The Timberwolves’ shining moment and a potential future for the NBA

When the Minnesota Timberwolves won their playoff against the Los Angeles Clippers, 109-104, Patrick Beverley stood on a table at the edge of the field. He shouted at the maniacal, glory-poor crowd, ripped off his jersey and threw it into the masses. Wolves were heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2018, and just the second time since Kevin Garnett left town. It was a moment of immense joy for the young team, their fans and, yes: Beverley. The cantankerous 33-year-old veteran helped Wolves become a more intrusive presence, and he was clearly ready to celebrate the recognition of that on the national stage.

NBA fans at all levels were also ready to mock Beverley’s sincerity. We’re not just talking about Twitter, that hapless endless Hater’s Ball that should have ended years ago, but is still filled with men who’ve been through many different hangovers and continue to cook up new ways to ridicule. the world. best basketball players instead of returning home to their families. On the TNT show, Beverley was getting just as much – if not more – teasing. Several NBA players have also taken to Twitter, simply post laughing emojis by the dozens – everyone knew what they meant. There was then, natural as a mudslide, a counter-speech about whether it was morally correct to roast Wolves’ accomplishment, and what that immediate cruel comedic sizzle said about the nature of NBA culture versus NCAA basketball.

Tired stuff, mostly, but the Beverley element of it all is objectively quite hilarious. The cheeky playmaker’s sincere cinematic snarl was a boost to the NBA scene when he was a revenge-type player with the Houston Rockets a decade ago, after falling out of the league and playing in the stranger for two years, only to come back with a signature vengeance. At this point, however, it’s cartoonish. He’s the older, ground-pounding dude at a local playground that everyone jokes about when they get home afterward, whether he was good on the pitch or not; why, asks the spirit of humor, does he have to be such an extra?

The fevered chatter about Wolves’ timing is obviously normal for the NBA’s Twitter course, but it also acted as a cultural referendum on the state of the play-in tournament as it enters its second season of existence. . Single-game matchups with franchise-changing consequences are fundamentally contrary to the norm of the NBA’s seven-game playoff series, and that difference was swirling with the energy of a fan base desperate to show the sport impersonating its college counterpart or like the NFL. . The reaction from the stuffy old heads, unimpressed with the supposed cheapness of Wolves’ thrilling victory, was, well… reactionary. They like what they like, and it’s not that weird whiff of competitive ecstasy, too random, unpredictable and unproven to think about critically, cooked too quickly for them to eat.

Most play-in tournaments haven’t been and won’t be like that. The mini-tournament is more likely to produce clinical matchups between mediocre teams or wake-up calls from waiting contenders, like Kevin Durant’s grizzled Brooklyn Nets, who defeated the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers in the day’s previous game after stumbling tired for most of the regular season. Adam Silver and the league’s front office would probably prefer to take what happened in Minneapolis and bottle it, mass-produce it and sell it, though. The traditional long playoff war of attrition is ideal for hardcore fans, but the instant context of a high-stakes game – with jubilant players and fans, to boot – is closer to what the average viewer hope to get out of sports.

As part of their razz session, the TNT show aired “One Shining Moment” over footage of Beverley’s thrilling reverie. For true NBA believers, still viewing March Madness from a critical and distant distance, it was hilarious; but, truly, a shining moment is precisely what sports are for much of the world – the eternal seriousness of “the ball is tilted, and there you are”; “you are running for your life, you are a shooting star.” The NBA instituted the play-in tournament at least in part as a trial balloon to see how it could become popular with people who were indifferent to it, and fans already deep in the league’s roots showed that. how they feel about the potential future it suggests. Let the battle for tomorrow’s NBA begin.

James C. Tibbs