Written by: Melissa Harder
Right now you probably think from the title of this column that this is going to be chock full of references to Jesus Shuttlesworth, aka the character Ray Allen plays in the Spike Lee joint “He Got Game." Well you're wrong! This is about a different Basketball "Jesus." After the Oklahoma City Thunder came back to beat the San Antonio Spurs to make it to their first NBA Finals (well as OKC, their precursor Seattle SuperSonics have been there before) I thanked Basketball Jesus for this win. Now you’re wondering out loud, “who is Basketball Jesus?” It’s time you knew the real truth.
I have for many years discussed the various “Jesi” (the plural, in my mind, for Jesus. Don’t correct me. I'm pretty set on this.) that professional athletes, entertainers, etc. thank when they reach their plateau (a championship, an award). And I remember thinking, there’s just no way that God or Jesus has enough time to help all of these people reach their potential. No. Way. And so I decided there must be multiple “Gods," properly categorized and their respective “Jesi” to do the helping. That way, everybody wins! For example, there is an Entertainment God and he has Grammy Jesus, Oscar Jesus, and World Music Award Jesus. You get the idea. For professional sports, there is Sport God and his friends Football Jesus, Soccer Jesus, and of course, Basketball Jesus.
You’re going to tell me that OKC beat San Antonio. I know they did. I know. They used their youth, their athleticism, their spunk, their three time scoring champ Kevin Durant and some great defence to climb out of an 18-point, first-half deficit to win 107-99 in front of an energized and delirious crowd. But don’t you think Basketball Jesus helped? Just a little? I think he saw the Thunder walk out of American Airlines Center in Dallas after the Mavericks eliminated them last year and saw how much it hurt them to lose. He told the team that they were too young and excitable. He told them their time would come.
"I understand it's a process," Durant said on finally winning the series against the Spurs. "We had to wait our turn."
And wait their turn they did. They slammed the brakes on San Antonio’s 20-game winning streak and dealt them four straight losses. I know many thought when the Thunder went down 2-0 that it was time to break out the brooms, that there was no way they would beat the Spurs juggernaut, even once. By the time the clock ran out in Game 6, the Spurs had lost as many times in 7 days as they had in the previous 12 weeks.
The box score numbers for Game 6 were impressive – Durant had 34, Westbrook had 25 and Harden 16. But their maturity for being 23 and 22 years old, none of them old enough to even rent cars when they head to different NBA cities is what’s most astounding.
The Spurs? They’ve won four championships, their nucleus has been together for umpteen number of years and they’re old hands by now. They’ll be ok. Basketball Jesus knew this time how the chips should fall. So congratulations Thunder, Western Conference Champions. Basketball Jesus and I cannot wait to see how you’ll perform in the Finals a few days time.
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