Heroes and Villains in the NBA Finals
I don’t pretend to be a big basketball fan, but I do have at least a mild interest in these NBA Finals. You know, the series pitting the good guys, the Oklahoma City Thunder, versus the bad guys, the Miami Heat. There’s an easy narrative for hating the Heat: their star player, Lebron James, is a serious douchebag, an Ohio native who left the Cleveland Cavaliers to “take his talents to South Beach.” While everyone loved to see him lose in last year’s finals, they didn’t love his post-series interview where he basically told all those haters to get a life. For more on this, check out Jay Smooth’s awesome video:
The Thunder’s Kevin Durant on the other hand, is playing for the team that drafted him, a homegrown superstar.
Simple stuff, right? Except The Nation‘s progressive sportswriter Dave Zirin says that people who think this way have got it all wrong. According to Zirin, who still blames the Thunder ownership for taking the Supersonics from Seattle and turning them into the Thunder:
Strip away the drama and the Heat are called “evil” because their star players exercised free agency and—agree or disagree with their decision—took control of their own careers. The Thunder are praised for doing it the “right way,” but no franchise is more caked in original sin than the team from Oklahoma City. Their owners, Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon, with an assist from NBA Commissioner David Stern, stole their team with the naked audacity of Frank and Jesse James from the people of Seattle.
In addition, he notes that “Bennett and McLendon are big Republican moneymen whose hobby is funding anti-gay referendums.”
Complicates things a little, doesn’t it?
But Kate Perkins disagrees with Zirin. She writes:
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren’t playing Clay Bennett, Aubrey McClendon and David Stern. They’re playing Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Rooting for the players of one team to win an ideological battle, however righteous, against the owners of another doesn’t add up.
I agree with Perkins. I also agree with Bill Simmons, who says that we shouldn’t fault OKC or their fans for the theft of the Supersonics. Simmons notes that OKC has amazing fans, largely because the Thunder are the only game in town, and because the city is still bonded together by the terrorist attack back in 1995. Makes you wanna root for OKC the same way so many of us rooted for the New Orleans Saints in the superbowl after the horrible hurricane flooding there.
All that doesn’t help you if you’re from Seattle. Yes, it sucks for Sonics fans. I get it. My Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals. I understand anyone from Seattle not rooting for OKC out of spite.
But as a general sports fan, I think this equation is pretty simple. Unless you’re from Miami, or bitter and from Seattle, you should root for OKC. Not even because they have great fans. But because the Heat already won a championship in 2006. That wasn’t so long ago. Wade has a ring. So the Miami fans have had their taste. And it would be really nice to see LeBron feel a little disappointed again. Maybe he’ll even start regretting The Decision. I doubt it. He’s too arrogant for that. But a sports fan can dream, can’t he?