By Danny Kohan
Last 4th of July, as the hot dogs grilled on the BBQ, college kids shotgunned beers, fireworks prepared for launch and Russell Westbrook enjoyed himself some cupcakes, NBA fans couldn’t shake the feeling that the upcoming season had already been decided.
An entertaining as Hell 2015–2016 season had just ended a few weeks earlier. Still, five months away from the start of the next season, it already felt like another 82 games and three rounds of playoff basketball would be nothing more than a waste of time.
What was the point? The outcome had already been decided. Couldn’t we just grab Adam Sandler’s “Click” remote and fast-forward this shit to the 2017 NBA Finals already? I mean, I know the whole point of that film was that human beings should value every moment that they’re lucky enough to get to experience on this planet (I get deep on Sandler movies) and that apparently there is great peril involved with fast-forwarding time, but seriously, come on already…lets get on with it.
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 4, 2016
That 4th of July tweet sealed our fate. Kevin Durant, star Thunder forward from the one team that had a chance to beat the Warriors out West, announced to the world that he would be signing with that very Warriors squad. The enormity of that decision and the overall impact it would have on the competitive balance of the NBA cannot be understated.
This was Larry Bird in his prime joining the Showtime Lakers after the 1986–1987 Finals. Magic, Worthy, Kareem…Bird? Unfair, right? Stupid even. Stupid unfair. It would be over from the jump. No one in the West could touch that team.
The Cavs, meanwhile, were already head over shoulders above every team in the East. They had just toyed with their Eastern Conference opponents for two consecutive playoffs and now were invigorated with a J.R. Smith-with-his-shirt-off level confidence, after defeating whom many had ‘dubbed’ one of the greatest teams ever in the Finals. They had become to their Conference, what Jordan on the Bad Boy Pistons would have been to the East in the mid-to-late 80’s (if Bird really had gone West).
The last known photograph of J.R. Smith with a shirt on. pic.twitter.com/Bacqy9mRpg
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2016
As much as NBA fans wanted to get invested in their teams, as much as they cheered and screamed and yearned for their games to matter, in the back of their mind, in the deepest recesses of their being, they knew. In the end, it would be the Cavs, and it would be the Warriors, meeting in the finals for the third straight time and there wasn’t a God damn thing anyone could do about it.
Yes, the talking head sports shows would try all year to keep fans engaged, to keep hope alive (you know the shows I’m talking about, the morning to mid-afternoon ones, where a black guy and a white guy argue in front of an attractive woman. Ya, those).
They would yell so much foolishness at each other, like: “The Warriors are vulnerable, they are too small! Durant’s injury Doomed them! They’re not deep enough, Watch out for the Rockets! Rockets got a shooters chance! Don’t Forget about the Spurs! Or The Cavs, the Cavs are in trouble! They can’t just flip the switch! Not with THAT defense! Look at LeBron’s minutes. He’s playing too many minutes!! My God the Minutes!!!” And on and on. For months, the back and forth, just to try and keep things interesting, just to pass the time until the inevitable arrived.
To me, all the drama of the season was meaningless. Sure, the Russell Westbrook triple doubles were fun and mad scientist Mike D’Antoni taking Steve Nash’s crippled body and successfully Frankensteining him into a ferociously lethal James Harden? Well, that was pretty cool too. Didn’t see that one coming.
Look, I admit it, I’m no better than any other fan, I knew where we were headed too, but I still watched. I still listened to podcasts and sports talk radio and read articles about why the Cavs and Warriors were no sure things. I tried to talk myself into other teams. I tried, I admit it I tried. I’m not ashamed.
In the end, I couldn’t help it. I love basketball. I’m like Metta World Peace that way. (It’s probably even the thing we have most in common.) Still, this season saddened me somewhat….it just never felt right. The insane statistics put up by Westbrook and Harden gave off a side show like vibe, almost like trailers for action movies coming out next summer. Something for the audience to sit through and get excited about before the feature attraction they all came to see actually began.
You know what, scratch that, this season was more like James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic than it was like movie trailers (stay with me). Look, Titanic was a long ass movie. Three hours of drama about I don’t know what, Leonardo Dicaprio trying to steal some guy’s woman or something. All that drama, all that stuff at the dinner table and the dancing and the “King of the World” talk…in the end, meaningless, it didn’t matter. As soon as we entered that theater, you and I both knew that ship was going down.
Eighty-two regular-season games and three playoff rounds is also a really long time. Some would say even longer than three hours. Why sit through it? When I was watching Titanic in the theater, I just wanted to skip to the carnage, the real action. I WANTED TO SEE THAT DAMN ICEBERG!
Now, I want to see Jack and Rose, I mean, the Cavs and the Warriors, in that freezing water, on that slab of wood and I want to see who’s going to survive. I don’t want to watch the rest of these playoff games. Please, just start The Finals already…let the carnage begin.
(And yes, the absurdity of Durant joining the already stacked Warriors places them in the Rose position to start off the series. Even though there’s plenty of room for two, the Warriors are splayed out taking up every inch of that slab, while Jack’s Cavs are left bobbing in the water…in a far less optimal position to survive).
Author: Danny Kohan