The successful formula in the NBA was rewritten in 2008 when the Boston Celtics formed the “Big Three”. Last year, the Miami Heat formed a newer version of the “Big Three” and proclaimed championships for the next six years.
This NBA formula hasn’t changed in 2012. This season, more teams have followed that formula. As the storylines of this season unfold, one team stands out about the rest; the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Athletes are often compared to superheroes. As a child of the mid 80’s, I wasn’t a singular superhero fan. I invested my faith into four pizza-loving animals called The Teenage Mutant Turtles.
The NBA has many great teams but one squad reminds me so much of TMNT it’s scary. The Oklahoma City Thunder are that team, and a favorite of many to win the NBA’s Western Conference. The comparisons I am about to make in regards to this team bring back all the nostalgia of the crime fighting half shells.
Serge Ibaka as Donatello
Ibaka possesses shot blocking talent we haven’t seen since Dikembe Mutumbo. He is a rebound machine that the Thunder rely on for his defense and energy. Why is he Donatello? Ibaka is quiet, goes about his business every night, and is a smart player. These traits will help him as he plays the power forward position, and in the West he will draw the tough assignments of Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, and Pau Gasol come playoff time.
James Harden as Michelangelo
Harden, rocking a fluffy beard and faux-hawk, plays the 3rd wheel better than any guy in the league. He’s not called upon by the team to provide the huge point production, but he provides a great back-up to the studs. Michelangelo provided all the comedy relief during the TMNT series. Harden is like the jovial comparison for this Thunder quartet. He keeps things light with his funky style of play.
Russell Westbrook as Raphael
Raphael is my favorite turtle because of his attitude. Russell Westbrook plays with a “chip on his shoulder,” much like Raphael. Westbrook wants to be the man and believes he is the man. Raphael’s mouth got the group in trouble with the Foot Clan, the villain army. With Westbrook’s erratic playmaking and unwillingness to pass to Kevin Durant, the team’s best player, it leads to disappointing losses. Westbrook could be the best player on most teams, but unfortunately he plays alongside Durant.
Kevin Durant as Leonardo
Kevin Durant is the leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is intense, competitive, and driven just like Leonardo, who was the obvious leader of the TMNT. Durant has managed to quietly reign with the franchise since they were in Seattle. Kevin Durant has the difficult job of balancing all the personalities of his team. But, when it’s crunch time, Durant has the ball and is leading his team into battle by example like Leonardo.
The Durant/Westbrook relationship is similar to Raphael and Leonardo. Many times they clash on the court because they are scorers who both want shots. However, when they are on the same page, the duo is strong and unstoppable. Throw in Harden and Ibaka, and this group is your clear favorite to win the west.
But, who is the NBA’s version of Shredder and his Foot Clan that will be waiting for the Thunder as the playoffs roll around?