Ends of seasons come very quickly when you think you have a chance to win. When you make yourself remain positive and you don’t consider that your team could lose, when that loss does happen, it’s a swift reality that slaps you across your face. And that reality is sharp and it bites and it is very cold and it calls you names. Real bad names, too. Not that the words themselves are so bad, but it’s a situation where reality knows you so well, it knows how to sting you the deepest. It finds the thing you’re most self conscious about and goes straight for it. It gives you a bad time, you see.
I thought the Thunder were going to win Game 6. I really did. I thought there was a pretty alright chance they’d lose in Game 7, because clearly that place became a bear cave for the Thunder to visit, but I thought they’d give the people one more. And so when regulation came and went with its many ugly plays and questionable calls, I thought the Thunder would outlast the Spurs and ride the blue and white wave down to San Antonio to try to do what was appearing, game by game, to be impossible. I thought we’d get a chance to shock the world.
But this is the year that I really, finally understood that sports does not care about me and that bad endings are the most common kind of endings. And, to be clear, that’s not an original thought. People have felt and written on this in the past and, to a point, it’s obvious. But there was a part of me, namely after games 3 & 4, that started to believe in destiny and will conquering all and, more than that, that it was just the Thunder’s time. All that abstract garbage that lives deep inside every sports fan set up shop within me, only it was a Mega Mall now. There was ample parking there and the food court was fantastic. They had an Olive Garden and there was a ferris wheel in there, too.
I started to believe that at the end of it all — Ibaka’s calf an undoubted mangled mess, Westbrook’s Boom and Doom Rollercoaster ridden eighty times in a row with no stops or breaks, Durant’s consistent fluidity — we’d look at all of it with sunglasses on, the world a special shade of Championship. Keep Mickey Mantle’s open for awhile because we’re partying late tonight.
I thought that the world was finally figuring it out that it owed the Thunder success. That after the injury last postseason, and the injury during this one, they’d see the resiliency of a squad that doesn’t die easily and allow everything to come up OKC. No dice, though, because that sort of thinking is, of course, ridiculous.
But it was interesting, and torturous, the way it went down. The missed shots, the turnovers, the Derek Fisher playing 33 minutes in the most important game of the season. The slow burning misery of it all. The “they still might pull it out” feeling that permeated the last, what 10 mins of game time? Then, in half of a blink, your season and your chance is over. I suppose that’s the way the falls have to come anymore, though. They have to be hard, because the expectations were so grand.
Every team that couldn’t get over the hump until they did dealt with this. They dealt with people questioning the player’s ability to get it done. They dealt with people wanting a coach fired. And they dealt with people frustrated at a front office for not surrounding the stars with quality talent that was ready to win today.
But just because the door closed this year does not then mean the door is locked for eternity. And the door’s not leaving us forever like some kind of Monster’s Inc situation. It’s still there, and they can open it again when next season starts. Durant and Westbrook have the keys.
* * *
I find that endings to stories are always very grating. They’re rarely quality, and the majority come fumbled and forced, stumbling to stop. Happy endings feel untrue more often than not and sad ones leave you wondering why you read or watched the thing in the first place. I am not good at writing endings. They always come off trying to be grander or more wide reaching than the words themselves would ever be worth. So I don’t have a good ending for this. No bow to tie. No super lovely note for you to read.
I think the most comforting thing I’ve read since the season ended is this. I’ll just close with it. But then you’ve probably already read it. Which would make this a particularly bad ending.