“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Cersei Lannister stated this to Ned Stark, and it holds true for both the characters of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the teams in the NBA Playoffs.
The NBA Playoffs and “Game of Thrones” have many similarities. Think about it. In places such as Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City (who fired their coach Wednesday afternoon), San Antonio and Cleveland, anything less than a championship means that the season is a considered a failure. Ask Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or Pat Riley about how they view this past season. Their reactions would be as miserable as Tyrion Lanister’s when he rolled out of the shipping crate.
With the Playoffs and Game of Thrones simultaneously full swing, we decided to examine the players within the two global franchises and compare and contrast the storylines and characters that hold much in common. After all, both provide fans with an intense amount of entertainment that appears to be cutthroat in nature and leaves us anxious for the next episode. The two continue to carve a name for themselves in a results-based business that relies on ratings, plots and drama, so it’s fitting to take a look at these two series that are dominating households, newsrooms and the attention of millions across the globe.
House Lannister - Dallas Mavericks
With the amount of money Mavs owner Mark Cuban throws around, you would think he craps gold; people believe the same of the Lannisters. Yet there are several cracks in the foundation of both the Mavericks and the House of Lannister. Rajon Rondo is bickering with Coach Rick Carlisle over play calling duties and Cersei is arguing with her uncle Kevan Lannister over how King’s Landing should be managed. Mavs fans beware for we have season how infighting can lead to the destruction of both a season and a kingdom.
Starks - Chicago Bulls
Just when you think they’re eliminated from the picture, they find a way to get back into the game and become major factors in the story. Derrick Rose, Coach Thibs and Joakim Noah like House Stark, know all about setbacks due to injury and treachery (Rose’s knee injuries and the infamous Red Wedding). The Bulls, like the memory of Ned Stark (who hasn’t been on the show since season one), continue to loom large as the stories unfold. Don’t count either of them out.
House Martell - Golden State Warriors
The Sand Snakes, the illegitimate offspring of Oberyn Martell, want revenge in the same way the Warriors want over the Clippers after the way last season ended. Just like Draymond Green and Doc Rivers/Matt Barnes have sneak dissed each other, the Martells and the Lannisters have no love lost. A battle between the two seems to be on the horizon. Let’s see if they learn from the mistake of Oberyn and remember to finish the job completely this season.
Wildlings - Memphis Grizzlies
There’s a method to their madness. Although they may look rough and utilize tactics which seem outdated, they get the job done. Most recognize that the Grizzlies play a brand of basketball that old school NBA fans love. A “Ground and Pound” style of half-court offense that is tailor made for the playoffs. Nothing easy and no layups; the Clippers encountered this methodology two seasons ago, and it probably gave Doc flashbacks to the days of Ewing and Oak in the paint. The NBA needs the Grizzlies, as Stannis Baratheon said last week, for them to be effective.
House Targaryen - Cleveland Cavaliers
Like Daenerys Stormborn, LeBron James came back from being exiled from the Iron Throne. This time he returned with an army (Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert) and three dragons (Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love). Along the way, characters deemed disloyal (Jorah Mormont/Dion Waiters) were jettisoned. However, there’s one dragon who has had difficulty fitting in -- Drogon. Just as Drogon has had a hard time assimilating himself in Mereen, Kevin Love has had some growing pains in Cleveland. But despite the difficulties faced by both, they showed up this week when their leaders (LeBron and Daenerys) needed them, demonstrating that both are willing to be a part of the team while admitting there will be bumps along the way.
White Walkers - San Antonio Spurs
This one may seem obvious but just like the motto of House Stark, “Winter is Coming”, the Spurs continue to make themselves relevant. They always seem to be discounted yet you can never count them out. If they were to win the title, it wouldn’t be a surprise to those who follow the game. Just as we thought Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were getting old, the team added Danny Green, Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs don’t die, they multiply. The Spurs and the White Walkers, as the Clippers and the men of the Night’s Watch know, are coming.
House Tyrell - Washington Wizards
Like the Tyrells, the Wizards are sitting in the cut and very few people, except Cersei Lannister, are checking for them. But as we know, when no one is checking for you, that’s when someone can get got; the Bulls found that out the hard way in last year’s first-round matchup. The team/house has a combination of young guns (John Wall/Margaery Tyrell) and veterans (Paul Pierce/ Lady Olenna Tyrell) who are a manifestation of House Tyrell’s motto, “Growing Stronger.”
Tyrion Lannister - Josh Smith
The Imp and J-Smooth seem to get their accomplishments downplayed (The Battle of Blackwater Bay/ Bringing playoff basketball to the ATL) and their mistakes magnified (Mother died during childbirth/ shooting low percentage field goals). However, they have a lot in common, both were cast aside a few times. When they both finally realized they were never going to get the credit, they lashed out in a bad way. No matter what people say about them, they seem to find a way the survive and thrive. Maybe Tyrion can help House Targaryen win the Iron Throne and Smith can help the Rockets win the title.
House Baratheon - Atlanta Hawks
Like Stannis, the true king, the Hawks seem boring but before you know it, they have run you out of the gym and they’ve set up shop at Castle Black. Even though they don’t have flashy players, they each have three All Stars that lead the team, and numbers to follow that can wear opponents out. Teams like this will remain a factor for a very long time.
No matter how one may look at the show or the playoffs, it will be interesting to see who stays on top, who can withstand a siege from a team on the rise and who will crumble before the hungry will and cunning of those who so desperately seek the throne.
Win or go home.
That old slogan remains true on game night and especially on Sunday nights.