Everyone who watches and writes about the NBA is still stuck on the old upward-trajectory championship arc, narratively enslaved by Michael Jordan as always; teams are supposed to fail for a couple of years and then incrementally move forward until finally breaking through with a title. (Like Jordan’s struggles with the Pistons before finally beating them, then beginning the run of titles — basically, treating the years like a video game that gets progressively more difficult.) It doesn’t really work like this anymore, though. Dallas won last year after years of doing nothing in the playoffs, the Lakers were a series of fits and stops, and the Celtics were the culmination of a one-year project. And now, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who beat the San Antonio Spurs last night to advance to the NBA Finals, have upended the notion again. The young Thunder, especially when they were down 2-0, were supposed to fall short before breaking through next year. But their Big Three — built organically, the “right” way — of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden didn’t want to wait, and now they’ve blitzed to the Finals by winning four straight against a team that had just won twenty in a row. They’ll wait to see what happens in the Eastern Conference (Game 6 tonight) and will have home-court advantage in the NBA Finals. This is something we should probably all start getting used to.
That ball must be heavy.