Game 5 of the NBA Finals was every little terrible thing wrong with modern sports
Sports Twitter is a fallout zone. It's Tuesday morning, the day after Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and the buildings are crumbling, every avatar is sprouting a second head from the radiation, and it's simultaneously everyone and no one's fault. What was supposed to be a fairytale ending for the Toronto Raptors and their plucky fanbase, saw the former blow it and the latter morph into villains. What was supposed to be a Bill Murray-in-Space Jam comeback for Kevin Durant turned into a cautionary tale about the relationship between employee and employer. Drake was Drake and the internet attacked some random guy named Kyle Lowery. It was every single little thing wrong with modern sports rolled into a two-and-a-half hour hand grenade and the NBA Finals are probably ruined because of it.
If you have to blame one thing, blame the times, man.
A great many things, both in and out of sports, are better now than they were 20-30-40 years ago. But Monday night at the Scotiabank Arena highlighted how the NBA in particular—a league that plays out on Instagram as much as the hard court—has suffered from the white hot lights of 2019.
It begins and ends with KD, whose contract status heading into this summer has been a source of constant armchair prognostication since last summer. After going down with a calf injury early in the playoffs, KD made what was supposed to be his triumphant return on Monday night. He lasted all of a quarter and a half before tearing his achilles, putting him out not only for the rest of the Finals, but most of next season as well. Durant was surely motivated by The Stage® and The Team™ and all that good stuff, but it's also hard not to look at the context:
KD is playing for a Supermax deal in a Supermax-deal-laden summer. Is he out there on one leg when he clearly shouldn't be with two years left on his contract? If he wasn't, would Twitter kill him for it, as they kill him for everything? Then there's the issue of the Warriors, whose team doctors told KD he "couldn't get more hurt" by playing, who have no remaining stake in Durant—expected to walk in a matter of days—and whose GM broke down in tears and said it was his fault in the Captain Obvious post-game press conference of the evening. In an age of employers expecting more while providing less, the Warriors are just the latest in a long line to treat their employee of the month like an asset, not a human, and it bit the human in the ass. Here's hoping they give you a discount on Cobra, Kevin, because that shit ain't cheap...
And that's just the Warriors. What about the lovable Raptors? What about their fanbase—too polite and nice and wonderfully Canadian to say anything bad about their Finals foes? Well, with Durant on the floor, no feeling in his foot, staring down the barrel of 12 straight months of surgery, grueling rehab, and getting lowballed in free agency because of "health concerns" because he decided to lay it on the line for a corporation, they cheered. Maybe they forgot that they weren't behind a keyboard with an egg where their face should be. Maybe there's no difference anymore. But they cheered, even as Raptors players told them not to, somehow managing to make the old Boston Garden look empathetic by comparison.
And that was just the arena. Lord knows what was being said in living rooms and dive bars across rural Ontario (let alone Jurassic Park).
Oh and Drake was there, leveraging the moment for social media capital. At the time of writing, this post has 1,090,515 likes and counting.
Finally, just when all that had digested and the attention was slowly turning back to the game—a reasonably close contest with the Raptors on the outside looking in—Kyle Lowry, a man, like dearly departed DeMar Derozan and Dwayne Casey, now hailed as a "Canadian Icon" despite being dismembered by the media for not being championship caliber this time last year, was demoted once more, bricking a potential game-winning three off the side of the backboard and uncorking a new, very shook-up bottle of Twitter abuse in the process:
But wait! Turns out the shot was actually blocked, which we didn't bother to notice until after hurling expletives at you online and condemning the foundation of your soul for three straight hours. [Cartman voice] Sorry, Kyle.
So yeah, Monday night was a trainwreck for the NBA, which watched its season finale and offseason finale both get Thanos'd with one little snap of KD's calf. It was a trainwreck for the Raptors organization, who are somehow the bad guys now, even compared to the Collusion State Warriors. It was a trainwreck for Kevin Durant and it was trainwreck for the state of sports in 2019, which has been careening toward some sort of reckoning for awhile now. There are SO MANY TRAINS jumping so many tracks this morning...except, of course, for the Warriors' luxury steam engine, which barrels toward San Francisco undisturbed but for the clinking of fine china. Must be nice.