench, he packed up to quit on the day of a home game against West Virginia, only to be talked out of it by then teammate Rakeem Buckles. Smith also considered transferring at the end of that season. "But I knew if I transferred, I'd look like what we, in Brooklyn, call a 'Herb'—somebody who's corny, soft or scared," he says. "So I decided to thug it out at Louisville." By his sophomore year he had cracked the rotation and didn't care that he couldn't enter a team huddle without being engulfed in Pitino's verbal napalm.