10.30.12

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Linsanity: A Cheat Sheet on the New NBA Season

What’s a LeBron? Is Linsanity contagious? Should my Rondo be flopping? As the NBA season tips off, Sujay Kumar presents a cheat sheet for those who know nothing about basketball.

LeBron James Is Really Good

LeBron James is no longer the most hated man in the NBA. Instead, he’s the most hated man in the NBA who knows he’s an amazingly fine-tuned basketball machine. King James, infamous for his “Decision” to heartlessly break up with the Cleveland Cavaliers on national television and a slew of high-prolife late game chokes—and his freakish ability—finally seems confident after winning a championship. Despite a super-awkward victory dance after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, the self-appointed king, along with Dwyane Wade, seems likely to lead the Miami Heat to glory once again.

Kobe Bryant Makes Some Friends

Los Angeles Lakers to LeBron: Not so fast. Kobe Bryant and his fossilized knees were heading gently into retirement, when Steve Nash, a tiny 38-year-old Canadian known for his Katie Couric–like hair, ability to pass, and general likability, joined the team. And then Dwight Howard, an enormous, whiny “Superman” known for his dissatisfaction with everything and for holding the Orlando Magic hostage, hopped on board. Since it’s the first time in Bryant’s 16-year career that he’s had a really good passer to play with, the Lakers aren’t looking too shabby.

Thunder Kill Guy Who Looks Like Lincoln

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the anti–Miami Heat. With no unfair blockbuster trades and no annoyingly self-promotional players, the “Zombies” (because the Seattle Supersonics are dead) came within a few shots of a championship. Led by the stellar Kevin Durant and the occasionally wild Russell Westbrook, they’ll rebound. Unfortunately, OKC’s home-grown dynasty kind of hinged on super sixth man and Abraham Lincoln–beard aficionado James Harden. With Harden’s trade to the Houston Rockets, what should’ve been the story of a solid Thunder core instead gets filed away in basketball’s binder full of contract drama.

A Lin-teresting Turn of Events

Remember that Asian guy from Harvard who rejuvenated the New York Knicks and made the entire world go lin-sane? He’s back! But he won’t be in Madison Square Garden. Jeremy Lin took his talents to Houston this summer, where he’ll team up with the bearded Harden for what sounds like the premise of a zany buddy cop movie. Basketball? With millions of fans around the world, Linsanity means so much more.

Aren’t There Already Nets in Brooklyn?

Lin’s departure from the Big Apple doesn’t mean New York basketball is forever doomed to the Knicks and bouts with fire extinguishers. Brooklyn finally has a basketball team. The Nets fled New Jersey for the Barclays Center, a giant, rusty-looking, spaceship in the heart of Brooklyn. While they won’t win it all, we can look forward to one thing: Players donning geeky glasses in the hipster-capital of New York City. And yes, Jay-Z really does just own one 15th of 1 percent of the Nets.

Young Hotshot Babysits Old Men

Celtics bad boy Rajon Rondo went from being the baby of a team lead by three future Hall of Famers to babysitting the NBA equivalent of a geriatric home. The 26-year-old Rondo is exactly what the league needs. Not only is he good—in game two of the Eastern Conference he put up 44 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and even LeBron thought he was amazing—but he’s willing to “accidentally” bump a referee and get suspended. That’s commitment.

And the Oscar For Best Flop Goes To …

This year, for the first time, the NBA has promised to assess a penalty to those who “flop,” or attempt to fool referees during a game. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Stop acting like you lost a leg, you big baby!” While basketball players are notorious for whining after every call (cough, cough, LeBron James), it remains to be seen whether this rule will cut impromptu Oscar performances from the court.