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On the NBA: Let’s make playoff love, not war

The playoffs show us something curious: the difference between the ideal and the practical. A “bad matchup” suggests, to me, not some rare quirk of the game or misnomer, but that we evaluate players with too much lack of the particular. When I hear X is better than Y, but Y is just a bad matchup for X, I think: You’re measuring incorrectly.

Better, worse… who cares? Rankology and hierarchy be damned. We should look at the pantheons of players and teams like a periodic table, not a one-way list. Some mix well, others don’t—the goal, as a viewer and lover of the game each season, is not necessarily to determine who is best. Everyone loves that base bit of pride, surely—stick your finger up in the air with Aloe Blacc on in your Beats, I dare you to do it without swelling with self-worth at the thought of war won through your surrogate ballers—but the strange and varied permutations of humanity-by-way-of-athletes is what truly beats our hearts.

Is Kevin Durant better than Tony Allen? Don’t even answer the question. Don’t consider it. Just arrest yourself to the captivating swirls of limbs they create. Like a mongoose and a snake, theirs is a classic battle we’re just lucky to watch. The cacophony of all-caps pseudo-words and exclamation points populating my Twitter timeline as they do their dynamic dance is all I want. Call me a sap for saying it, but it’s Amazement I seek.

Contests said to settle who’s the best are mostly all rhetorical, anyway. Such a thing cannot be firmly decided upon; everyone’s got their kryptonite and easy victims alike. Professional sports are a dramaturgical display of what the human body and spirit are capable of—they aren’t really war, you know. Much as we may put our impulses to imperialize into the games (and surely I do; I’ve been been spitting Bulls blood at anyone who will inch near me lately) they’re ultimately more worth living through as the arena of our imagination. We can’t fly, but we’ll watch these men try. We’ll see who can stop them, who can halt their flounce toward infinity. What a sight!

So forgive me if I step on your team’s toes in the defense of my own. I’m just having trouble with my concepts. I only really came here because I thought it was the airport which humans burst forth from, and the dream of that makes me feel so much that I’ve reduced myself into something pointed and angry. I’ve fallen into the silliness of letting geography dictate how I talk about all this. I’ll try not to do that anymore, and only watch the lift-off in delight.

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  • thejohnnygold says 4 months ago

    I think this article belongs here--and is a good read. I have been anti-Russell Westbrook for most of his career; however, somewhere between his last return from surgery and last nights evisceration of the Spurs I have grown to appreciate his game. I don't think anyone has put it in better words than GRANTLAND.

    My favorite part:

    The quintessential Russell Westbrook play is to careen headlong into a thicket of bad ideas and, armored by the swaggering unconcern generated by a nuclear-level athleticism, come out the other side with something really f***ing awesome. He blocks shots so as to observe their arcing flights into various sections of the lower bowl. He perceives multiple rim-shielding defenders the way a skateboarder might see a handrail and a set of stairs, stationary objects to be exploited for style points. He pulls up for irresponsible early-clock 30-foot napalm bombs because to hit one would be rad. He is the basketball version of parkour, a cost-benefit analysis that says doing five amazing things is worth doing 2.5 stupid ones.

    Love him or hate him; one thing is certain. He is fun to watch.

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