Previews are available at the links above and the SBN NBA storystream will have all the updates you'll need during the game. After the jump, some personal thoughts about the talk leading up to and during the 2012 NBA Finals about the "good vs. evil" narrative, with the "home grown" Oklahoma City Thunder and superstar Kevin Durant representing the good and LeBron James' Miami Heat team that brought together a band of mercenaries representing evil.
Dave Zirin of The Nation wrote that the binary narrative is as backwards as it is simple: the villainy of the Thunder's owners makes them the team that not only Seattlites should root against but also any fan of the game.
Even while Oakland native and former Seattle Sonics Gary Payton says that basketball fans in the Evergreen State should move on and look forward to getting a new team, Zirin responded that they shouldn't get over it.
There are plenty more opinions floating around out there telling you who you should root for and why, but Kate Perkins of The Classical wrote a response to Zirin's first article that pointed out what makes rooting for or against owners a bit awkward.
Perkins writes that our rooting for them is no more a vote in favor of them than rooting against them is a mandate for them to change - like it or not, they will continue to be driven by a profit motive regardless of whether we root for them. And there's nothing wrong with that; it's just that our enlightened rooting interests aren't ultimately the catalyst to change that which we stand against.
Yet setting that ownership issue aside, Perkins briefly described the essence of what sucks many of us into a life of sports fandom and often shapes our earliest rooting interests:
"Rooting for" anything implies a wishful attitude, a well-wishing for people or things with which you identify but upon whose fate you have no actual impact. This is why it is a term so well suited for sports: when the game is in play, fans submit to contingency, not principle.
This is not to say that sports are somehow divorced from our daily discourse or experiences - as David J. Leonard rightly points out, matters of class, gender, race, and sexuality are all at work in the framing and perceptions of sports, even in the reasons why Durant is probably better poised to assume the mantle of the league's Next Michael Jordan than other stars like James or Kobe Bryant. Along with that, civic or cultural pride often figures into people's rooting interests somewhere.
Still, the point is that the greatest joy in sports is often found in the extent to which we're able to lose ourselves in the roller coaster of beauty and unpredictability of the unfolding narrative that the game offers us; as Seattlite Sherman Alexie said in Sonicsgate, part of being a sports fan is appreciating, "...the ultimate expression of the human endeavor. The ultimate expression of the human spirit. The ultimate expression of human dedication."
Don't get me wrong - like Perkins, I deeply admire Zirin's work and as someone who lived in Seattle when the Sonics left, I can also understand why fans like Alexie are legitimately distraught - or angry - about the fact that they have to watch as someone else gets to embrace the joy that was taken from them. But for the rest of us, the argument that we should define who we root against by universal moral obligations instead of submitting to that unpredictable narrative beauty of the game sort of defeats the best part of being a fan to begin with.
So as we enter the third game of a tied series tonight, I ask a simpler question without judging who you're rooting for: in the course of watching those first two games, who did you find yourself pulling for down the stretch? Which team did you find yourself happy for when they won and disappointed for when they lost?
Vote below, stay with us as you enjoy the game.