Ten Things to Watch for in the NBA Finals
I might make my money from putting pen to paper, but the truth is that my real talent lies in another area: mind-reading. Don’t believe me? Check this out: I can introduce an idea to your conscious mind and describe perfectly your unspoken response without even so much as having to see your reaction. All you have to do to take part is read the following phrase and take note of the first thing that pops into your brain. Here we go.
“Spurs-Cavs finals series”
Assuming English is your first language, I’ll put money on the fact that the word “boring” was your primary verbal reflex. Not impressed? I can see why. The problem is that we’d all agreed before the series tipped off that, even if we switched on the television, we weren’t going to have any fun watching San Antonio treat Cleveland like R. Kelly did that twelve-year-old girl.
Still, despite the distinct lack of appeal from a basketball perspective, this match-up has more than enough to keep hardcore hoop-heads and casual observers alike watching the final hardwood happenings of the season before a long summer of streetball or, for the masochists amongst us, the WNBA.
So, in order that you all might enjoy the series dubbed by many “The Worst Finals Ever” despite its ostensible crappiness, I present this list. (By the way, if you’re reading this, Mr. Stern, I expect a cut of the revenue when the TV ratings go up after this article. Oh, and you still owe me ten bucks for that Chinese take-out.)
Ten Things to Watch in the San Antonio Spurs-Cleveland Cavaliers Series Besides the Basketball Itself
1. Flopfest 2K7/Acting Class
I can tell already that I’m going to regret addressing this subject. You see, the mere mention of the phenomenon of flopping that has overcome the league is enough to have me pulling faces like Shawn Kemp at an alimony hearing. Having spent the majority of my childhood in England, the home of football, I’ve witnessed firsthand the effect of amateur dramatics on sport, and I can tell you that I’d rather take Sam Cassell’s sister on a date than see the same tactics used in basketball. Unfortunately, it’s starting to happen already, and some of the biggest culprits (read: bitches) are bringing their act to these finals. Let’s take a little look at one of the more obvious instances of the flop.
I’m all for gaining an advantage through gamesmanship, but this new trend of faking a spill every time an opponent passes by has got to go. Just to give you all a little direction, I’ll name names so that you can keep an eye out for the sort of softness I’ve described: Anderson Varejão, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry, Fabricio Oberto and, to a lesser extent, Tony Parker. Is it just a coincidence that four of the six cited are natives of countries where soccer is the national sport? You decide.
2. Tony Parker Hitting the Deck
I’ve walked across many an NBA floor but, regrettably, never taken the time to get down on hands and knees and identify what brand of polish is used to treat the surface. I can tell you this much, though: Whatever the substance, Tony Parker is addicted to it. Watch any Spurs game and barely thirty seconds will pass between the fleet-footed Frenchman’s forays to the floor, and I’ve a feeling it’s because he’s hooked on the fumes of the league’s choice of wood stain. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I can’t think of a better explanation as to why an elite athlete who otherwise demonstrates perfect poise and body control ends up on his face on nine out of every ten trips into the paint.
Even if we can’t pin a charge of substance abuse on Tony Pizzle, I’m pretty sure he could be imprisoned for the hate crime against my eyes that is the shot below. Sacré bleu, mec. I’d sue if I didn’t think they might pull the picture out in court.
3. Homoerotic Celebrations
I’m not hating, just saying.
4. Bruce “Happy Feet” Bowen
I’ve said all I need to on the matter, but that doesn’t mean that the topic is off the table. With The Bowen Collector guarding the league’s hottest property, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out the move I like to call “Steppin’ in the Name of Blood” and puts LeBron’s ankles at risk. Whether you think he just plays hard or is, in fact, dirtier than Vladimir Radmanovic’s beard, you can’t deny that he’s involved in more than his fair share of, uh, incidents. All it’s going to take is one of those for this series to become a little more exciting both on and off the court.
I had planned not to include this one for fear of lowering the tone of the piece, but at this point I don’t think that’s possible. (Just remember that these articles are free, kids.) If you wanted proof that money makes people act a damn fool when they hit the barbershop, you needn’t look further than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have on the roster more than their fair share of millionaires with six-dollar haircuts. Among the main offenders are part-time kitchen mop Anderson Varejão, LeBron James with his Red Sea-inspired ’do (that is, the waves part in the middle), and Drew Gooden, who evidently thought that a piece of transplanted pubic hair on the back of his neck would be a good look.
