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Kim Kardashian's ghost haunts Kris Humphries' retirement essay

Kris kautions: kareful about koupling with a Kardashian. You might get booed by tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

Kris kautions: kareful about koupling with a Kardashian. You might get booed by tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Associated Press

Who would've guessed that the most likeable person to orbit the ever-expanding Kardashian universe, albeit briefly, would be some big lug from Minnesota?

And yet, we're inclined to feel good about (and bad for) Kris Humphries, especially after the revealing and thoughtful essay he published in the Players Tribune Tuesday.  Humphries announces he's leaving the game of basketball after 13 seasons, the most productive of which came with the New Jersey/ Brooklyn Nets. 

The Minneapolis native writes about growing up a swimming prodigy -- "I used to smoke Michael Phelps" is a pretty good opening line -- before getting burnt out on that sport and turning to basketball.

Tall (6-foot-9) and brawny -- fellow baller Carlos Boozer called him "Bowlfex," though Humphries attributes his rectangular frame to an exhausting push-up and sit-up regimen -- Humphries developed into an accomplished rebounder and post presence at the University of Minnesota before the Utah Jazz took him with the 14th pick in the 2004 NBA draft.

At the time, Humphries was just a nice-seeming, hard-working prospect. Seasons passed, and he shifted teams, first to the Dallas Mavericks, and later to the Nets, where he twice averaged a double-double in points and rebounds.

There's a precious story in here about a night he outplayed former teammate Dirk Nowitzki, and under other circumstances, a touching postgame moment might be the most memorable part of this story.

But -- or should we say butt? -- as we all know, that's not the case. In 2010, Humphries started dating Kim Kardashian, at the time a rising star on the "attractive woman who parlays dating famous people into her own fame" circuit. Kardashian was coming off a breakup with NFL star Reggie Bush, and apparently in the mood to sub one athlete in for another. 

Humphries fit the bill, and he soon started appearing on Kardashian's reality TV show on the E! network. Less than a year into their relationship, the two married, and the ceremony was later broadcast on a massively hyped two-part (TWO. PART.) special which aired in fall of 2011. The special put Kardashian over the top as a permanent celebrity -- and as a disrespect-er of Minnesota, where she thinks people say "Yeehaw."

They did not live happily ever after. Kardashian filed for divorce before the year was out, possibly because (get this) she didn't care for Humphries' home state of Minnesota. At least that's the story if you believe certain trash local tabloids. 

Kardashian moved on to date and then marry Kanye West. Perhaps you've heard.

Humphries, meanwhile, became "That Guy," a phrase he invokes six times in his Players Tribune piece, including in the headline. (A seventh reference includes a mostly deleted expletive.) For some time after his relatively brief relationship with Kardashian, Humphries would get stopped by random people asking if he was the man who'd dated, married, and divorced the fame-seeking missile whose father was pals with O.J. Simpson and whose mother re-married an Olympic gold medalist.

Accusations the marriage was staged for publicity didn't help. Both Kim and Kris have denied a faked relationship, and Kardashian later sued an associate who'd alleged as much.

Humphries says he'd deny his identity, and claims he sometimes told people he was not Kris Humphries but Blake Griffin. (We see the resemblance, though Humphries' freckle game is really not on Griffin's level.) These were difficult days in Kris' life:

"I didn’t want to be Kris Humphries. It’s the craziest feeling in the world, not wanting to be yourself. And I didn’t even want to say anything to defend myself, because it felt like I couldn’t win. You can’t go up against the tabloids. You can’t go up against that machine. There’s no point. And even if I played that game, I felt like it would be disrespecting the game of basketball."

Humphries recounts one torturous night of ceaseless booing by Knicks fans in Madison Square Garden, and how after the game Knicks guard Jeremy Lin was asked why New Yorkers "hate Kris Humphries so much." Lin's response -- "I don’t get it, because he’s a heck of a rebounder" -- heartened Humphries. "It really meant my world," he writes.

Awwww.

Humphries isn't asking for sympathy for his role as "That Guy," writing: "I signed up for it." He's at peace with this fate, and looking forward to a post-basketball life centered around restaurant franchising with Crisp & Green and Five Guys Burgers; he's already opened seven of the health food spots, and 10 of the greasy burger joints. "BURGERS," he writes.

Humphries ends the essay thanking a series of people for giving him opportunities and helping him along the way. His ex-wife doesn't make the list. In fact, Humphries' detailed account of his weird, bumpy life as a baller and famous ex-husband runs to 3,200-plus words, and for all the impact being with Kim Kardashian had on Kris Humphries' personal and professional life, one thing is glaringly absent: her name.