Dearly beloved, we gather in arenas, around television flat screens, or peering in the palm of our hand at miniature computer machines to watch this thing called ball. We come together, whether we greet each other with “shalom,” “assalaam alaikum,” or “what up doe,” bound by our belief in a Canadian doctor (and another high-flying one), with genuine respect and love for the game…not practice…but the game.
We have inherited a legacy of a league - an association - the National Basketball Association, which is the best hope for reinvigorating our souls for a more artistic, trash-talking, and exciting existence. This is not a perfect game. The players are not perfect people. Yet, there is a calling of a perfect mission.
If you count yourself among the chosen, you very well know that this is the high holy season. Yes, the NBA playoffs are underway to settle what team will be crowned the league’s 70th champion. Ask somebody, anybody or maybe everybody, and they all may say it looks like we shall have a repeat by champion No. 69.
Just as an aside, this same franchise which was then located in Philadelphia, won the first NBA title in 1947 a mere week after that great jumping of the white chalk line in Brooklyn.
Now, pressing onward and reflecting on how beautiful repeating 69 is; don’t let the fact that we know the end of the story make the journey less eventful. If you ask me, inevitability does not rob us of the joy that is the Golden State Warriors. Rhetorically speaking, was it less levitating witnessing Showtime, the Bad Boys, or the Bull Run?
We instinctively and inherently know the game is less about algorithm and more about rhythm. Yet we still have basketball philistines. The incumbent champion, for the most part without the league’s imminent two-time MVP, reaffirms this truth.
With their 4-1 first round series win, these True Warriors showed how the Rock(ets) should flow like milk and honey rather than in a stagnant struggle among crack heads searching for that next hit.
Big Oracles from the past ponder about the state of the game, perhaps pontificating and politicking for their era. But no generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born, but through skills it can choose to make the age in which it is born an age of enlightenment, an age that rewards unlimited shooting range, yo-yo handle, precise passing and the ability to finish at the hoop.
A sweet sage, before his time expired on the hardwood stage, when solicited, offered “the ship be sinking”. The aphorism still applies. The Clippers, captained by a Rivers who admittedly didn’t go to med school and goes by the name of Doc nonetheless, were rudderless up feces creek due to injuries sidelining their point god and power forward.
Was this ending prophesized in a hissy fit by a scorned owner prior to the season with, "Look, the Clippers are the Clippers"? I don’t know, I don’t know. However, just maybe the prosperity rap of droppin’ dimes along with a disciple of the Patriot League had more to do with these troubled waters than a cursed fate.
The factions from neighboring lands of Texas and Oklahoma filled with tumbleweeds and oil fields face-off also ended with a gentlemen’s sweep. If that put back at the end of Game 2 were a millisecond earlier the refs would not have waved off the would-be buzzer-beater, allowing the Mavericks to salvage one win.
However, the OKC one-two punch offense is like the two sides in the hood; the slummy side and the sunny side. When hero ball takes over - that’s the slummy side. But, hallelujah, when the floor is spread with daggers from the perimeter and thunderous dunks -that’s the sunny side.
The Spurs easily swept a Grizzlies team limping into battle after finishing the regular season 1-10 with several key starters and players out with injuries. The question quickly became – as I was recently asked by my court congregation – “Pastuh, yeah, the Spurs finished with their best record ever but can they defeat them young boys on the Warriors and Thunder?”
I woke up early yesterday on Sunday morning, rubbed the sleep out my eyes while checking my alerts to assure myself that it really happened. I whispered to myself, “my, my, my,” the Spurs beat the Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals like they stole something, 124-92.
You all may know who named him The Big Fundamental and also re-dubbed him Old Man River Walk. But I’m here to tell you that he is not walking out that door dropping 60, or the mic like Mamba or Obama. Fortunate for the Spurs, they have two other players who are actually young with an old-man’s game putting in 38 and 25 points in Game 1 respeckfully.
Back in the day, there was this prophesy that a child shall lead them to the NBA promise land. We all know now that was fulfilled by Zeke, the first “small” point guard to take his team to an NBA title. We have another similarly named man-child who is making his mark, but this Isaiah is not the second coming. His Celtics played valiant but the Hawks were too big, too deep and too experienced.
The Lord of the Heat puts sugar, honey, ice tea together like Scarface. He produced Showtime, masterminded the Knicks of the rumbling 90s, and then moved to South Beach to collect three more rings. He put the Heatles together and when they broke up like the Fat Boys, he never wavers even when blood clots continue to wreck their playoff lineup. Finally, Lord Riley got to defeat a former nemesis like no other. I’m sure you all remember that the owner of these Hornets played in that double-nickel game.
Late last night, the ghosts of playoffs past lingered all over Air Canada Centre as the Raptors made bad play and after bad play in trying to close out the Pacers in Game 7. Then the Raptors, up 3 late in the game on the verge of choking again, had the holy ghost show up right on time to interfere with the Pacers alley-oop pass. A decade and a half of misery since the Raptors captured a playoff series is now a thing of the past.
As I go to my seat, let me say that expecting the Pistons with their gritty but young players to beat the defending conference champs in the Cavs reminds me of the parishioner asking the preacher a whole lot for so little.
I know at the top of the sermon I stated that it looks like the Warriors will repeat. But the King is the King and faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. He has two chips but chasing the narrative of catching Air’s six won’t match the glory of just one title for the Cleveland/Akron/Northeast Ohio region. The King knows this is spiritual warfare.
Let the doors of the church open.