Heroes and villains | BusinessMirror

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ONE man’s trash is another man’s treasure, goes the oft-quoted adage that online store eBay uses to encourage people to sell their clutter.

In the same manner, though in a far-fetched way, one fan’s hero may be another fan’s villain. And vice versa. This flip-sided view of objects of adulation, or derision, has never been more pronounced than in the ongoing National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.

There is so much drama in the ongoing Finals, in fact, that heroes and villains are more hyped and highlighted this year. Viewership is at an all-time high such that according to Nielsen records, Games One and Two between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors averaged 19.6 million viewers–a five percent increase from last year’s record. An average of 20.1 million viewers watched Game Two alone—the highest viewership for a Game Two since the Bulls-Jazz went at it in 1998.

Why so? Because this Finals series is cut out in an epic mold. Besides being a trilogy of a classic battle, star-studded line-ups that mirror the stellar cast of the Iliad, the storylines are pure primetime. There’s revenge (will the Dubs be able to get back at the rug-pulling Cavs?), dominance (which team will be able to pull off the 2-1 edge in the Finals scoreboard?), history (first time in the league that two teams are playing in three successive NBA Finals), star power (both teams seem to have the most A-listed players with the biggest box office attraction), and a bit of magic (will the Cavs be able to pull off another improbable win as they did last year, after being handcuffed and steamrollered by the Dubs in the first two outings?).

Clearly the fans are divided, worldwide. Either you’re Dubs or you’re Cavs and there’s nothing in between. Either you hate LeBron or you love LeBron, or you like or don’t like Steph Curry at all. There are heroes and there are villains. And what’s funny is that perceptions change of who’s good and who’s bad, depending on what side of the spectrum you’re on.

The Dubs, darlings of the NBA since the 2013 playoffs because of their gritty play that defeated the Denver Nuggets and scared the San Antonio Spurs enough in the next round, have always been the fresh, young kids and the white knights of this contest. Not this year, however. Not completely, at least.

Steph Curry lost some of his glitter—despite his back to back MVPs and GSW’s 73-win season last year—when the Cavs pulled the rug from under them with a historic win last year from a 3-1 deficit. Conversely, the oft-hated LeBron earned not a few stars because of the same win, proving to both believers and skeptics that he was indeed The King. That he was a true leader and a loyal son that won all the marbles for his beloved Cleveland.

This year, Steph Curry wasn’t all the fair-haired boy he was in 2015 and 2016. He showed his feet of clay more than once: first, when he taunted and pointed fingers at Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown in March this year. More recently, when he appeared to be taking a nap in the sidelines in the fourth quarter of Game Two, the word “disrespectful” rained on him from all around.

Has the humble and affable player, husband and father changed with fame? Not at all. To GSW fans he is still the savior, the bright light of salvation, the heart and soul of the team. His is still the most popular jersey in the league. Yes, better than LeBron James of the 2016 champion Cavs. He is the new face of the NBA.

In contrast, erstwhile “bad guy” and “most-hated” star LeBron James who earned his villain status after that unforgettable “take my talents to South Beach” moment in 2010, has earned plus points for his achievements in last year’s finals. The guy they used to call “Le Choke” proved to one and all that he was indeed “the greatest.” Not only did he rewrite NBA history with the first-ever comeback win from 3-1. He also brought Cleveland its first-ever NBA championship.

This year, LeBron plays the unfamiliar role of underdog, seeming very much like the existential hero towing his team against the tide of unstoppable Golden State. The Cavs are being bullied. They are being embarrassed and humiliated. If ever they come out of this ordeal alive, he will again achieve adulation in super hero proportions. If not, there’s a place they call the Has Bin.

Curry and James are the top heroes—and at the same time—the arch villains of their respective fans and haters. But wait, there’s more.

Kevin Durant, the all-time favorite son, the guy everyone-wants-to-succeed is suddenly easing into the villain’s shoes, and not just for Cavs fans. His sin: the same sin Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen “Baby” Davis accuse Ray Allen of. Joining the enemy.

Almost overnight, KD’s popularity took a nosedive. And many non-Cavs fans are rooting for the Cavs against Golden State because of the KD caper. Unfair though, if one looks at the matter through colorless glasses, because KD does seem to be thriving in Steve Kerr’s system. Villain or hero? Perception is always subjective.

Right now, the Dubs seem to have more villains, numbers-wise. But if you take a survey among Dubs fans, the Cavs need just one super villain, and that’s enough.

If you stay on the neutral side, however, both sets of heroes and villains (with interchangeable roles) are all selfless players. They are all after the same thing: one more championship ring. And one more run for glory before new generations take over.

Yet, the heroes and villains storyline makes the watching of this NBA Finals more delicious than ever before. Super heroes waging an epic battle in a historic series doesn’t happen every day.



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