Taylor Swift, Raymond Felton, and the Way Back

Bruce McKay | Flickr

When I’ve had a rough week or day, I have a “go to” list of videos which cheer me up: Sam’s Speech from Lord of the Rings, Dirk Nowitzki dancing to “Timber.” You know, the normal stuff. I also have a whole host of songs (mainly awesome 90’s pop music) which get to me to a better place.

Sometimes what we need to get back on track is an anthem, a guide for taking us from where we are to where we want to be.  This week, with her release of her new soon-to-be hit single “Shake it Off,” I can’t help but think Taylor Swift meant the song as a way back for Raymond Felton. I mean, just look at the hook:

“Cause the players gonna play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate. Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake it off.” 

The former fifth overall draft pick is looking to rebound from a multi-year sojourn that involved trades, injuries, a brush with the law, and some personal problems. Felton needs to shake off the last few years. He needs to just get out on the court and play basketball.

He’s in Texas now, with the Knicks glad to see him go and Mavericks fans annoyed at his arrival. The odds are against him and Felton’s well aware of what’s being said about him. Taylor Swift knows what he feels like:

“I stay up too late; got nothing on my brain. That’s what people say. That’s what people say.”

The doubters will not go away quietly. The upside here is that in Dallas, expectations for Felton are non-existent. Fans hope the Mavericks are able to move him, but the front office understands that with his salary, a move is very unlikely. There’s a real opportunity for the former UNC star to re-establish his career with the Mavericks. Fortunately, Ms. Swift continues to have sound advice for Felton:

“I never miss a beat. I’m lighting up my feet and that’s what they don’t see, that’s what they don’t see. I’m dancing on my own. I make the moves as I go and that’s what they don’t know, that’s what they don’t know. But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving. It’s like I got this music in my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright.”

Ms. Swift is fully confident in who she is, even if that means a goofy white girl dancing around with a ribbon wand. Raymond Felton can play basketball, considering he’s a nine year veteran at this point. He’s convinced (reasonably) that injuries have played a large part in his decline the last two seasons. Understanding his role in Dallas will be key to his success, but it’s more than possible that he resurrects a career that’s become a punchline. The Mavericks have become a team of reclamation projects: Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, Monta Ellis. Raymond Felton could be next given the right drive.

But let’s just be honest: Raymond Felton doesn’t need an anthem. He needs to realize he’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is. He needs to shake off his sense of self importance and become a functional role player.

My problem is that I believe in Taylor Swift, and I want to believe in Raymond Felton. He wasn’t ever elite, but he was a good NBA player at one point. Maybe, just maybe, with the wind of Taylor Swift at his back, he can be again. Do as Taylor says, Raymond: Shake it off.

Shake shake shake shake it off.

(And as a bonus, Felton highlights set to this amazing song. You know you want to click)

Felton in his more effective days as a member of the then Charlotte Bobcats. Thanks to Jason Gallagher (@Jga41agher) for the video!

Kirk Henderson