As I've perused the theological landscape over the last few years, I've learned a number of interesting things. I've learned what kind of music theology students and professors prefer, what kind of movies, what kind of TV shows, even what kind of sports. Theology is strangely dominated by baseball fans. It's kind of odd. There are even a handful of football and soccer fans scattered throughout, but I've found a serious dirth of NBA fandom in the theological community.
So, with this heinous oversight in mind, I've tasked myself with writing an NBA preview for the theological community. I've ranked each team on a scale from Orthodox to Heretical (based on playing style), given them a representative book of the Bible, and named their patron saint. I've even given you a brief summary of their outlook this season.
You don't know it yet, but I'll make NBA fans out of all of you. It is my mission, it is my quest.
Without further ado, I bring you the Eastern Conference teams.
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a very plain way.
Representative Biblical Book: Malachi - I'm sure it's a perfectly good book of the Bible, but I won't be paying it any attention in the near future.
Patron Saint: Paul Millsap - The patron saint of Poor Business Decisions, Discounts, and Overachievers.
Summary: The Hawks are a good team without a great player. Unfortunately, great players are hard to come by for teams that aren't picking at the top of the draft. This leaves the Hawks in the NBA equivalent of no man's land; a team just good enough to lose in the first round of the playoffs to a real contender.
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a blowing it up to start all over way.
Representative Biblical Book: Nehemiah - What fits better than a book about rebuilding from the ruins of a destroyed kingdom?
Patron Saint: Rajon Rondo - The patron saint of Connect Four, Aliens, and Being Misunderstood.
Summary: Over the summer the Celtics traded away their two aging stars for pennies on the dollar in order to kickstart their rebuilding program. They're a proud franchise and a well-run team, but they're in the beginning stages of a long process.
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a super wealthy way.
Representative Biblical Book: Judges - A bunch of wise old men sound like a great idea until the people tell you they really want a king.
Patron Saint: Mikhail Prokhorov - The patron saint of Russian Oligarchs, Bankrolls, and Secret Things We Can't Talk About Without Getting Killed.
Summary: The Nets are the basketball equivalent of a mad scientists very, very expensive experiment. On a pure talent basis, they're probably the best team in the league, but it's completely unknown whether these well-played stars will mesh together as a team, or if/when it's aging stars skills decline too far.
Orthodox/Heretical: Bad, in a bad way.
Representative Biblical Book: Numbers - Their roster is filled with a list of names you don't really know and don't particularly care to learn anything about.
Patron Saint: Michael Jordan - The patron saint of Basketball, Gambling, and Being Ironically Bad At Your Job.
Summary: The Bobcats are a mess.Their young players are disappointing projects, their veterans aren't nearly good enough to carry the team, and there seems to be no discernible plan. The Charlotte Bobcats are the NBA equivalent of a tire fire.
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a super intense way.
Representative Biblical Book: Deuteronomy - They are the law and you will abide by what they say.
Patron Saint: Derrick Rose - The patron saint of Knee Injuries, Delayed Gratification, and Pencil Thin Mustaches.
Summary: Former MVP Derrick Rose returns this season after sitting out last year with an ACL injury. He comes back to find a gritty, grinding defensive juggernaut that seems to have improved in his absence. The only question is whether they can all stay healthy to challenge Miami.
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a we'll figure it out next year way.
Representative Biblical Book: Job - Because God is clearly testing the good people of Cleveland, Ohio.
Patron Saint: Kyrie Irving - The patron saint of Getting Over Lebron James, Breaking Ankles, and Not Playing Defense.
Summary: It's been three years and the Cavs are still reeling from the departure of Lebron James. They've compiled a young, talented core, but the team has come to a crossroads: push the chips all-in to win now, or hold out for the summer and hope for Lebron's return. Knowing Cleveland's history, either choice will end badly.
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a really tall way.
Representative Biblical Book: 1 & 2 Samuel - This is where the Goliath story is and the Pistons have a lot of really tall dudes (What? They can't all be gold!)
Patron Saint: Josh Smith - The patron saint of Curiously Normal Names, Missed Fadeaway Jumpers, and Frustrated Fans.
Summary: The Pistons are weird. They're ridiculously talented, but their best players are either raw or undisciplined. The success of their season rests on the maturation of Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond and the hope that Josh Smith can shed some of the bad habits from his time in Atlanta. However, expecting all three to happen simultaneously feels foolish.
