(Let me hear you Thunder fans… SOMEBODY SCREEEEEEAM! I mean, send in an email if you’ve got something to share/say (firstname.lastname@example.org). This week, we hear from reader Lefty. And let me say, some of the comparisons were so spot on, it’s kind of creepy.)
So, this is the article where I let my inner geek loose.
I am the type of person that, when people get to know me, they are always surprised I am a sports fan. Like really, really surprised. Like “Wait, you like sports? For serious? Cause I would have never imagined that from you” kind of surprised. I understand it. On the surface, I don’t seem like the kind of person that would be a sports fan.
A few weeks ago when the Thunder were in Boston, I was there too, but, not for the Thunder game – I was there for PAX East. I can frequently be found at New World Comics in OKC, or browsing the Barnes and Noble graphic novel section. I listen to indie rock almost exclusively. On Tuesday nights, I host a Dungeons and Dragons game, for crying out loud.
I mean, in middle school, I played sports, but I was never fast or strong or aggressive enough (though, I was pretty decent at baseball). So, why is it I love the Thunder so much? It took me a while to figure it out exactly, but finally, I was able to pinpoint it – and it made a lot of sense to me, considering my other interests: team-building.
I mean, where would the Avengers or the Justice League be without proper team-building techniques? You can’t expect to get very far in WoW without covering all the necessary roles (healers, DPS, Tanks, etc.). So, something about the puzzle of building a team, and filling in the gaps is what appeals to me most about this Thunder team (and really, sports in general, I guess). I mean, debate all you want about the long-term plans for Nenad Krstic or Jeff Green, or the slipping defense of Thabo Sefolosha, but it would be wrong to say players like these aren’t directly responsible for the improvement of our team. Sam Presti is a team-building genius. At least, so far.
So, this line of thought got me thinking of ways to explain what I mean to you guys. Instantly, it hit me. So, submitted for your approval (and, let’s be honest, your amusement – this isn’t an article that is meant to be completely accurate or taken very seriously), I’d like to compare our team with one of the most influential teams of my youth: the X-Men. Some of the comparisons I draw here will be startlingly accurate. Some will be tenuous at best. All are to get you guys thinking about the job Presti has done at putting together a group like he has, hated and feared by the people they have sworn to protect… er, or something like that. For brevity’s sake, these get shorter as they go. I wanted to keep this under 1500 words. I know you don’t all find this as interesting as I do.
Kevin Durant – Cyclops
Every team needs a leader on the battlefield. On the Thunder, that leader is Kevin Durant. On the X-Men, that leader is Scott “Cyclops” Summers. These are the men that lead by example. They bleed and sweat for their team. They get in the frontline and do whatever it takes to succeed, but also have the range to snipe from a distance. Mostly, these are the guys that buy-in so completely to the plan. Cyclops to the plan of peace between humans and mutants, Durant to the plan of defense and hard-work. Without guys like this, you get nowhere. Also of note is Cyclops’ other nickname, “Slim”.
Russell Westbrook – Wolverine
Did you guys know that Wolverine is only 5’3”? Really. Not only is he the shortest member of the X-Men, he’s also the fastest, toughest, fiercest, and most likely to sway the course of a fight all by himself. As Wolvering goes, so go the X-Men. Sound familiar? There’s a reason Wolverine is so popular. But if he’s not playing as part of the team, why bother even playing? Now, we just need to get to work on Russ’ mutton-chops.
Jeff Green – Storm
During the 90s, the height of the X-Men’s popularity, there were two teams of X-Men: the Blue team, led by Cyclops, and the Gold team, led by Storm. Now, clearly there are a lot of physical disparities between Jeff and Ororo Monroe, but there’s no denying their influence. If KD is the leader on the court, Uncle Jeff is the leader off of it. He’s the calming influence, the level-headed one that keeps everyone in line. Also, did you know Storm is a master lock-pick? Think of some of the games Jeff has stolen from teams like Golden State and Boston.
Thabo Sefolosha – Nightcrawler
Regional origins aside, I love this comparison. Thabo is one of my favorite Thunderers, and Kurt Wagner is one of my favorite X-Men. They’re underrated and oft-overlooked. But, they seem to always show up when you need them. They’re dependable. You always know what you’re getting from them. And they have the knack of being everywhere at once. They’re not the strongest or most skilled on the team, but their role is easily definable, and they work their hardest to fill it.
Nenad Krstic – Colossus
The strong man. The big fella in the middle. These guys are there for one reason – to be tall and strong. They offer more than just that, however. In Pietr Rasputin’s case, it is his artistic side. In Nenad’s case, it is his mid-range jumpshot. Plus, the pick-n-pop relationship that Russ and Nenad have developed can be directly paralleled with the “Fastball Special” this way. That’s fun for me.
Nick Collison – Cable
What doesn’t Cable do? He carries big laser guns. He has some kind of psychic abilities. He’s kind of mysterious, but always there to do his job. Plus, compared to the other guys, he’s kind of old. I don’t think Nick is the future grown-up son of Kevin Durant, but you never really know, do you?
James Harden – Gambit
Laid-back, easy-going, free-wheeling. Lots of hyphenated adjectives to use here. Fan-favorite. And when Harden’s shot is on, it really seems like it’s got that NBA JAM-like kinetic energy Gambit charges his cards up with, doesn’t it?
Serge Ibaka – Kitty Pride
Here’s where we start reaching. Kitty has one job on the team – protection. She isn’t an offensive powerhouse, but she’s creative with the powers she has. She’s become one of the staples of the team when most people thought she was just a throwaway character when she was introduced. Bonus: Kitty Pride was the inspiration for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Couldn’t you see Serge roundhouse kicking undead? I can.
Eric Maynor – Iceman
Young, brash, confident. Bobby Drake is one of the most underrated X-Men of all time. He’s extremely effective at controlling the battlefield, putting people where he wants them and setting them up for some awesome alley-oops. Er, yeah. You get it.
Etan Thomas – Beast
An intellectual, but fierce in the heat of battle. Charming, witty, but not someone you want to make angry. Can knock out Luis Scola without even trying.
Kevin Ollie – Bishop
Old and wise. Bishop spent a lot of time teaching the younger X-Men much in the same way Kevin is kind of a coach on the floor. Um, Kevin just needs a cool face tattoo now.
DJ White, Kyle Weaver, Byron Mullens, Mustafa Shakur – Generation X
Loaded with potential, but never quite given the chance to show what they can do. You can’t wait to see them on the big team, even for just a few minutes.
Scotty Brooks – Charles Xavier
Scotty runs the team as a respected peer. He’s been through everything they have, and can teach by example.
Sam Presti – Jack Kirby
The visionary. The architect. The brains behind everything. I know it’s kind of meta, but I think it’s an apt comparison.
Clay Bennett – Stan Lee
The man who made it all happen. Not everyone likes him, but you can’t deny his importance.
Tony Brothers – Mr. Sinister