I am currently in the middle of Jeff Goins’ ongoing writing workshop entitled 15 Habits of Great Writers, where each day we have a new lesson in writing and a prompt for a new post.
Today’s lesson is about stealing, yes stealing; and the challenge is to “Find a quote or a painting or some form of inspiration — and steal it. Make it your own.”
With Jeff’s challenge drifting in and our of my thoughts, and a cloud of drowsiness engulfing me this afternoon, it seemed like the perfect time to snap myself to attention for one of my favorite activities: browsing through my iTunes catalog to come up with a playlist.
And with the NBA Finals beginning tonight, what better subject could there be to address with a playlist?
The embedded Spotify playlist is below. Feel free to hit play while you read. All of the songs are good – I promise – and will provide pleasant accompaniment while I explain each choice below.
The playlist kicks of with “June Hymn” by the Decemberists, which begins with these appropriate lyrics to herald in the biggest sporting event of every June:
Here’s a hymn to welcome in the day
Heralding a summer’s early sway
And all the bulbs all coming in
The thrushes bleating battle with the wrens
Disrupts my reverie again
Next, we move onto some Miami Heat tracks, beginning with “Starts With One” by Shiny Toy Guns. If LeBron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh are ever going to start making progress towards titles 6…7…and 8, they are going to have to win #1 first.
We’ll see if they can do it.
One thing is for sure, the Heat seem different this year than they did last year when they made it this far only to lose to the Dallas Mavericks. And it all starts with LeBron, for whom the next two songs were chosen.
The 2011 version of LeBron James was like “Leave Me Alone” by Michael Jackson. He was defiant, terse with the media, and even antagonistic towards Dirk Nowitzki. Remember this, with his buddy D-Wade?
But the 2012 version of LeBron James is different, which is why “I Ain’t The Same” by Alabama Shakes is the perfect choice.
I ain’t the same no more
In fact I have changed from before
No, you ain’t gonna find me
Oh no, cause I’m not who I used to be
As I wrote about yesterday when I explained why I’m rooting for LeBron to win, he seems to be more mature and to have found a different perspective. He seems more willing to accept the responsibility that comes with being the most talented basketball player ever.
And that responsibility is to lead, rather than be led, no matter that the Heat were Dwyane Wade’s team when LeBron arrived.
They aren’t Wade’s Heat anymore.
I think “King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men perfectly sums up the new LeBron/Wade dynamic, which works to the benefit of the Heat, especially considering the ghosts of their 2011 Finals failure they now have to fend off.
Howling ghost they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear
But you’re a king and I’m a lion-heart.
And in the sea that’s painted black,
Creatures lurk below the deck
But you’re a king and I’m a lion-heart.
LeBron fully assumed control of the Heat and its fortunes in the Celtics series, if he hadn’t already before, and Wade to his credit seems okay with being Lionheart. And it will be King and Lionheart that will determine whether or not the Heat can prevail in 2012.
Except that we shouldn’t forget about the third member of Miami’s Big Three: Chris Bosh, who is honored in the playlist with “A Little Respect” by Erasure, both because he is routinely overlooked … and because something about that song and Chris Bosh (both of which I like) just seem to fit.
And what about the rest of the Heat? Well, they just have to make the best of whatever scraps are left from the Big Three, which is why “Take What I’m Given” by Bhi Bhiman encompasses all of them. (I was going to add “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Shiek for Juwan Howard, but that song sucks so I couldn’t do it. Of course, so does Howard, so that could have been even more appropriate.)
Now let’s turn our attention the Thunder, where we begin with “Learning To Fly” by Tom Petty, because that is indeed what this young OKC team is learning to do.
The Heat have been here to the Finals before, and both LeBron and D-Wade have Finals experience prior to that. This will be a new experience for the Thunder stars though, so it remains to be seen how they will handle basketball’s biggest stage. As Petty sings, “Coming down is the hardest thing.” The Thunder and their fans are hoping they won’t have to experience it first hand.
