Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are heroes as they fight for the small market teams of the NBA. Their quest for the NBA Championship now pits them against the Brooklyn Nets, a team that includes two former Most Valuable Players and three all-stars in their prime.
While it’s true in years past players have joined forces – the “Big Three” of the Boston Celtics and Miami come to mind – but the roster jumping of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant contains a more cold, calculating villain arc rather than one of heroic ring chasing.
James Harden, the engine of the Houston Rockets, forced his way out of Houston by basically showing up to work with a body that didn’t appear ready for the rigors of an NBA season. He did this after the Rockets bent over backwards to appease his every demand and not all of them were roster requests like sending Chris Paul packing. How does this type of behavior get rewarded? Yet, Harden got exactly what he wanted – a trade to a contender.
Kyrie Irving, one of the best offensive players the NBA has ever seen, decided that competing for titles with LeBron James didn’t hold enough job satisfaction (or maybe personal shine), so he sought employment elsewhere and eventually was traded to the Boston Celtics, a team bristling with future all-stars. Sounds great, right? Well, not so much for Kyrie as his stint with Boston lasted only two years before he found solace with another team. Maybe the spotlight on Kyrie in Boston didn’t cast the correct shadow, or maybe Kyrie just didn’t like Boston? Either way, Kyrie first quit LeBron to join the Celtics, only to turn around and quit the Celtics to join the Nets.
Kevin Durant ditched two teams to finally join the Brooklyn Nets. No one should blame Durant for leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder. But joining the Golden State Warriors, a team that won 73 games the previous year along with an NBA Finals appearance, was a “bridge too far” for fans to accept. Naturally, Durant’s skills as a basketball player blended in nicely with a team that already featured Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. The Warriors won multiple rings, sending fans into a frenzy of hate directed at Durant for disabling the competitive balance of the entire league. (The same league where LeBron controlled the East playing for two different teams for almost a decade.) It was only a matter of time before Durant left the Warriors. But instead of taking the opportunity to reprise an underdog role, he chose to join his fellow mercenaries in Brooklyn.
Our small market champion Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks have already lost Game One to the Brooklyn Nets. If this were a movie script, writers would add another small market champion to join the fray. Unfortunately, players aren’t allowed to join forces this late in the season and even if they could, small-market teams don’t attract the star players like the villainous, large market teams in New York or Los Angeles.
Let’s go, Bucks!