MMA is more popular than it’s ever been (albeit you could argue it was even more popular a few years ago when Brock Lesnar was around). Why? A lot of ‘bad guys’.
People like to say they dislike ‘the bad guys’, the heels, those they state to have a disdain for, yet whenever the Celtics or Lakers are on TV, people watch. Whenever the Miami Heat (since 2010) are on TV, people watch. A lot of ‘bad guys’ for the general public and the overemotional people that ignore logic to ‘root against’. That’s the way it is. More ‘good guys’ getting along, less folks tuning in. No drama, no action, nobody to root against for a central reason. Enter the ‘bad guys’.
The San Antonio Spurs are going back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. Y’know, that year feels like yesterday to me. To refer to that time as “six years ago” feels preposterous. The Spurs are rocking a similar lineup since then, or at least they have the same core players they did back then, which seems absurd in today’s day and age: Tim Duncan (37-years-old; greatest power forward of all-time — see the aged TSTOS banner), Tony Parker (31-years-old) and Manu Ginobili (almost 36-years-old). Imagine the old St. Louis Rams from the Greatest Show on Turf still balling seven years after their heyday.
The Spurs are efficient and fundamentally sound. Bad guys? Not quite. In fact, their collective reputation used to be ‘boring’. They didn’t (don’t) do anything flashy. No ridiculous alley oops, behind the back/across the court passes. Just Tim Duncan bankshots, Ginobili 3-pointers off screens and Tony Parker pick-and-pops. Despite the 2005 NBA Finals being one hell of a series between the Spurs and Detroit Pistons, nobody besides basketball purists such as yours truly and Spurs/Pistons fans regard that Finals as a great one despite its legendary theatrics.
The Miami Heat are going to finish off the Pacers, and they’ll meet the Spurs in the Finals in about nine days. Enter ‘bad guys’.
LeBron James used to be the ‘good guy’, remember? June 2007, anyone? Y’know, ‘yesterday’ (what it feels like, to me). He led a horrid, piss poor, bereft-of-being-worth-a-shit Cleveland Cavaliers team to the Finals that year. The second best player on that team was a toss-up between Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden or Daniel Gibson. If you are a LeBron James detractor, slap the shit out of yourself right now, because at the age of 22-years-old he took that Cavs team to the promiseland. In the Finals, the veteran-savvy Spurs team swept the Cavaliers despite James’ best effort against Bruce Bowen (now retired and excessively rocking bowties on ESPN).
I’m sure, secretly, after that Finals LeBron thought, “Man, I wish I had a team worth a shit. Look at Parker, Ginobili and Duncan, a big three. I want that shit!” He got that shit in Miami three years later when he took his talents to South Beach in July 2010. Yep, three years, and people are still bitching about the way he did it. That’s why he’s the ‘bad guy’.
A lot of people said they were going to not watch the NBA playoffs this year ’cause they knew the Heat would ‘dominate’. Lies! Lies, damn it! Back in the ’80s, I’m sure people emitted the same dreck about Magic’s Lakers and Larry’s Celtics being in the Finals year after year. Still watched. Back in the ’90s, I’m sure people said the same about Jordan’s Bulls. Guess what, fuckers? You still watched. And you are watching now.
Everyone’s rootin’ for the ‘bad guys’ to go down.
LeBron was a hyperactive, never-won-a-damn-thing, sideline-theatrical 22-year-old kid in 2007. Now, he’s a 28-year-old grown man, mature, a veteran, played in two more Finals since then, won one, has won four most valuable player awards, and oh, why don’t I mention that he’s the best player in the world and on an echelon of his own. Take a step back, sit down, relax and enjoy watching greatness unfold in front of your eyes. Rid yourself of the anger of watching LeBron James take control of the league. This goes for my fellow Celtics fans, too, who are still seething with rage over LeBron dominating our boys.
The Spurs swept the Memphis Grizzles. And that’s how the West was won.
But to win the NBA Finals? Different team, different story, and the journey won’t be as easy.