Who’s the Protagonist of the NBA This Year (Since It’s Definitely Not LeBron)? – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Who’s the Protagonist of the NBA This Year (Since It’s Definitely Not LeBron)?

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters

In basketball, our Campbellian instincts to declare and venerate heroes work in overdrive. The best of the best, the Godzillas of the game, overwhelm everything and become the protagonists of the NBA, dictating the flow of every game and dazzling audiences in person, on TV, and in highlight packages everywhere. In the 1950s, it was George Mikan, the first tall guy to ever play basketball. The ’60s were the story of Bill Russell, an ornery political radical who invented the modern game and left Jerry West broken and humiliated every summer. The ’70s were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s time, which sort of annoyed him because he is the exact kind of person who finds all of this very stupid. (He’s right.)

The ’80s sang the ballad of Bird and Magic, a rivalry that captured the hearts of a nation and also created a non-violent-but-still-kind-of-icky outlet for the racial tensions of an America slowly sliding into late capitalism. The ’90s, of course, were all Michael Jordan. For a second at the beginning of the aughts, it seemed like Allen Iverson was the league’s new protagonist, but he fell off fast and was supplanted by Kobe Bryant, a toxic nepo baby with a flair for personal brand building.

Since then, the NBA has been intractably wired through LeBron James. It’s not just a story thing; he helped his agent become incredibly powerful, altered the way teams deal with great players, taught everyone how to threaten and cajole their squads into entering win-now mode. He loves it—loves hearing about himself on TV, loves giving interviews, loves posting stuff online, and just loves attention. If he could, he would be the NBA’s protagonist forever.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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