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a slightly less intense than Chicago way.
Representative Biblical Book: Proverbs - A healthy focus on those good ol' Midwestern fundamental values.
Patron Saint: Roy Hibbert - The patron saint of Sitcom Cameos, Inappropriate Celebratory Press Conferences, and Being Physically Intimidating.
Summary: The Pacers bring back almost the entire team that was oh so close to toppling Miami's reign in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. They've improved the bench that proved to be an issue last season, and it's up to Roy Hibbert and Paul George to sustain the improvements they made at the end of last season.
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a they're the devil way.
Representative Biblical Book: 1 & 2 Kings - It's the only appropriate choices for the 2-time defending champions. Please note that there is not a third book of Kings.
Patron Saint: Lebron James - The patron saint of Kings, All Media, and Betrayal.
Summary: They're good. They're really really good. I hate them.
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a no idea what they're doing way.
Representative Biblical Book: Nahum - Any idea what's in the book of Nahum? I think you see my point.
Patron Saint: LARRY SANDERS! - The patron saint of Blocks, Exclamation Points, and Entirely Capitalized Names.
Summary: As one NBA writer recently pointed out, pretty much every player on the Bucks is interchangeable with every other player on the Bucks. They're vaguely good, if by good you mean average. It's like a basketball team that personifies the Midwest.
New York Knicks
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a really bloated way.
Representative Biblical Book: Psalms - There's a lot of celebration, but it's a book more defined by lament than anything else.
Patron Saint: Carmelo Anthony - The patron saint of Forcing Trades, Having A Brand, and Fancy Headbands.
Summary: The Knicks can best be explained through the experience of recent acquisition Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani is a former #1 overall draft pick for the Raptors. After several years of disappointing play, the Raptors fans began to boo Bargnani relentlessly last season. In the offseason, he was traded to the Knicks for a fresh start. By the end of his second game, the Knicks fans were booing him every time he touched the ball. So go the Knicks. High expectations + not enough talent to fulfill those expectations = disappointment.
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a heretical way.
Representative Biblical Book: Isaiah - There's a lot of talk about the future, but there's going to be a lot of misery in the present.
Patron Saint: Victor Oladipo - The patron saint of Hard Work, Working Hard, and Subtly Difficult To Pronounce Names.
Summary: The Magic are incredibly young and full of talented players who don't quite know what they are yet. They probably won't be very good this year, but life is starting to look up in Orlando. The only question is, do they have a real star to build around?
Orthodox/Heretical: Heretical, in a totally on purpose way.
Representative Biblical Book: Joel - The world ends.
Patron Saint: Evan Turner - The patron saint of Swiss-Army Knives, Self-Applied Nicknames, and Villains.
Summary: The 1973 76ers went 9-73 and hold the record for being the worst team in NBA history. There are those who think this team will be worse. However, unlike the 1973 team, this version of the 76ers is doing it on purpose. The worst team in the league has a good chance of winning the rights to draft once-in-a-decade talent Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 Draft. Apparently, it's worth losing on purpose. (Note: In a rather surprising twist, the 76ers won their first 3 games of the season in rather astonishing fashion to surprise the basketball world. Don't worry, they'll still be bad.)
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a boring way.
Representative Biblical Book: Ezekiel - It's super confusing and I'm not sure if it's good or bad.
Patron Saint: Rudy Gay - The patron saint of Being Overrated, Trades That Make Your Former Team Better, and Being Named After 80's Sports Movies.
Summary: Every time I wrote down a list of NBA teams, I forgot the Raptors. I didn't know that I had an anti-Canadian bias, but apparently I do. In the offseason, the Raptors hired well-respected general manager Masai Ujiri to rebuild the team into a contender. The road to contender likely means that Ujiri will trade off the Raptors best players for draft picks and other building blocks. Don't get too attached.
Orthodox/Heretical: Orthodox, in a surprising way.
Representative Biblical Book: Daniel - A surprisingly normal story on the surface gives way to mind-bending weirdness as you venture further.
Patron Saint: John Wall - The patron saint of Potential, Unrealized Potential, and Sort-Of Realized Potential.
Summary: The Wizards are led by their young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Unfortunately, no one really knows how good Wall and Beal will be. In other Wizard related ephemera, the have a Brazilian player named Nene and their owner is the man responsible for sending you hundreds of AOL Trial CD's in the 90's.
Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OnPopTheology.
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