Yes, yes. We know all about your compelling storylines, Mr. NBA-Writer-Guy. This has all the makings of an historic matchup, just as last year’s was. A juicy rematch, classic revenge plot and up to nine Hall-of-Famer players (and coaches) between the two teams?
We get it. The series will be analyzed at length, the subplots will be looked at from every angle and interviews with players will be asked predictable questions again and again. If you want that kind of quality, investigative reporting, go read The National Inquirer. Instead you’re here and you’re looking for a slightly different perspective on the NBA Finals.
You’re in luck, my friend. Here are my four hidden storylines to the NBA Finals.
Wade vs. Ginobili – GO ‘MERICA!
The two guards don’t like each other. There, I said it. I have no proof but I think I’m right. Over the years, Wade’s always been a little testy (many would say downright dirty) but his battles with Ginobili have had a extra chippiness to them. This probably dates back to 2004, when Wade’s U.S. Olympic team lost to Ginobili’s Argentina squad. In reality, both players are similar, mixing cheating veteran savvy, to go with a decent jumpshot, eroding athleticism and some clutch performances. But who cares? Wade’s our guy and we’ve got stand with him! Plus, the Spurs field an incredible mix of international players aside from Ginobili. Nine of their 12 players were born outside the United States, as pointed out by Grantland’s Kirk Goldberry. Rooting for the Spurs isn’t just wrong…it’s downright un-American.
Andersen vs. Bonner – The Battle For Relevance
(This description should be narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough, star of “Jurassic Park” and BBC’s “Nature” series) Once flourishing across the basketball landscape, this creature came in varying shapes and sizes. Larger ones were awkward and imbalanced, smaller ones dribbled with skills they learned in the concrete jungle; all of them wearing the traditionally short leggings that mark their territory. As more athletic players from across the world discovered the joys of basketball, this vibrant species now finds itself in obvious decline. There is simply no denying that the North American Caucasian is disappearing from the NBA.
Enter Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Matt “Red Rocket” Bonner. While they play with totally different styles, they give hope to every goofy, untalented pale kid from Alabama to Toronto (not really). With rare exceptions (namely Kevin Love and…?), Andersen and Bonner represent the last of a dying breed. But with Birdman attacking the rim and the Rocket launching 3-pointers, there’s still a chance that you can contribute to a championship team, even as you face certain extinction.
James vs. Ginobili – A Hairy Situation
The most undervalued storyline in the Finals – HAIR! O.K. that may be a bit of an exaggeration but it’s sure to be a factor (probably not). Ginobili’s trademark bald patch will be prominently on display as will James’ increasingly-larger headband to mask a hairline that’s receding faster than a Boris Diaw sprint to the buffet line.
Manu has made no effort to hide this sign of his aging and James’ use of the headband has been a trademark since high school. But as males represent a large part of the international viewing audience, it’s a sure bet someone will watch these two players and learn to accept their own fading follicles. After all, sometimes you’ve just gotta help a bald brother out…
Spo vs. Pop – Admiration Leads to Drunkenness
There’s no denying the mutual respect these coaches have for each other. Popovich, usually sparse with words, has spoken highly of Spoelstra who has, in turn, referred to Pop as one of the all-time greats. And…it’s getting a little tiresome. Whatever happened to coaches hating each other? What happened to undermining each other publicly? Ugh. Today’s feel-good NBA…it’s dull-tastic.
So, in the likely event that both coaches will wax glowingly over each other during post-game press conferences, you’ve gotta find a way to make it interesting and that means a drinking game of some kind (I don’t make the rules, people…I just follow them blindly whenever I want). Here are the steps:
1. Grab your favorite bottle of something and a shot glass
2. Spread a tarp around your seating area (just in case)
3. Watch the presser following the game
4. Listen out for the following buzzwords when Spoelstra speaks; “process”, “identity”, “defensive presence”. Take a shot every time he uses these words.
5. If you’re still conscious following Spo’s press conference, listen to Popovich speak. Take a shot for every word he uses. You’ll be fine.
And there you have it! Look, there’ll be plenty of different storylines taking place during the Finals. It’s sure to be an exciting matchup of two great teams. But sometimes you gotta find a little dirt between the polished veneer of consistent excellence. Find your identity and appreciate the process. And, in between shots, look for these underlying battles and enjoy the game.