May 3, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) motions to the crowd during game three in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Thunder defeated the Mavericks 95-79. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
I began writing about the Thunder two seasons ago in the fall of 2010. I wanted to give NBA blogging a try and so on a whim I chose the Thunder. In reflecting about this impending playoff series, I thought back to one of the very first posts I ever wrote on my own site, which was a few months before I joined WTLC. This is that post which, apart from my dedication to following the Thunder, reminds me of the bigger picture involved as well and how I personally feel about this match-up.
I have been a fan of the NBA since 1986. From that point until present day, I have always had a vested interest in particular teams. This interest may be because I was guilted into choosing a favorite team, it may be because I was swept up in stylish silhouetted mania like millions of other LegionAirs, and it may be because certain boyhood emotional ties keep me aligned with future potential Knickerbockers. Needless to say (and yet I say it) the emotional tie was always instrumental. However, as I have aged like vinegar, I have experienced loss of innocence yet an appreciation for the whole. It is no longer merely about 63 point explosions in losing causes that leave you aching for days after the fact. It is also about everything that goes into getting you to that point where a loss actually matters.
I confess - I am not an organic Thunder fan. I have never lived in Seattle, I did not root for the Sonics during their heyday in the 90′s (that was left to my brother and his ridiculously oversized poofy jacket), and I felt no bitterness or anxiety when the Seattle ownership did what it did to its fan base and allowed the team to leave. Likewise, I feel no kinship to the City of Oklahoma, I have never rooted for any of the individuals on the team in college or in the pros, and I know precious little about anything that could even begin to be considered "insightful."
Which is not to say that I don't care. I do care. Deeply, I do. The question is, why?
And why would I start a blog analyzing a team in which I have so little current vested interest? I think, at the moment, it is because like the Russian crowd in Rocky IV, anyone can change. In 1985-86, I became a huge Celtics fan. During the first round of their playoffs that year, a skinny kid wearing a red uniform with an ugly font captured my imagination. He did not win the day, but he won my 10 year old heart. I became vested in his career and my room became a shrine.
In a similar way, as I was enjoying last year's NBA playoffs, I observed a young upstart team with a burgeoning superstar challenge the defending champions. This young team did not play well. In fact, they lost their first two games of the series by competitive margins. Now down 0-2 and with their leader on down not playing well, they seemed to decide as a team that, no matter how poorly they happened to be playing at the moment, they would continue to grind through the series convinced that they could make enough plays to win.
The young team took games 3 and 4 before dropping game 5. Facing elimination in Game 6, they refused to succumb and battled to the very end. They lost by the slimmest of margins. But in their ashes, I could see something rise. Their lead dog had played poorly - he had turned in one of the worst shooting performances in playoff history (21.7%). They committed turnovers at inopportune times, and they forced ill advised shots when it mattered most. And yet...and yet...there they were, right until the end when the Spaniard tipped in a missed shot to end the series.
How can this be? How could a team so statistically inept still have a shot to win in the end? There was a will there, in their huddles, in their walk, and in their 21 year old leader, even though he did not play like the best player on the court that series. They believed and they knew that there were still things that they could do that could turn the series in their favor. And I think that, to me, is one of the most admirable things. It is the stuff of which warrior poets are made. It is, to paraphrase Eastwood, the arrogance to think that even though there are only two bullets left in the chamber, that the gun slinger still believes he has the right of how he sees fit to use them to defeat his antagonist. I am inspired by that, and I would like to see the story arc of what happens after this particular loss. Most of the time, the story ends poorly ( See the '97 Rockets and the '01 Bucks for evidence of this common denouement). Sometimes though, it ends differently. And we get to see it and then remember it.
I really want to see a team like this, have an ending like that. That's why I'm starting this blog.
I also hate the Lakers.