“You come at the king, you best not miss.”
So, the NBA season is down to the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers.
Comparisons between The Wire and the NBA are as inevitable as death and taxes, and many have tried their hand over the years. But most have always featured individual player versus character analogies. How about a more intricate comparison with crews and teams thrown into the mix? Right now seems a great time to attempt this with the four teams left showing striking similarities to the four major groups in The Wire.
OKC is Avon’s crew with Russell Westbrook as Avon Barksdale, full of swagger, passion and instinctual decision making. Kevin Durant, our Stringer Bell, is equally as important to the team, with an unparalleled desire to be the best, always learning new skills and, ultimately, revolutionising the game. It is clear that, as a duo, their success together is better than it would be alone. (Note: Bill Simmons has popularized this analogy in recent times – it’s simply too apt to ignore).
However, the differences that help them prosper in business, are also what might break them apart. How long can these different styles co-exist? Durant declared his love for Westbrook last week at his MVP speech – something Stringer declared for Avon often – but that still doesn’t mean they won’t eventually go their separate ways. Winning it all perhaps might be the only thing that could keep them together. As we know, Avon and Stringer never quite got there…
Shouts out to Serge Ibaka (Slim Charles) for being a capable third-option unafraid to bang and Nick Collison (Wee Bey) for being the loyal dirty-work guy. Kendrick Perkins (Shamrock McGinty), Reggie Jackson (Poot) and Steven Adams (Bodie) round out the crew…(James Harden could be our D’Angelo, if you equate going from OKC to Houston with death).
The Spurs, as a whole, are Omar: vigilantes out west, forever regulating the game and pouncing on the weaknesses of both old-school gangs and those up-and-coming. The unit of Coach Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have been around so long now, they can effectively be considered as one.
Like Omar, they do their research meticulously, and never disrespect the game. Omar never turns his gun on an innocent; the Spurs never stand for a lack of effort or teamwork on the court. The size of your paycheck or reputation be damned: if you don’t buy into the system, the Spurs don’t want you, and the Spurs don’t need you. If your crew has a weakness, the Spurs will find it, and they will exploit it.
The Pacers are the up and coming Marlo’s crew. Last playoffs they burst onto the scene from nowhere, taking no prisoners and making all other teams take notice. Paul George, or Marlo, stamped his name all over the game, and even had some talking MVP around the streets. Backed by the old veteran David West (Chris), and the loyal yet crazy Lance Stephenson (Snoop), PG has shown strong aggression at times, with an equally robust defensive game.
There have been growing pains, however, with inconsistent returns from other young members of the crew (Roy Hibbert, George Hill). They really need some fresh talent – a Michael Lee, perhaps – to help them get to the next level…but even then, could a new guy be ultimately trusted down the line? How do these guys take the next step?
The Heat are the police department. The other crews hate these guys and to beat them would be the ultimate achievement.
This crew has a mix of flawed but ultimately good guys with limited overall sway in proceedings (Shane Battier as McNulty, Eric Spoelstra as Lester, Chris Andersen as Bunk), effective but ageing egomaniacs (Dwyane Wade as Rawls), powerful figures on the road to redemption after previous shady happenings (Lebron as Cedric Daniels) and loveable goofballs who could at a moments notice either undo all the hard work or help the team by accident (Chris Bosh as Burrell and Mario Chalmers as Valchek).
In totality, these are the guys to beat – they have most of the chips stacked in their favour. But everything is cyclical, and how long can they stay on top?
The NBA administration and owners are akin to the politicians…in control of the whole system and, by and large, profiting from it. Adam Silver is Carcetti, the incoming young leader eager to increase fairness to all involved in the league, to David Stern’s Royce, who mainly cared about the owners (other politicians). Sheeeeit, David Sterling meet Clay Davis. Both guys have been known to profit off developments holding minorities down.
The refs are the court house, by and large doing the best they can within the limits of the NBA rules, or constitution. There is less corruption here than, say, in the police department or political sphere, but you still of course get the odd bad egg (Tim Donaghy as Maurice Levy), personal feuds and incorrect decisions.
Last of all would be us, the fans who feed off the media coverage of the sport like crack addicts. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are the Bubbleses and Johnny Weekses of The Wire.
Correction: Crack was erroneously referenced. The drug of choice for the show was heroin.