We are now entering roughly month 14 of the NBA playoffs, and have arrived at last to the series we've all been waiting for: the NBA Finals. This year's finals should be a heavily watched event as it pits the defending champion Miami Heat against the San Antonio Spurs, one of the most respected franchises in league history.
Sports fans are getting excited. In fact, NBA Commissioner David Stern is so excited, he's paying the mafia twice as much hush money to stay quiet about fixing games. (Just kidding.) But on a serious note, David Stern is so excited he's engraving the Heat's championship rings himself. (Only kidding!)
Now, if no aspect of the previous two paragraphs sounded remotely interesting to you, there's a good chance that watching modern hoop ball is not among your hobbies. Even so, there is a chance that you might be put in a situation in the next couple of weeks in which you'll have to watch one of the games of the NBA Finals -- the horror! So here's a quick guide that will hopefully improve the viewing experience for the not-so-much-sports-inclined.
Which Team to Root For?
Are you able to go through an entire tube of hair gel in a few minutes?
Do you currently own an Ed Hardy shirt that you dry clean on a weekly basis?
Did you root for 'Man' in the movie Bambi?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are an excellent example of a prototypical Miami Heat fan.
If none of the above examples is relatable to you, then we'd recommend pulling for the Spurs.
People to Know Other Than LeBron James (Please Tell Me You've Heard of LeBron James)
The best part about this series is that there are plenty of interesting and identifiable personalities involved that should make the games interesting, even if they're not close.
Since this is a basic guide, we probably should include a short description of the greatest athlete of our generation. So here are some quick LeBron James SparkNotes.
- LeBron James is very good. He was the Most Valuable Player award this year and is unanimously considered the best player in the NBA.
- A lot of people hated him because in 2010 he ditched the Cleveland Cavaliers to come play in the Miami Heat. He announced the move during a nationally televised ceremony in Ohio called "The Decision" which, come to think about it, became known as basically the NBA's version of "The Red Wedding" from Game of Thrones ("Pat Riley sends his regards").
- People don't hate LeBron James as much anymore because it's become obvious that the other players on his team are either injured or mediocre -- and in many case, both -- and thus he is basically the sole reason that the Heat have been so successful this season.
- He always wears a headband, which hides his receding hairline -- something we relate to and respect.
- He's a good passer. A great passer, in fact (Magic Johnson even said so). And you might say, "But of course he is, passing is an essential skill for any player in a team sport." My friend, you really haven't been watching the NBA in the last two decades, have you?
Known as LeBron James' main sidekicks, if the Heat end up losing this series, there's a very good chance that these two will be blamed.
On a related note, you should know that people enjoy making fun of Chris Bosh for no reason in particular. If you're looking for a figure to arbitrarily hate -- which is basically what being a fan of sports fan is all about -- he's a good person to start with:
Tim Duncan is the leader of the Spurs and is widely considered one of best and most respected players in the NBA (also, the quietest). Off the court, he's sort of an enigma. Duncan says he loves Renaissance fairs and the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. He once said he was "just a taller, slightly less hyperactive version of the Damon character" in Good Will Hunting. So yeah, just your average celebrity athlete.
Oh also, there's an 8 or 9 percent chance that Tim Duncan is an alien inhabiting a human's body. Think K-Pax. It may not be likely, but there is a palpable chance.
Exhibit A: Tim Duncan discovers he has arms:
Tim Duncan is super confused by Gatorade:
But once again, let me re-iterate that there is a very small, only roughly 10 or 11 percent chance (it went up slightly since we re-watched this Gatorade clip), that Tim Duncan is in fact a Martian sent to infiltrate the NBA and (very) quietly steal the powers of capable players so that they may be infused into alien bodies, which will in turn entertain the masses at an amusement park in another universe.
And Bill Murray will have a cameo.
Erik Spoelstra is the coach of the Heat. To a non-NBA fan, the most notable thing about him is that he looks exactly like actor and comedian John Leguizamo.
Are we wrong here?
Spoelstra began coaching the team in 2008, and his first two seasons in the league were largely mediocre. Then in 2010, miraculously, the Heat became very good and have now made it to the NBA Finals three seasons in a row. This is probably because Spoelstra altered his coaching tactics and made his team believe in the system.
Lol! Just kidding, it's because they suddenly had two future Hall of Famers on their team and a bunch of money to trade for a supporting cast, including the best three-point shooter in NBA history (Ray Allen).
In conclusion, Erik Spoelstra is completely inconsequential to the final result of the series.
Pretty much the complete opposite of Erik Spoelstra in every respect and quite possibly the long lost brother of the late actor Pete Postlethwaite.
Things You Can Say to Sound Like You Know What You're Talking About
Sports fact: Every conversation at a sports bar is legally required to include vigorous comparisons of LeBron James to Michael Jordan. You didn't hear? It's in the Constitution, under the little known 28th Amendment, passed into law in roughly 2005, despite a challenge from Justice Scalia and Larry Bird.
Sure, the debate is useless because it lacks context, the two players don't even really play the same position, basketball is constantly changing, and the sands of time obscure frail human memory, but this the law. We must blindly respect it.
The good thing, for your purposes, is that it's very easy to become involved in this conversation and offer broad and far-reaching points without knowing what you're talking about. (Hell, if you can do this on a regular basis, people will start calling you a "Skip Bayless.")
Step 1: The impossible rhetorical: A trick one of our non-sports-inclined friends would use when involved in conversations about basketball with his work colleagues was to wait for one of them to bring up LeBron James and then casually say, "Yes, but is he better than Michael Jordan?" You've planted the seed -- just sit back and watch the fireworks.
2. Blanket statements: There are easy blanket statements you can use for either side of the argument. For example, if the person is pro-Jordan you can take the other side of the argument by saying:
"Yes, but Jordan had Pippen all those years." (Pause and wait for them to say "But LeBron has Dwyane Wade!" which, they definitely will, then respond, "You're seriously comparing Dwyane Wade to Scottie Pippen?")
And rabble rabble rabble.
3. Diversionary tactics: When in doubt, send the conversation down the basketball rabbit hole. For instance, if someone is pro-LeBron, just calmly respond: "It's all about the rings."
This is a statement that doesn't really mean anything but will probably result in another 30 minute sub-debate between NBA fans. Don't be surprised if people get embroiled in a sub-sub debate about whether Shaq or Kobe needed the other guy more. If someone mentions Pat Riley, just make a comment about hair gel.
4. Gross hypotheticals: Like this one: "Are the Spurs the best dynasty of the 2000s?"
Who knows, but this is another rhetorical question that will likely result in hours and possibly days of debate.
5. Things you can say whenever you want that will just be accepted: Not to be confused with blanket statements, which are meant to be used during games, these phrases are more universal maxims that can be said at really any time during your day-to-day life and will be accepted without much protest:
"Lebron James is unstoppable!"
"The Spurs are so boring."
"I f---ing hate the Heat! Seriously, they're the worst thing ever. Their very existence is offensive to me and serves as metaphor for the larger greed and selfishness whose strangle-grip on the moral fabric of our society threatens to erode our very capacity for empathy for our neighbor."
Or something like that.