Dallas Mavericks players as Greek heroes: Part I

USA TODAY Sports

I'm certain that all of you, at one point or another have had occasion to wonder just how it is that we, the staff of MMB, come up with such brilliant story ideas, day after day, week after week.

What you don't know is that behind the stately edifice of this page lies a near-constant, frantic, throbbing email chain which, viewed from far above, takes on the semblance of a vast, evolving truth or dare game.

Like the time we made Tim write an article comparing Dirk's game to the movie Gladiator.

At any rate, last night, Kirk challenged me to write an article comparing Mavericks players to heroes of Greek mythology. A task I will not attempt to achieve without, for an additional flourish, ONCE checking Wikipedia or any other source.

Do not try this at home.

Heracles

The one thing I could never convince my students of was that in Greek, it's "Heracles" or "Herakles", not Hercules. And this one's obvious. Heracles is the one indomitable hero. He kills every monster, often turns them into garments, and goes down to the underworld no less than three times. Two generations before the Trojan War, he sacks the city with like ten other guys. Even when he's supposed to die, covered in skin-burning poison, he can't figure out how and the gods are like, well, okay, I guess you can come live with us instead. After a succession of women he accidentally murders or who try to murder him, he finds much happiness with Hebe, the goddess of Dawn on Olympus.

The ass-kickingiest, the club-wieldingest, the Nemean-lion wearingest, the guy who can't die and can't be beat---who else could it be?

Heracles is...Dirk Nowitzki

Oedipous

This one actually came to my mind first. The first major event of Oedipus' life was a foot problem. Born to be a king and a hero, a disturbing prophecy comes to King Laius of Thebes from Delphi---because of previous impiety (involving the rape of one of his foreign hosts' children), Laius is cursed such that his son will kill him and marry his wife. So, piercing his ankles with a leather thong-the name Oedipous means "sore foot", and leaves him on a mountain top to die.

But of course Oedipous is taken in by a shepherd who saves his life and sends him to Corinth, where he's raised, as far as he knows, as the king of Corinth's actual son. Upon hearing the prophecy that he's to kill his father, whom he assumes to be the king of Corinth, he flees Corinth to...Thebes. His real father, Laius, runs into him on the road unknowingly and is rude to him. So Oedipous just straight kills him. When he arrives in Thebes the city is an uproar because, hey, no king, and also because a terrifying Sphinx is eating the population until someone answers his riddle, for some reason.

Oedipous, while putting up 40 against Golden State, SOLVES the riddle, briefly moonlights as a hero, than the awful consequences set in and everyone ends up dead or blind. He blinds himself, his sons kill each other, his daughter hangs herself, his wife/mother blinds then hangs herself, his son-in-law-to-be sees Oedipous' daughter has hanged herself and hangs himself. It is just like a huge, gross disaster.

Who else, again?

Oedipous is...Roddy B

Peleus

Peleus is Achilles' dad. The thing about Greek mythology that's pretty unique is that it is generational. You don't tend to see heroes get old in other myths, here you do. Peleus was one of the Argonauts, and a legendary hero in his own right. There's a website called "Better Book Titles", by the way, that has my all-time favorite for Jason and the Argonauts, something like "An Entire Frat Sails Off to Steal The World's Fanciest Coat".

Anyhow, by the time of the Iliad (which, again something I could not convince my students of, has only one "L"), Peleus is an old dude. He has no other kids. Zeus made Aphrodite sleep with him to punish her for wreaking the kind of havoc she tends to wreak, but she refused to do it again and it's not really wise to cheat on a goddess. He's got a lot of great stories to tell, and some cool move (the spear of heavy Pelian Ash, which none but Achilles can wield was Peleus' first), but there doesn't seem to be all that much left there.

More like...Elton Brand and the Argonauts, amiright?

Theseus

Theseus is like, mini-Heracles. While Heracles performs twelve labors, Theseus performs six. Because a huge percentage of the material of Greek mythology that survives comes from the plays of only three playwrights, all Athenians, performed at the Great Dionysia at Athens in a span of about 70 years in the 5th century, Theseus, despite not having the reputation of some of the other heroes, has a habit of showing up to save people who didn't even know he was coming. He also has a messy divorce with Ariadne, whom he leaves on Naxos after she helps him escape the labyrinth, but it's cool, she marries Dionysius/Tony Allen

Theseus is...OJ Mayo

Philoctetes

Philoctetes was a great hero with a singular, flashy skill-he was an archer. As a young hero, he sailed with the rest to Troy, but he never actually made it. When the Greeks stopped to reprovision on Lemnos/Toronto, he was bitten by a poison snake. Because the wound smelled like *(#@, Odysseus convinced the Greeks to leave him behind. Unfortunately, ten years later, a prophet told the Greeks that if they wanted to win the war, they needed the bow of Heracles-which Heracles had given to Dionysius. So off they sailed to Lemnos to find a bow lying next to some bleached bones (a cheap-ass contract), when lo and bold it turned out that Philoctetes was alive and super pissed.

He got over it, fought hard at Troy, and eventually even killed Paris. Though there were some concerns about his shot selection.

Philoctetes is...Vince Carter

Perseus

Perseus is an older generation of Greek hero. An ancestor, even of Heracles. And sometimes, when you look at his accomplishments, great though they were, it's not quite clear what the point was. But he did something that maybe not even Heracles could do-he defeated the Gorgon, whose mere glance turns an opponent to stone. How did he do it? By concocting the perfect defense. A mirrored-shield so that the Gorgon would have to look at herself when he held it in front of him, and so that he could, by looking into the shield, see where the Medusa was without getting turned to stone.

In his later career, he slew a sea monster, to the surprise of many, he at last slew a sea monster and rescued a princess named Larry O'Briendromeda.

Perseus is...Shawn Marion

Stay tuned for part two, in a couple of days.

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