This is a re-post of an excellent article By Mike McCall from The Advocate.
As sports fans, we like it when matchups break down along clearly drawn lines: good guys versus bad guys, David versus Goliath, our country versus their country.
At first glance, the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat fit the bill.
There’s the Heat, aiming to take over the league behind LeBron James, who joined the evil empire after calling a live TV special to betray his home state and leave the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On the other side, you have the white knight Thunder led by Kevin Durant, an unassuming star who was still buying T-shirts at WalMart even after becoming a millionaire, and who announced his contract extension with the Thunder in anti-James fashion, through a simple, gracious tweet.
Essentially, James, Dwyane Wade & Co. are the Monstars from “Space Jam,” while Durant plays the Michael Jordan role as leader of the Tune Squad. As if that line between good and evil wasn’t clear enough, the Heat even suit up in classic bad-guy colors — black and red — and a logo emblazoned with fire.
But look beyond the on-court show, and it’s harder to tell who the good guys are.
After all, the Thunder’s feel-good story is built atop a lie.
If not for a deceitful purchase of the Seattle Sonics, the Thunder wouldn’t exist. In 2006, a group of Oklahoma City businessmen led by Clayton Bennett and backed by the wallet of Aubrey McClendon bought the Sonics. They immediately promised to fight to keep the team in the Pacific Northwest.
But they didn’t. They half-tried to build a new arena in Seattle, but they always planned to move the team. McClendon even said so in a 2007 interview, for which he was fined a whopping $250,000 by the NBA.
Then there was Bennett’s famous e-mail that he was a “man possessed” and would “do everything we can” to accomplish his goals for the franchise.
In court, Bennett made the laughable claim that his goal was to stay in Seattle, even though his e-mail was a response to his partners asking how soon they could move the team, and even though he contacted the NBA about relocation soon afterward.
Perhaps the Sonics never would have left if the city had provided a new arena, or if the mayor hadn’t chosen to settle a lawsuit just hours before a verdict that could have locked the team into its lease in Seattle.
But the bottom line is that Bennett and his gang are low-down, dirty rotten thieves who stole Seattle’s team.
That’s why the Thunder’s owners are the only true villains in the building during the NBA Finals.
Sure, James, Wade and Chris Bosh have done their best at times to be hated, but in reality, LeBron’s televised break-up with Cleveland raised millions for charity, and the trio opted for lower salaries for the chance to play together.
Maybe that doesn’t make them angels, but it shouldn’t make them demons either.
And maybe the Thunder’s owners pilfering a franchise so the NBA could thrive in their town doesn’t make them evil.
But it sure as heck doesn’t make them the good guys.