The Worst Thing That Could Happen to Players Chasing Championships
Determining the worst-case scenario for ringless stars in the NBA.
A friend and I play a game in unfamiliar social settings called, “What’s the Worst Thing You Could Do in This Social Setting” and it’s great. I can’t say what exactly happens, but it always ends up going something like: swearing loudly, being very underdressed for an occasion, needing to use the restroom, and being in the vicinity of someone that would not appreciate anything about the circumstances or find you to be amusing at all.
It’s a great exercise in using imagination and social anxiety for a good laugh, and it also applies players in the NBA that have never won an NBA title. True, many players have not won one, and it’s not a huge deal. However, some guys practically beg fans to judge them based on their playoff success, so we’re going to do that while abiding by the rules of the game that a friend and I play. We’re going to tweak the rules a bit, so instead of being at a church event it’s how an NBA player’s career will play out. We should still have some pretty terrible moments though!
Step One: Establish a Rival
If “player x” has a rival, you basically have the recipe. The rival succeeding at the expense of “player x” automatically means you’re headed toward worst-case scenario. Rivals can be other players, cities, entire teams, or specific fan bases, and all of them can ruin a player’s quest to win a ring.
Step Two: Offer Hope
If a change in teams, conferences, or role on a team would increase the likelihood that “player x” has hope for the future, then factor that into determining the worst outcome for a player. You must hope before you can lose hope.
Steph Three: Tear it All Down
After putting “player x” in a promising situation that could lead to finally winning an NBA title, be sure to ruin that situation. Injuries are very sad, out of everyone’s control, and possibly related to jinxes, so I would steer clear of that stuff. However, using vulnerabilities such as pride, unattainable goals, overall respectability, and circumstance are all fair game. Have at it.
Step One: Paul has long been one of the greatest players in the game, but he has an annoyingly wonderful rival in Steph Curry. You can see the hate in Chris Paul’s eyeballs when Curry crosses him over. Curry has humiliated him in nearly every head-to-head matchup dating back to 2014. That’s a perfect place to start.
Step Two: Let’s say Paul decides to leave the Clippers this summer to escape the inevitability of the Kevin Durant Warriors and wants to increase his chances of making a Conference Finals by going East. Let’s also say he signs with his hometown Charlotte Hornets, where he can boss Frank Kaminsky around the court. Now he just needs to avoid LeBron James until the Conference Finals and then boom, he’s in the Conference Finals. There’s hope!
Step Three: You know who else is from Charlotte and can be a free agent this summer? Yup. And you know what would be even more terrible? If the Hornets signed Chef Curry and went on to win a title with him leading the way. Sure, Paul would win that ring, but if Curry’s The Guy then that might be the very worst championship ring of all time.
Step One: Melo has long been rivals with LeBron, but that’s not a fun rival to have. A combination of Jeremy Lin, Knicks fans, and Mike D’Antoni would probably be the best rival to Carmelo, so let’s choose that.
Step Two: Let’s say Melo and Kevin Love want to switch places. Let’s say that they did, and then the Cavs became a superduperpowerhouse and break the all-time wins record in a single season and LeBron and Melo look unstoppable together. Then, let’s say the Rockets fell apart and fired D’Antoni and then the Knicks fired Jeff Hornacek, hired D’Antoni midseason, and then traded Derrick Rose for Jeremy Lin, and then they squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed, which surely Melo would be excited about because he could sweep the Knicks in the first round.
Step Three: I’m pretty sure D’Antoni+Porzingis+Linsanity+Knicks fans at MSG=Amare Stoudemire un-retiring and dunking on Melo and yelling “NBA Finals, Bitch!” as the Knicks eliminate the Cavs in the first round. That’s just how that would play out, I’m pretty sure.
Step One: Durant’s rival is LeBron James, but really his arch-nemesis is now Russell Westbrook. He ditched him for the Warriors, and now no matter what he does he must be better than Russy if he wants to have the upper hand.
Step Two: The Warriors currently look like the favorites out West and might be the overall favorites come playoff time. The only way this got any better would be if Steph Curry’s ankles were replaced with whatever Westbrook is made from, so that they couldn’t get seriously hurt. There’s plenty of hope here already, and maybe for good measure we can assure Durant that he won’t get hurt anytime soon either.
Step Three: It’d probably go something like this: Durant leads the Warriors to a 73–9 record in the regular season and to the Finals and to a 3–1 lead over the Cavaliers, only to watch things play out literally exactly the same way as last year for Golden State, only it’s Durant’s layup that gets pinned against the glass by LeBron in game 7, not Iguodala’s, thus leaving the impression that signing with the Warriors did not move the needle at all.
Then, Durant re-ups with the Warriors for the max, only to watch Russy lead the Thunder to a championship. Then, Durant spends the rest of his contract and prime with the Warriors, watching the other teams that courted him in free agency take turns winning titles.
Step One: The Season of Russ is upon us, and it might be upon us until he vanquishes Kevin Durant. They might be rivals until on their death beds, and when Durant reaches out to Russ to rekindle friendship so that they may both go to Heaven and let forgiveness wash over them, I’d be willing to bet Russ will respond with something like, “Who is Kevin Durand.”
Step Two: All Russ has to do is conquer Golden State in the playoffs, and his life will be perfect. That’s literally all he needs to do to find everlasting happiness. Durant must win multiple championships, never lose to Russ, and he, Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson must stay healthy. Aren’t those odds solid? Russ needs happiness!
Step Three: But here’s the thing: Russell may never find true happiness on a basketball court. It sure seems like he has it off the court, but on the court he will never be happy. It’s a trick question because Russ will never be satisfied or happy on a basketball court.
Step One: Surprise! Everyone is Dwight Howard’s rival. Everyone wants him to fail.
Step Two: Maybe Dwight is growing up as a member of the Hawks. He hasn’t been a problem despite his team struggling to win, and he’s working hard to patrol the paint on defense and dunk the ball on offense.
Step Three: Lol, any outcome that doesn’t involve Dwight winning a championship is a win for everyone else, and that dude ain’t winning a title on the Hawks. And even if he won a title, most people would probably be like, “Hey, that’s cool. He figured it out,” which is sort of a win for everyone else too. So, everyone’s going to win this one except Dwight no matter what, and maybe that’s what life is truly all about.