Since I’ve already called my journalistic integrity into question with the previous section, I may as well finish the job and remove any possibility I had of ever attaining respect by calling attention to the pre-game wardrobe choices of some of the players. Firstly, it’s notable how many flaunt the dress code on a nightly basis without repercussion, with the headphones worn in the pictures below being one obvious infraction. Secondly, it’s interesting to see that a Hummer-driving, inked-out twenty-two-year-old chooses to evoke the style of Carlton Banks with his country club sweater. Even at 6’8’’ and 245 pounds of muscle, LeBron would stand to suffer a wedgie or two at any high school in America if he rolled through in that get-up.
7. Mike Brown Getting Down
Every coach has their own techniques for letting the officials know what they’re feeling, but none are quite as entertaining as Mike Brown. While Jeff Van Grumpy throws tantrums and Bob Knight throws chairs, Brown gets down. Some of you will know what I mean already, but those who don’t will only have to watch a half of hoops at most before Coach Mike inadvertently breaks out a dance move while gesturing at a referee. I’m not sure why it is that his hissy fits inevitably end up making him look like a white dude at a rave, but it’s good watching regardless. Just wait for the next time his team is done wrong by an shitty whistle and you’ll be treated to the spectacle of a grown man moving his body like a teenager on ecstasy.
8. Tim Duncan Weeping and Reaping
I doubt there are the statistics out there to back this up, but I’d wager that Tim Duncan has the highest complaints-to-technicals ratio in the league. While there are others who approach the referees more frequently, they generally find that the rebuttal offered by the officials to their reasoned arguments is a whistle. What, then, is Timmy’s secret to successful negotiation with the zebras? Although he’s yet to reveal his trick, what’s evident is that it involves trailing the official to the table, hunching over and doing his best to look like a six-year-old who wakes up on Christmas morning to find that his parents converted to Scientology overnight and burned all the presents as an offering to Tom Cruise.
9. General Softness
What happened to the days when monsters inhabited the key and broken bones were a nightly occurrence? Where did the bad boys go? When did being a huge bitch on the court become acceptable? Dig deep in the archives and you’ll find footage of Charles Barkley returning to the game with a nose in two pieces or Isiah Thomas running the floor on an ankle held together by nothing but surgical tape and willpower. Now, however, players are put on the injured list for lactose intolerance, dislocated assholes, ice cream headaches and all other manner of ailments that wouldn’t make an old-school baller bat an eyelid.
While most manage to man up for events as big as the finals, that doesn’t stop them from channelling their inner pussy. Where formerly players would bounce back from hard fouls, now they stay down and look for sympathy. Hard knocks used to be brushed off, but now they merit a visit from the team physician with his bag of sprays, ointments and whatever else it is that they use to stop players from rolling and seizing as if they’d been shot by a taser. Although I am, officially, disgusted to see such unbecoming behaviour, I have to admit that I can’t help but laugh when I see muscle-bound men of 6’7’’ and up flailing on the floor like an Italian footballer in the penalty box.
10. General Goofiness
In fairness, these guys are paid to put a ball in one hole and prevent the like from being done on another, and therefore have no obligation to entertain the press and public with their witticisms. Still, it doesn’t make it any less of a laugh to watch them stumble awkwardly through the question-and-answer sessions they face after every game. If you find yourself with time to take in the player interviews, try a little game called “Spot the Cliché”, in which you and a friend compete to identify any and all generic responses given by the athletes. (I must note, however, that if you’re considering playing along, there’s a very good chance that you have no friends. You may also lose any existing acquaintances by asking them to join you.)
When the players aren’t spouting the same shit you’ve heard a thousand times before, they’re probably speaking with the sort of eloquence you’d expect from a fifth-grader giving a show-and-tell presentation on a can of paint. That’s not to say that they lack intelligence, though; rather, they’ve been dulled by the punishing impositions of Corporal Stern’s personality-reducing media orientation sessions. Whatever the cause of it, the result is that schmucks like myself can take in the interviews and pretend that we are, in at least one dimension, superior to the seven-figure-earning chick magnets up there on the podium.
– CYE ([email protected])