The Mercy Rule

Welcome to the NBA Finals

By David Roth

This NBA season was delayed by a lockout. That's a nice way of saying “it turned into a fixed tug of war between tall guys and some of America's pissiest and worst rich people." As a result, the entire season was more or less defined by bad vibes and it suffered the sort of gnarly injuries that happen when bodies are asked to play three games of NBA basketball in four nights. This meant numerous cases of sudden knee-backwardness, abrupt dissolutions of various important ligaments, and other assorted breakdowns. It was a strange season, in short, but it gave way to a surprising, fascinating, and just-unexpected-enough postseason. We covered the basics of the NBA Playoffs fairly recently, but with the NBA Finals tipping off on Tuesday this seems as good a time as any to get fans and non-fans up to speed with what will be at stake when the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder do battle to determine which team will be able to call itself Champions of That One Year When the Season Started at Christmas Because the Leatherette Buttsteak Owner of the Suns Wanted to Prove Some Dim Dittohead Point About Unions or Whatever.

The Miami Heat! I hate those guys! Right?
I don't know, maybe? They're not necessarily likable to anyone who didn't listen to Watch the Throne and instantly be all, “That is so true, that is so my life. New watch alert, I KNOW!” They're really good and really self-obsessed and their stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have a hilarious tendency to wear fancy eyeglass frames with either clear lenses or no lenses in them. James and Wade are bold and ridiculous enough to give interviews about how their wearing $500 eyeglasses as bro-accessories (broccesories?) has some sort of coded "it's cool to be smart" message. Basically, if you want Kanye West to win the NBA championship and then dedicate the title to his mostly imaginary haters who thought it would never happen and then cry about it and then buy a new, slightly larger private plane and fill it with cocaine and models and then pilot it into John Galliano's pool and then talk about how no one understands how or why he crashes planes into pools because they don't get him and could never be him because they're not built for that shit, then you should cheer for the Heat.

Wow, OK. So I'm pulling for the Thunder?
The short answer is yes, and the long answer is “yes, but it's complicated because they are very much in every possible way a professional sports team from Oklahoma City, with all the crass petro-douchery and weirdly aggro passive aggression that entails.” But from a basketball perspective, they've got some really great players, but also depend on an assortment of misfits and specialists to do a lot of important things. If the Heat feel, as a team, like two Kanyes berating a bunch of nervous personal assistants for mispronouncing various luxury brands, the Thunder feel, look, and work like a basketball team—various players of different levels of talent happily doing their respective things in pursuit of a common goal. There's something inspiring about it.

Neat. But the basketball perspective is not what I'm interested in. What is up with LeBron James's tiny blank eyes? Is he some sort of super-buff stuffed animal prototype?
That is a good question. We will update you with any comments from Gund if and when we hear anything on the eyeball issue. But for all the unintentionally comic things about LeBron, from his Rudy Giuliani hairline to his prickly-prissy grandiosity, the biggest bummer about the dude is that he is basically the best basketball player we've seen in a generation, and is also a weepy, thwarted doofus who manages to make being great at a super-exciting sport look as bleak as a tax season gig at H.R. Block.

There has, quite simply, never been a player who can do all the things LeBron James can do and who is also as outlandishly big and strong as he is. He is 6'8” and 250 pounds. There is, arguably, no one in the NBA—at any size—who is faster or stronger than LeBron. But because he does not and has not ever—and will not and maybe cannot ever—play within an actual basketball system, LeBron is more crummy Pink Floyd laser-light show than he is the work of basketball art he could be. For all the eruptions of virtuosity, he is fully and sourly outside of any actual basketball flow most of the time. Even when he's great.

LeBron was brilliant and dominant in the last series, on both ends of the floor, but there was very little of the collaborative, improvisatory giddiness that typically makes watching that kind of dominance awesome. Over the pivotal last two games of Miami's Eastern Conference championship win against the Boston Celtics, LeBron managed to put up mindbending statistics and pretty much singlehandedly won important games while delivering an experience that was somehow less entertaining than one of those Jean-Claude Van Damme fight scenes in which he throws roundhouse kicks at a dozen dudes, one at a time, while the future victims wait patiently in kick-punch position. Nothing so dazzling should be that boring.

So, should I call LeBron Timecop?
No, don't do that.

Like for the Van Damme thing you said. “Timecop James.”
Does that even sound good to you?

Not really.

Previously - The Oklahoma Problem

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