On Sunday, arguably the greatest player ever stepped in, hunkered down and defeated a worthy opponent, one whose run in recent months has faced heavy skepticism and much detraction. Though the favored prevailed, there was enough seeded doubt to keep things interesting. As it stood, however, the king remained the king, until further notice.
Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers won their sixteenth NBA championship and seventeenth as a franchise since 1946, tying the Boston Celtics for the most of any franchise, with LeBron James claiming his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP. If he isn’t already there, Anthony Davis is very nearly at a point where his Hall of Fame candidacy is ensured at 27. Against the tapestry of a global pandemic and election year tensions stateside, the NBA committed to the bubble, and the Lakers committed to defense in Game 6. Sometimes, it seems, lockdowns work.
As with most days now, I spent a large part of Tuesday trying to ignore or actively avoid anything that would cause a spike in anxiety. Largely, that meant castigating my friends for bothering to remind me that a presidential debate was even happening, along with the other news items that flash before us and are gone just as quickly, like a car daringly going twice the speed limit.
In the midst of changing lightbulbs and scrolling Netflix came the rumors, and then the leak, and then, finally, Wednesday morning, the cruel confirmation: the New York Rangers have bought out the franchise’s talisman of this millennium, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Long before it was the juice that fueled your disappointing Zoom meetings, coffee was a delight of the Arabian Peninsula. It might delight people to know that the word “coffee” is itself derived from a word originally given to a type of wine, at least in many common interpretations; what somebody saw in both was appetite suppression. Fair enough.
It might be curious, then, to learn that the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler started selling homespun coffee in the NBA bubble under the moniker Big Face Coffee. For $20 a pop, any resident of the bubble could have a taste, courtesy of a five-time NBA All-Star. Butler is one of the most notoriously hard workers in the league, and, as such, his appetite has never come into question. On Sunday night, and with a stupendous amount of help from Bam Adebayo – who, it’s worth noting, hates Butler’s pricing strategy – and company, he pushed the Miami Heat into the NBA Finals, ready to stand up to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
And with a yawn and an eye rub and a ruffling struggle to move the sheets, I roused myself and stumbled to my computer, woke it, woke myself, focused my eyes and found my usual place in the dim light and waited for Maverick Viñales to show once more that
To anyone walking in on the scene, it’d look like I was about to throw up my last meal and then some, but all I’m doing here is clipping my fingernails. I can hardly believe it, I think to myself (or maybe said aloud, I don’t remember and annoyance clouds the memory). I can hardly believe it because I feel like I just fucking did this like two weeks ago. Unlike hair clippers, I can trust myself to trim my nails — but like a jailed scrivener, I’d really prefer not to.
Ever meet someone who’s really into a specific kind of furniture? I don’t mean the workaday influencer wannabe with a midcentury modern fetish or your friend who parrots pages from the latest Dwell, I’m talking lifers who while away hours trading Eames tables on eBay or people who can point out the choicest character lines of a Sauder desk drawer from across a crowded room. You know they’re out there somewhere, of course, but until you meet one, it might be difficult to grasp just how far down this (ultimately very practical) rabbit hole it’s possible to go.
I thought I knew tables and chairs pretty well. I’ve sat in plenty of different office chairs and even voted on one as part of a company initiative (my pick did not prevail). I’ve soaked up nuances simply by living with them. But I was wrong. I do not know tables and chairs. Scott does.
At some point, what you are becoming and who you are meet. Sometimes you decide the time and place of that meeting; most often, you do not. Rarely is it easy, a Craigslist handoff that satisfies both parties over a diner coffee at some halfway point. Someone is usually coming away sour. Given that who you are now, in the present, has the benefit of hindsight, it seems reasonably safe to say that who you are looks at who you were and wonders how, exactly, you are standing here, right now, like this.
Who is Paul George, now? I can tell you – anybody who watched the NBA at the beginning of the last decade can tell you – who Paul George was in 2014, which was a would-be dominant force meant to supplement the LeBron-stopping powers of Roy Hibbert and the rest of his merry band in Indiana.
Following Tuesday night’s Game 7 loss against the Denver Nuggets, however, in a series George’s current team, the Los Angeles Clippers, many observers heavily favored to win and one in which those very Clippers were up 3-1, the question becomes much more hazy: who is Paul George, and what is he going to be in terms of championship contention in the forthcoming NBA?
On Tuesday night, we received the first-ever NBA Game 7 that occurred in the month of September. The series had been a showcase for two of the league’s premier young teams, the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, and specifically for those teams’ respective young guards, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell.
Two teams, of the same juggernaut division in the same juggernaut conference, sporting a guard apiece of the modern vintage, but with a distinctly timeless flair: they are Murray and Mitchell, players who would’ve been wildly successful in any era of the NBA but are coming into their own now, in an exceedingly strange 2020. This first round series, an instant and all-time classic, certainly had the flavor of, if not necessarily “kingmaking,” then a long-awaited debutant ball. Each of them revealed parts of themselves and their respective games that are almost certain to shock and amaze for years to come.
So, as with everything showing any kind of promise under the microscope of popular opinion, we ask: Where do they go now?
At the bottom is us. We tune in, log on, turn up, shout out. More often than not, we log on and turn up and shout out at each other; it’s what we do now, how we come to make our voices known. Sometimes it’s fun, some (very rare) times it’s educational, but mostly it’s just a pressure release valve we unwind to make sense of our senses, to craft the inevitable human flaw of narrative for ourselves, to try and understand why we feel the way we do. It’s hard work, living. But you, me, we all go on doing it anyway, tuning in because sports are a relief from the rest of our embattered lives and because logging on, turning up, shouting out at what we can’t control is, in its own way, a liberation we’re only inching toward. For now.
It wasn’t an unusual meeting in that place. If you couldn’t find a conference room either because they were all booked or because the stupid names gave nothing away about which direction or floor you needed to go and it’d be too much of a hassle to try finding it, you squeezed onto one of the communal couches by the kitchen nearest you and had your meeting there, out in the open, often alongside other, equally self-important meetings. It’s strange to feel as if you have too many conference rooms and too few people, yet the rooms are never free and the people are disappearing.