Ever since I started watching The Good Place, the NBC sitcom where characters navigate an afterlife in which a Good, Bad, and even Medium Place exists, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the NBA in the context of the show’s premise.
(For those who don’t watch the show, the easiest way I can explain the premise is: the Good Place is a utopia where the afterlife is prosperous and everything smells like roses. The Bad Place is where people get tortured, like eternally. The show has referenced penis-flatteners and butthole spiders as torture methods in the Bad Place. The Medium Place is where everything is perfectly mediocre.)
The other day, Google accidentally listed LaVar Ball as the NBA’s founder. Everyone had a laugh at the gaffe, but I immediately thought this was what the NBA would look like in the Bad Place, where everyone would have to wear Big Baller Brand shoes and LaVar would be the announcer, play-by-play guy, color commentator, sideline reporter, studio show host, studio show analyst and head coach of every team in the league.
Think long and hard enough ,and you can start categorizing everything in the NBA into the Good, Medium and Bad Places. This is why whenever I hear the name of Raptors forward Bruno Caboclo, the guy who is forever two years away from being two years away, I think of him as the Bad Place version of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
What else would you find in the NBA version of the Good, Medium and Bad place? Here are some ideas.
In the NBA Bad Place …
Everyone talks like Kyrie Irving.
If Irving started doing post-game interviews in a foreign language by February, I would have to try very hard to feign surprise. Forget about the guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials, Irving is the most interesting man in the world until further notice. He believes the Earth is flat (and because everything is marketable, there was literally a Flat Earth machine at a Nike sneaker pop-up event in Boston this week), his latest sneaker has an “All-Seeing Eye,” and he doesn’t believe Christmas is a holiday.
One Kyrie Irving is just the perfect amount of Kyrie Irving. But if you are going to build a Bad Place filled with NBA characters, imagine a world where everyone just talks like him. It’s probably just close enough to your Facebook feed anyways, but that would be a very Bad Place.
You are allowed to play basketball, but only if you can meet the intensity of Chris Paul in a December regular season game.
Chris Paul’s competitive streak has been well-documented. It has help make him the best point guard of his generation, but it’s also blessed us with wonderful moments like the time he yelled at DeAndre Jordan to shoot the damn ball.
(My theory — and this stems from the fact I believe Michael Jordan made a deal with the devil that he would be the greatest basketball player of all-time but in exchange he must wear oversized jeans for the rest of his life — is that in exchange for being one of the best point guards in history, Paul agreed to the condition that he has to annoy his teammates, always.)
Paul is in Houston now, and Mr. Competitive is at it again. Recently, towards the end of a double overtime win over the Lakers, P.J. Tucker forced a crucial turnover late in the game, and as he was heading to inbound the ball, Paul made sure to be the authoritarian on the court:
In the NBA Bad Place, every time you play basketball there’s a version of Chris Paul yelling at you.
It is mandatory to watch Kevin Durant practice everyday while he screams at the haters.
This is still one of my all-time favorite NBA moments, when Durant screamed at a bunch of invisible haters in the gym while reporters watched on:
We all know about Durant’s toxic relationship with social media at this point, but seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen one single argument about Durant being one of the greatest basketball players living in like seven years. Anyway, in the Bad Place, you have to go watch Durant perform this routine every day, and write about it every night.
James Dolan owns every team.
Gregg Popovich has to do a sideline interview after every possession.
Have we figured out the actual function of a sideline interview yet? Anyone who has ever interviewed an athlete, head coach or any public figure knows when they just give up and start giving you stock answers like they bought them from Shutterstock. That’s what the in-game sideline interview is. You get your occasional fun moments because everyone knows it’s ridiculous, but otherwise, there’s literally no information you are going to extract that’s useful for the premise it’s supposed to serve.
Just one time I want Pop to reveal his entire game plan on live television after the first quarter in a Western Conference Finals Game 7. Until then, in the NBA Bad Place, Pop literally has to answer three questions after every possession during a game.
The NBA medium place belongs to …
The Los Angeles Clippers.
On the show, Mindy St. Claire lives by herself in the Medium Place, in a beige house with a single garden, and can only drink warm beer, listens to the Eagles (but only the live versions), and reads Anne Rice vampire novels and watches Cannonball Run II on VHS. It is the most average and mediocre life possible.
I spent somewhere between two minutes and six hours trying to figure out the perfect Medium Place franchise in the NBA, and can’t shake the fact it has to be the Clippers. They had a racist owner running the team for years before he was ousted. Nobody in Los Angeles cared about them, and when they finally became good, they could never get out of the second round (the franchise has still yet to appear in a Conference Finals) and are remembered for all of their playoff exits and terrible injuries striking them at terrible times.
Add in the fact the Lakers loom over them in terms of popularity always, and the Clippers are definitely “the drink warm beer, read Anne Rice vampire novels and watch Cannonball Run II on VHS” of the NBA.
In the NBA Good Place …
There are actual, literal unicorns in the NBA.
I’m talking the whole deal, with a spiraling horn projecting from their forehead and everything. In the good place, Giannis Antetokounmpo can go the length of the floor in just two steps (he might actually be able to do this now if he tried), Kristaps Porzingis only shoots from half court (and has an effective field goal percentage of 72.5 percent from there) and Joel Embiid has never been listed as questionable for a game.
Michael Beasley gets MVP chants at Madison Square Garden on a regular basis.
You mean we are in the Good Place already?!
DeMarcus Cousins and NBA refs are best friends.
They even run a bunch of frozen yogurt franchises together.
Kanye West and Mike Conley have a daily podcast, and it’s pretty interesting.
The most underreported NBA story of the past half decade is Kanye West calling Mike Conley in the middle of the night this summer to let him know he was a fan. Kanye West admires Mike Conley. I feel like every publication should use up all their resources to get to the bottom of this (Kanye also showed up to Staples Center to watch the Grizzlies earlier this season).
Anyway, in the Good Place, the two start a daily podcast, and riff about every single topic imaginable. The chemistry is undeniable. It’s the only podcast you need to listen to, and it’s even better when you play it at five times the normal speed. It’s a perfect world.
LeBron actually never retires and returns to Cleveland for the fourth time in his career in his 25th season in another letter penned by Lee Jenkins.
I’m sure in the darkest times, we’ve all spent a few seconds contemplating the eventual decline of LeBron. But he’s having the best 15th season in the league ever, and it really looks like he can keep doing it at this level for a few more years at least. It’s all remarkable really.
But it’s not just how incredible he is on the court, it’s the entire LeBron James package that makes him great. He’ll call a president a bum on Twitter, because he’s dumb and a bum. He’ll tell you about his most grail wine choices from his cellar. He’ll post a random photo of himself as Batman on Instagram and tell teammates to fit in instead of fitting out on Twitter. He’ll shut down his social media during the postseason (LeBron is so great, we can’t even quantify this as fake deep).
And there’s always drama with LeBron. Is he going to Los Angeles? Is he leaving Cleveland? Does he want to get rid of the head coach? Wait, did he just take a two-week break from the team to go chill in Miami (the most underrated storyline of his career, which happened during his first season back in Cleveland)? I’m sure LeBron has bigger things planned post-basketball, but don’t want it to end. In the Good Place, it doesn’t.
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