In sports, one fan’s hero is another fan’s villain. A Dallas Mavericks fan will argue Kobe Bryant is a villain while a Los Angeles Lakers fan will disagree saying that LeBron James is the real bad guy. Things are more clear-cut in film. Hollywood makes it obvious who we’re supposed to cheer for and who we’re supposed to hate.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs have brought out clearer heroes, villains and character redemptions. Whether you live in Boston, Miami, Los Angeles or Memphis, it’s hard not to see the following players as equivalents to corresponding movie characters, both heroic and villainous.
J.J. Barea–Daniel LaRusso
The Dallas Mavericks claim J.J. Barea, is six feet, but he looks 4-foot-11 standing by his teammates. There is no reason this short Puerto Rican should be in the league other than heart. And then, just like Daniel LaRusso in the “Karate Kid,” Barea stepped up huge when taking on the bigger, tougher Cobra Kai (aka Los Angeles Lakers). When Barea drives the lane and makes a floater, it’s his “Crane” stance kick to the face.
In “Sin City,” Marv has a questionable past and does not look like a good guy. He’s the anti-hero. The Memphis Grizzles’ Zach Randolph is the same way. He has a dubious past and no one expected him to make the NBA Playoffs after his somewhat disappointing career until now. Marv steals the movie away from the flashier, good-looking heroes. And they both have a brute strength no one can guard against.
Kevin Durant–Luke Skywalker
Kevin Durant may have the limbs of Chewbacca, but he’s the Skywalker of Oklahoma City’s Thunder. Both of them were tapped at a young age to save the universe (aka NBA), both are modest heroes and both use telekinesis (or at least Durant shoots like he does). The young Thunder are against huge odds in the playoffs, like the Rebel Alliance against the Dark Side. But since they have a “Skywalker,” the impossible can happen.
Lamar Odom–Henry Hill
Even though Henry Hill is the narrator of “Good Fellas,” he’s not the best gangster. He’s “The Sixth Man” of the mafia. He’s not a starter but still valuable to the team. Lamar Odom, NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, kept his head down most of the season, like Hill, and did what was best for the Lakers. However, when his back was against the wall in Game 4 with the Dallas Mavericks, he sold his team out. Hill sold out the mob by turning into a “rat” while Odom got ejected for a dirty hit.
The Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum isn’t smart enough to be a villain. He’s more like hired muscle. When Bynum saw Odom lose his cool, he took it as a cue to elbow J.J. Barea out of the air. Similarly, Oddjob took his cues to harm others from Goldfinger. Neither seem to put much thought into their actions.
In “The Princess Bride,” Andre the Giant plays the dim-witted giant Fezzik. He’s not evil by nature, but begins as a bad guy due to the sordid company he keeps. Marc Gasol is a seven-foot-plus giant for the Memphis Grizzlies. Like Fezzik, no one expected much from him except muscle since his older brother, Lakers’ Pau Gasol, always overshadowed him. However, Marc has exceeded expectations, becoming a star in the playoffs, just like Fezzik redeems himself by helping the hero Wesley save Princess Buttercup.
Joakim Noah–Travis Bickle
When the Chicago Bulls played the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, Pacers players began complaining about Bulls’ center Joakim Noah’s dirty play. Noah answered that he’s not a dirty player. He just does the dirty work on the basket, which is the bumping and shoving necessary for any team to win. It’s hard to know whether Travis Bickle is a hero or villain in “Taxi Driver.” However, in the end he does the dirty work necessary to save a 13-year-old prostitute. Noah does the dirty work necessary to save Bulls’ star point guard Derrick Rose. But I’m not saying Rose is like a 13-year-old hooker …
The Heat–-”D2: The Mighty Ducks”
Wait a minute? What? The Mighty Ducks are clear-cut heroes, right? Well, in the sequel they took their team of nobodies (all Heat players beside the Big Three) and one star Adam Banks (Heat’s Dwayne Wade), and added the best players from the nation like Dwayne Robertson (former-Cav LeBron James) and Ken Wu (former-Raptor Chris Bosh). As the movie goes on, viewers start to dislike the Ducks. They’re really cocky, start losing and begin whining. The turning point is when they find their new team identity and beat Team Iceland. The Heat had the same season. After getting the Big Three, they immediately got overconfident, started losing and didn’t have a team identity. However, they seem to have found it now as they slaughtered the veteran Celtics in Round Two.