There are certain elements that a good movie needs to have to capture an audience’s attention, to keep an audience’s attention, and to inhabit a place in the audience’s heart. I know I’m not going to house good vibrations about something long after it’s done if I can’t find a way to connect to it. I love “The Shawshank Redemption” because it is easy to sympathise with Andy Dufresne, an everyman who was wrongfully imprisoned. I love “Into the Wild” because we’ve all felt like Christopher McCandless at one time or another, wanting to live outside a flawed societal structure and blaze our own trail. I love “Hot Rod” because the part when Rod tells Denise that she looks shitty cracks me up.
At the heart of every unforgettable movie, there is an accessible protagonist whose shoes the audience can step into and understand why they do what they do. Let’s use “The Truman Show" as our example, since Dallas coach Rick Carlisle starred in it.
The most underrated movie in Jim Carrey’s filmography tells the story of Truman Burbank, a man who was adopted by a TV station and had his life filmed and broadcasted to the entire world. Truman works at an insurance company and is a likable everyman who struggles through a bit of an identity crisis when he begins to catch on to the whole “my entire life has been filmed and has aired on national television” idea.
The NBA Finals have truly been a major Hollywood production for several reasons. Cut to Dirk Nowitzki, one of the top one least hatable superstars the NBA has ever seen. The only people who hate him also hate V-neck shirts and a Wendy’s Frosty, so they have no credibility. Prior to this postseason, the verdict on Dirk was that he couldn’t close out a game. He shattered this identity he had been labeled with by scoring a bunch of fourth quarter points in the Finals. Crisis = solved: the dude can finish.
Despite being a seven-foot German, America felt like they could relate to Dirk Nowitzki because he is a humble guy going up against a big evil force. Superstars have changed teams before, but none until LeBron have turned it into such a grand spectacle, broadcasting it live 24/7 and creating a “Trumania” (yes, the Heat are Christof here). None have assumed the crown before earning it like the Miami Heat did. None have carried themselves with as much smug asshole-ery as LeBron and Wade. None have looked as much like an ostrich or raptor or other animal of choice as Chris Bosh.
This all culminated to make them a team hated unlike any other before them. In the 2010-2011 NBA season movie, the Miami Heat are Voldemort, Master Shredder, Team Rocket, almost every role Will Arnett has ever played, and Lord Farquaad. The entire country became 76ers fans in the first round, Celtics fans in the second round (although that bandwagon was already kind of large to begin with), Bulls fans in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Mavs fans in the big show.
There’s always love for Scal.
I remember the exact moment when my disdain for the Heat went from a casual dislike because of LeBron jumping ship in Cleveland and because they were serious competition to my Celtics: in late January, Dwyane Wade said, “We’re not the Boston Celtics. We’re not these kinds of teams that need to play together.” Are you serious? You don’t need to play together? If all it took was a big time player to take over, score points and forget that there are others wearing jerseys similar to his, Allen Iverson would have nearly as many rings as fingers to put them on.
From day one, kids learning the game are taught that basketball is a team game. It’s not baseball, where a dominant pitcher can take over (even then, only sometimes), or tennis, where it’s just a foreign guy, his luxurious hair and his racket. One Dallas player admitted that the Heat were fielding three of the four best players on the court every night. A competitor deep in the Finals would never admit that their opponents were a better team, so what does that say about his stance on teamwork and how one guy can’t just take over? (By the way, I just forget who said the “three out of four players” thing, I don’t feel like checking.)
Dirk said himself that he needed help, and being one of those “teams that needs to play together,” other guys stepped up while he went through his fever and through his awful first half in Game 6. DeShawn Stevenson hit key threes. Terry picked up the some of the scoring burden. Chandler grabbed big rebounds that extended possessions. Jason Kidd continued being a triple-double threat. J.J. Barea stepped into the starting lineup and brought his spark from the bench with it.
It was obvious to anybody with a brain stem that the Mavs are Dirk’s team, but he was smart enough to not claim that he is the team. When the pressure was on, the pressure was on the whole squad, not just Dirk, who acknowledged and played like he was not the only one on the court capable of hitting the big shot or getting the big stop. LeBron put the pressure on his shoulders and crumbled beneath it (Wade had the pressure too, but he was clutch enough to handle it). Two people can’t take as much as 9 or so can. When weight is spread over a larger area, there is less surface pressure. It’s science, look it up.
Moviegoers love a happy ending, when the good guy overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to claim victory. Dirk and his crew of supposedly over-the-hill old-timers had the maturity to handle themselves with class and to rely on each other to defeat the flashy young guns who thought they already had it all figured out. America latched on to this team because Dallas were the good guys who had a big hill to climb.
Nice guys allegedly finish last, but it’s always the villain who says that, right before he doesn’t show up in the fourth quarter and reminds his haters that he is richer and better than them after he loses. The final twelve minutes are where games are won and lost, but in case we don’t see you there, LeBron, "good afternoon, good evening and good night."
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