The #1 star of the Thunder is, of course, Kevin Durant. He is being presented as the anti-LeBron because of his humility, commitment to Oklahoma City, and willingness to take and make the big late-game jump shot.
In fact, the NBA’s marketing plan for Durant may as well have come right out of “Someone Purer” by Mystery Jets: “…someone kinder, someone surer, someone innocent, young and beautiful, someone purer…”
But what about the other Thunder star, Russell Westbrook? He is honored in the playlist with “Run [I'm a Natural Disaster]” by Gnarls Barkley because the song’s frenetic pace matches his play and its bracketed subtitle matches many analysts’ – and even Thunder fans’ – opinions of him.
The first line of the song is “Yeah, still the same…” which jives with what Tom Ziller wrote about Westbrook earlier today. The Thunder have made it this far with Westbrook being the same shoot-first, attack-first point guard he’s always been. And the discussion of whether that jives best with Kevin Durant will linger if the Thunder do not win.
If OKC wins, then everyone will be singing “Better Together” by Jack Johnson when it comes to the Durant-Westbrook combo. If not, it’ll be “Oil and Water” by Incubus. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.
And then there is James Harden. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t even know what the lyrics to “Beard” by Burning Hotels are about, but I like how the song sounds, and would anything else really be appropriate for Harden?
KD seems to like the choice.
As for the rest of the Thunder, Derek Fisher and his big shot reputation are “Back In The High Life Again” in the NBA Finals, and the duo of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are looking to form a “Barricade” around the hoop to stop the slash-and-drive-happy James and Wade. Their contributions will be key to OKC’s chances of winning.
Also key for both teams will be their young coaches – Erik Spoelstra and Scott Brooks – not pulling the “Panic Switch” at any time in the series. They need to keep calm so their teams do.
And in honor of a couple of guys who won’t see much time, if any, in these Finals, the lovely “Unplayed Piano” duet between Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan goes out to Lazar Hayward of the Thunder and Dexter Pittman of the Heat, who average the fewest minutes on their teams. I don’t think that will change much this series, unless Pittman is needed against the size of the Thunder big men.
Oh, and a quick memo to Charles Barkley in reference to his negative comments about Oklahoma City: “Why Would You Not Want To Go There?” It’s a nice city, similar to Indianapolis in how it is underrated and disrespected, but then lauded when people actually go and experience it. The Chuckwagon did tour the OKC museum, so we’ll have to see what he has to say about it tonight.
And finally, I throw a bone to sports fans in Seattle.
As jilted as Cavs fans have to be seeing LeBron in a Heat uniform, how do you think Sonics fans feel seeing the team that used to be theirs in the blue, orange, and white of OKC, playing in an NBA Finals that should be theirs in the pacific northwest? The answer: not good.
So we near the end of this playlist as we started it, with The Decemberists, and their classic “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” The Mariners are one of the few sports teams Seattleans have left, and we know they’d like a little revenge on the jackwads who stole the team out from under their noses.
And then you disappeared
Your gambling arrears
The only thing you left behind
And then the magistrate
Reclaimed our small estate
And my poor mother lost her mind
Then, one day in spring
My dear sweet mother died
But, before she did
I took her hand as she, dying, cried:
“Find him, Bind him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he
Wakes up naked
Clawing at the ceiling
Of his grave”
Hear that Clay Bennett?
At least the Sonics fans won’t have to suffer through seeing the Thunder hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, at least not this year. Like Jon Washburn, I think the Heat will take this series in six games. It’s their time. It’s LeBron’s time.
It took a year longer than they anticipated, but the Heat will get their title. There just isn’t any stopping them now…
Just picture LeBron and Wade as you listen to these lyrics to Queen’s classic “Don’t Stop Me Now”:
I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I’m a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I’m gonna go go go
There’s no stopping me
So…who ya got?