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On the NBA: Moral Victories

Yes, we believe in these—some of us do, anyway. In all likelihood, your propensity to dub a loss as a victory in the “moral” department is greatly exacerbated by your emotional proximity to the team of discussion. When we put our pride in other men and they’ve handled it wrong, this distinction gives is something literary, something weighty-but-not-quantifiable to make peace with in face of the oppressive Win-Loss binary, staring us down and telling us No.

But what of Moral Losing (alternately known as Immoral Winning)—victories undeserved, in which said binary failed the team’s fans by not ensuring a lesson would be learned from the match, which the hometown Losers now get to pat themselves on the back about, riding the floss-thin wire of their fateful escape?

Who’s doing what this season, in terms of these metrics; known heretofore as MV% and ML%?

Moral Victory Standouts

When compiling MV’s, it behooves a team to have a lot of losses; losses, more often, are MV’s than regular old V’s are. There is more to learn in losing, there is edifice in the dirt of falling. This, anyway, is what we want to believe. One of the many ways Sport is made into perhaps faulty parable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, above .500 only one month this season, have quite the strong sense of this affliction within their fanbase. The tough-lucked urban heart of Ohio is known, above all, as the place that LeBron left and Elway ran his famous comeback drives against. If there isn’t learning in losing, there isn’t a reason to live in Cleveland and let your blood pump for games.

Thankfully for this year’s squad is jammed with enough talent to believe that the Cavs’ stumbling may collect into greater wisdom—sharpened knives for the court, made to win games with more consistent turnover control, ball movement and defensive discipline. Dion Waiters’ emergence toward the end of this season may just contain enough illustration for Irving and coach Mike Brown to engineer the way toward a two-headed starry monster. LeBron isn’t coming back, but this is losing isn’t for nothing. There’s a crescendo on its way.

One can say the same for the New Orleans Pelicans, who lose in the wolves’ den of the West while putting Anthony Davis through telling fiery trials. Davis is becoming one of the top beasts of the game, and his front office can’t be too stupid to notice. The process of mixing and matching pieces that may fit around him in a middling market with no prestige has begun, and Pellicans fans should hope that they’re frought with education. In the meantime: there is perhaps no richer form of losing than doing it while watching an albatross of talent take flight for you. MV% soars.

Moral Loss Standouts

Drunk on the rum of gunning, this year’s Portland Trail Blazers will be a reference point for bad sample shapes and sizes for years more to come. These guys lit fans on fire with fool’s gold made on the back of hot three-point shooting and late game execution; neither of which can proceed with the sort of exponential promise of the Blazers’ 22-4 start to the season. When both departments unshockingly regressed for Portland, they were left relatively unequipped to keep pace. The Blazers are 5-9 through the heated thresher of March, and looking the part of playoff patsy in April. Too much good luck can breed false impressions, lazy minds, and staggering ML%.

There are no other standouts in this category. Growth lies more in failure than success; success is the thing, the endpoint all that wrangling in the dirt was meant to matter toward. Rare is the circumstance in which this destination is faulty or illusory, but the Blazers have found it. They’ve become losers in the trickiest of senses, catapulting themselves into a stadium they’re unfit for with their strange fortune.

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