Why We Come Back to Play

There is nothing better for a basketball player than to be in the middle of a comeback.  The odds stacked against you, out skilled, too tired, beat up and facing inevitable defeat.  That’s when it begins, the comeback.  The catalyst, a hard foul, gloating from your opponent or simply a teammate who refuses to quit or let you quit, turns into the defensive play that gets the rock back and transitions into a made shot.  You are so far down that the opposing team couldn’t really care less; they perceive it as a fluke and calmly look to dispatch their seemingly inferior opposition.  A careless, ill advised shot as nonchalant as their overall effort has become, is converted to a quick rebound and outlet, and your team is two points closer.  The point differential that was once seemingly insurmountable is within your reach, energizing you further.  It’s now too late.  Your opponent has relaxed too much to recover.  The momentum has shifted and they are powerless to ward off your teams surge of defiance to simply walk off in defeat.  Helpless and vulnerable they suddenly become inept in the basic functions of basketball play.  With nerves shot and tension building they are overwhelmed by your sheer energy and will, now one bad play leading to another. It’s tied.  The couple of baskets they needed for their own victory is now at your fingertips and miles from their grasp.  As suddenly as it had begun, it is over.  Game.  Then come the “good-game” hand slaps and affectionate, yet patronizing, sportsmanship toward your shell-shocked opponents.  Go get some water, next is waiting.

Miami’s comeback began last year with the unforgettable comeback of their challenger, the Dallas Mavericks.  Miami was in cruise control, overwhelming their adversaries with unapologetic might and suddenly, it was over.  Enter the critics. Miami would be kicked while down, backed into a corner with only a teammate to cling to for reassurance that it wasn’t over.  Next season had begun and this time would be different.  Something had been forged in that fire of adversity.  These Heat players would go from teammates to brothers and defy the will of media and fans alike watching to see them fail.  After their opponent the Oklahoma City Thunder connected the first blow, it would be the Miami Heat that would take a page from the script of their past and come with a counter that the Thunder couldn’t have seen coming.  Though they had only lost by a minimal margin in games 2, 3, and 4 they might as well had lost by a mile.  They couldn’t see that they had been lulled to sleep by yet another underdog in the midst of their comeback.  As quickly as it had begun, full of excitement and fireworks, it was over.  Game. Oklahoma left stunned.  Miami, fulfilled. 

This is why we love this game.  Why we’ll watch and continue to play ‘till the wheels fall off.  In life we always seem to be in the game, stunned from blindsided failure or fulfilled from victory that comes from the pains of defeat well learned.  So if we indeed see the Thunder back in the finals, watch closely and see if you can see it.  Catch a glimpse of the boys coming back out to play, seeking to find their own fulfillment in the midst of another comeback.

  The rock never stops.Image

We Are Sparta!

Somehow when I look at this Oklahoma City Thunder team I can’t help but think of the epic action film 300.  Yes, the Thunder have been routed and flanked.  James Harden’s no-show in the finals has been as significant as the hunchbacks betrayal of King Lionidas and his 300 men.  There is something else when I look into the promising eyes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that tells me like the Lionidas that they will not simply vanish into the night and go down without a fight, this team is determined to meet them in battle nonetheless and seek out their glorious death on the hardwood with blood, sweat and tears.

Unlike the epic 300, Oklahoma will have a tomorrow when this is all said and done.  These kids (the core of Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka are all under 23 years of age) will have battle scars well earned and an experience that should leave the league shuddering in their wake next season.  With a seemingly endless amount of growth each young member has the ability to do, one can almost be assured that they will coming into next season. 

Now, call me an optimist but there is something different about this group of guys than any other team I have seen before.  They simply do not know how to quit.  Every loss only seems to make them that much more determined to conquer the next.  Almost like my buddy Bruce Banner aka the Incredible Hulk, hitting him only makes him angrier and subsequently stronger.  My last thought, that I have retained after each NBA Finals game defeat of the Thunder by the Miami Heat is if this Thunder team ever figures out how to beat this Miami team in this series they have the ability to win three in a row. I still hold fast to that sentiment. 

So I will be glued to the television at work tomorrow (working at 24HourFitness has its perks) as millions of other fans will be doing: watching a young team too foolhardy to realize that they are down for the count and can’t get up.  We’ll watch them get back to their feet unaware that they are in for certain defeat. We’ll see them get back in their stance and position to take one more swing.  Miami brace and pray they don’t connect before the fat lady sings.