I won't lie -- watching Oklahoma City fans gasp with horror on social media as their team got swallowed into the depths of narrative hell by the Golden State Warriors on Monday night granted me some sick, twisted pleasure. I felt like some really creepy voyeur -- misery loves company and failures love to ridicule fellow failures.
The crying Jordans, the memes, the joke tweets. I fell in love with all of it.
In all honesty though, Oklahoma City didn't fail. They took a 73-win team to the brink of their limits and saw the emergence of some foundation pieces that weren't there before May started. Steven Adams was always nice, but nobody thought he was the 1C to Durant and Westbrook's 1A and 1B before the playoffs. He was just a dude.
Yet, being up 3-1 in a series, no matter how much an underdog, always unleashes the narrative hounds to devalue any sense of accomplishment. In the hours that followed, Oklahoma City fans got to hear about their team choking, about Westbrook not being part of the solution (again) despite some otherworldly numbers (again). Kevin Durant got lashed about not having a killer instinct (again).
Of course, this sounds familiar to Mavericks fans. Dirk Nowitzki was called soft from years 2000 to 2010 more than that damn bear that peddled fabric softener. Jason Terry wasn't a real point guard. The Mavs weren't tough. A jump-shooting superstar can't win a title and so on and so forth.
The Mavericks endured that hell for nearly a decade before winning a title evaporated it. The title changed things so much that while the Mavericks are even worse off now than that decade of playoff torture, no one seems to really care -- the Mavs have this weird complacency washed over the casual fan base and media that prevents any real criticism outside of the die-hards thanks to a title that was won five years ago.
I feel bad in a way for Oklahoma City fans -- there's no greater torture in the NBA than being relevant and ridiculed. The Mavericks are bad now, sure, but nobody cares because they aren't even close to title quality. The Hornets, Hawks, Pistons and Trail Blazers got smoked out of the playoffs but enjoyed some feel good moments due to low expectations. Even the bad teams go away and not shine in the national spotlight once the season ends (unless you're the Sixers).
The Thunder? They were in the news cycle from October to June and all they have to show for it is some punkasses on Twitter photoshopping a crying Michael Jordan onto their faces. Life is cruel, then your superstar enters free agency and then you die.
Some advice for OKC fans: it's never going to end until the title, so don't get sucked into the hate. Your team will endure all sorts of unfortunate and lame criticisms about the "will to win" and "heart" and "leadership." Some of it will be based in some tiny parts of reality (I mean come on, Westbrook, cut those threes out) and most of it will be garbage. The best bet is to stay the course, do not engage the trolls and put your head into the sand whenever the team falls in the playoffs -- I'm talking detoxing from social media, no late night sports programming. Go cold turkey.
Until that title happens though, welcome to hell. May you shield yourself from the fiery hot takes that burn into eternity. It'll just feel that much better when the title happens.