During Game 7 of the Rockets vs. Warriors series in May, Ted Cruz tweeted a photo of himself courtside. Not long after, the Rockets blew an eleven-point halftime lead. To some, it looked like the Texas junior senator had placed a curse on the team. To late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, Cruz just looked “like a blobfish” in the photo. Cruz responded with tough talk, calling the comedian “Big Guy” and challenging him to a charity one-on-one match.
.@jimmykimmel All right, Big Guy…you talk a good game. You besmirched my support for the @HoustonRockets 🤨 So let’s settle this man-to-man: one-on-one, hoops (or “ring-ball,” if you prefer). The loser gives $5k to the (non-political) charity of the winner’s choice. https://t.co/BWvAP5VOtM
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 31, 2018
Kimmel accepted the challenge, and the Blobfish Basketball Classic was set for June 16 at Texas Southern University. We have no idea what this game is going to look like or who’s going to win, but that certainly won’t stop us from making predictions. Here are our scouting reports for each participant in the matchup.
Scouting Report: Ted Cruz
Height: Somewhere between 5′8″ and 5′10″
Scouting Report: As his 2016 presidential campaign neared its fateful end, Ted Cruz was on the trail in the basketball holy land that is Indiana. He held a rally inside a shrine to the sport: a gym where the iconic film Hoosiers was shot. Then, in a speech, he incorrectly referred to the basketball rim as a “ring.” It was devastating. Members in the crowd behind Cruz were visibly uncomfortable. Jimmy Chitwood rolled over in his fictional grave. Cruz was immediately skewered on social media. One week later, he bowed out of the race.
The flub was shocking but unsurprising, considering Cruz has never presented himself as the sporty type. (In his 2015 book A Time For Truth, Cruz wrote that he “refused to play sports as a child.”)
Flash forward to June 2018: Cruz has put an immense effort into revamping his political image following his disastrous campaign and arguably an even greater effort into athletic training. He started a weekly basketball game for his congressional colleagues, and according to Politico, his fellow ballers say he’s “a surprisingly good jump-shooter with miserable form.”
Cruz has even drawn comparisons to Duke basketball star Grayson Allen—not so much earned by Cruz playing Division I–caliber ball but instead because he and Allen have the exact same face. Either way, it can’t hurt Cruz’s hardwood reputation that his name is constantly associated with Allen (so long as you look past Allen’s troubled history of tripping opponents).
Despite his Duke doppelgänger, Cruz on the court most reminds us of a lesser Draymond Green. The Golden State Warriors forward, a key cog in the franchise’s championship-winning machine, does a little bit of everything. But he’s best at doing the dirty work, like rebounding, playing defense, hustling, and riling up the other team’s players with his trash talk and baiting. He’s earned a reputation as one of the most hated players in the game—his attitude can even put him at odds with his own teammates. Similarly, Cruz is well-known for his histrionics in Congress and is generally disliked by his colleagues, including members of his own party. Like Cruz, Green also has horribly jacked-up shooting form (it looks like he’s trying to shoot a jumper with a ton of bricks on his back while being struck by a slow-moving golf cart). And Cruz has home-court advantage: He historically does well on his home turf (he destroyed Trump in Texas’s Republican presidential primary), and he’ll have a slight advantage playing Kimmel in Houston.
So what does this mean for Cruz’s chances against Kimmel? We predict he’ll use his filibustering skills to slow the game to his pace, forcing Kimmel further out of his comfort zone while battering the late-night host with a barrage of kicks and elbows to the groin—politics, after all, is a dirty game, and it’s the one game Cruz knows best. (Cruz will also win, of course, if he is secretly replaced by Grayson Allen just before tip-off without anyone else noticing.)
Scouting Report: Jimmy Kimmel
Height: 6′1″, according to this essay he wrote about weight loss
Weight: 25 pounds less than he weighed before he discovered intermittent fasting, apparently
Scouting Report: Unlike the junior senator from the great state of Texas, there exists plenty of video evidence of Jimmy Kimmel playing basketball. Those interested in scouting his game have several decades of footage of him taking on a variety of opponents. He competed against a tiny baby (and lost). He famously engaged in a little bit of one-on-one in his pre–weight loss days of the 2000s, against Eminem (although, contrary to the legend, he didn’t actually get the tattoo they discuss at the beginning of the segment):
But there’s not a lot in that footage to worry a sitting U.S. senator who stands to be embarrassed on the court. Kimmel makes a jump shot but misses plenty. At worst, Cruz might be concerned that Kimmel would attempt to work the refs with a world-class flopping attempt (he is a professional performer, after all), as he did against Eminem.
Tracing Kimmel’s game further back provides evidence of a much-younger host from his days as “Jimmy the Sports Guy” on Los Angeles radio station KROQ in 1996. In a charity game with Kimmel and his colleagues (including a not-yet-famous Adam Carolla and Chris Hardwick) on one side and world-famous dwarf basketball team the L.A. Breakers on the other, Kimmel (wearing #6) looks decent on the court—he’s able to put the ball through the ring without embarrassing himself.
Embarrassment introduces the one true wild card in Kimmel’s game: He’s an entertainer by trade, even if he’s recently begun using his platform for politics rather than telling children that their parents ate all of their Halloween candy. He might be interested in attempting to dominate Cruz in order to embarrass the senator, but their beef doesn’t stem from an issue even close to Kimmel’s heart, like children’s health care—rather, it comes from a crack Kimmel made about the senator. So we expect to see him spend more of his time goofing around on the court than trying to take Cruz down. Expect big, performative flops, taking absurd shots he has no chance of making, and ridiculous attempts to dunk. That means that the real potential embarrassment for the senator is less getting dunked on and more looking like a stuffed shirt taking things too seriously as he plays basketball against a comedian.