What started out as a casual ironic viewing of the NBA playoffs has quickly shifted into an unironic obsession, with the games becoming a must-watch priority in my life. Why the sudden change, you ask? I realized that the NBA is eerily like the many anime series I’ve watched.
Yes, I know comparing the NBA to anime is like comparing apples to oranges, but just like renowned comedy rapper Lil Dicky, I implore you to humor me and ask yourself why fruit can’t be compared. After tuning into what I assume was a rollicking good episode of AEW Dynamite, my friend asked if I wanted to watch a basketball game. While I went in knowing absolutely nothing about the current NBA climate (I didn’t even know Dwyane Wade retired), I quickly got my bearings with the franchise’s herculean athletes by comparing them to anime heroes.
Full disclosure, I’ve never watched basketball with any regularity or dedication. Outside of reading Slam Dunk, watching Love and Basketball (a must-watch romance movie in any Black household), and binge-watching the Michael Jordan docuseries The Last Dance on Netflix, I was fresh off the boat to the climate of the NBA, knowing almost nothing, players’ names least of all. Quick sidebar before we get to the teams and players engaged in the current battle to be NBA champs: Michael Jordan is the Griffith of the NBA. You can’t tell me he wouldn’t use a behelit if it meant bullying his team into success for another championship ring. Fight me.
To make up for my lack of familiarity with the rich lore of basketball, I decided to have some fun by watching games on my own time, with the twist of reimagining teams as anime characters and shows. This didn’t require a wild stretch of the imagination on my part because the playoffs are inherently tournament arcs ad nauseam. Viewing the games through this lens helped me remember key players in the playoffs and unlocked the realization that the NBA is as anime as it can get.
So without further ado, here’s my brain-rotten interpretation of the NBA playoff teams as anime shows and characters. The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics aren’t mentioned because, firstly, I haven’t watched their games and, secondly, I think the way they pronounce “Celtics” is silly. Oh, and I have a friend who’s from Milwaukee, and they suck for taking my Chicago Bulls out of the playoffs.
When I think of San Francisco’s Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry immediately comes to mind. I’d be lying if I said I’d never heard of Curry before watching this year’s playoffs. I’ve had no choice but to be aware of him because I’ve been inundated with advertisements in which he’s either shilling crypto or informing me of Subway’s latest miraculous sandwich creation. Because I associate Curry with questionable financial ventures, I see him as the Seto Kaiba of the NBA.
Kaiba is hyper-proficient at playing a children’s card game, to the point of him finding financial success in it through his family business. Explaining exactly what that family business actually does would be as practically nonsensical as tokens, so like Yu-Gi-Oh fans, I actively ignore all that for how funny and cool Curry is, both on and off the court.
Much like Kaiba, I feel I shouldn’t want to watch Curry win because he’s become somewhat overrated, but I can’t help but be smitten by him when he does so. Also, the fact that he has a little brother that I didn’t even know existed until I wrote this piece up makes my comparison feel even more justified. Yes, I’m saying Seth Curry is basically Mokuba.
Imma be honest, I haven’t had any interest in watching a Miami Heat game because watching the team is like watching reruns of Dragon Ball Z: predictable. If you were to mention an odd favorite team or, God forbid, a best-of-all-time NBA ranking, the Heat always seems to be a lock for a top-three spot, just like DBZ with any run-of-the-mill anime fan rattling off their favorite series. However, Miami’s become a victim of its own success when it comes to my level of enjoyment watching the games. Unlike the fervent back-and-forth of games I’ve seen thus far in the playoffs, Miami Heat’s victories feel like a foregone conclusion.
While my bias stems from what little knowledge I have about the Heat’s previous iterations with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and shaqaroni progenitor Shaquille O’Neal gracing the court, the current roster feels a bit too good for me to enjoy watching.
In contrast to the unpredictable thrill of nail-biting back-and-forths, near-miss three-pointers, and shock-jockeying dunks I get from other teams in the playoffs, Miami feels too formulaic to watch. They’ve got those three-pointers on lock in comparison to other teams, which makes what would usually be a pop-off at their power levels unentertaining.
Sure, they’re great and have all the highlights a team could ask for, but the stakes for them winning the playoffs ring hollow given how many times they’ve slapped the board in the past. Just as I have little interest in seeing Goku put the planet in peril yet again to prove that he’s the world’s strongest, I could do without seeing the legacy franchise team hog the limelight, in favor of seeing other teams show us what they can do.
Um, the Philadelphia 76ers are the Trigun of the NBA simply on account of them being a team I’ve heard people mention often. But I’ve yet to watch them in action. Yeah, that’s right, I admit to backlogging Trigun just like I’ve been backlogging a 76ers game. I’ll get around to it, promise. I don’t mean to disparage the team’s entire franchise, and I’m sure the 76ers have done some cool shit since they’re in the second round of the playoffs (probably not for long since their opponents are the team I just compared to DBZ). But much like Trigun existing in the same conversation as classic anime like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star, the 76ers got lost in the shuffle for me in comparison to other teams.
Though from what I’ve learned of the team’s galaxy-brained motto of “trusting the process,” 76ers former general manager Sam Hinkie might’ve instilled a hint of Code Geass’ Lelouch vi Britannia’s mindset of playing the long game.
The Memphis Grizzlies are without a doubt the YuYu Hakusho of the NBA. I say this with no hyperbole. My man Ja Morant is as smooth with it on the court as Yusuke Urameshi is any day of the week. Just as YuYu Hakusho opened the doors for anime fans into the shonen genre, Morant was the final nail in the coffin for me watching the NBA on the regular following his posterization of the entire Minnesota Timberwolves defensive team in game five.
Like YYH in best shonen conversations, I feel the Grizzlies get slept on when it comes to the roster of teams duking it out in the playoffs. But real ones know that the Grizzlies style and finesse on the court are a force to be reckoned with. Tragically, just like YYH’s Dark Tournament, Morant is injured so his team will have to play without him in game four of the playoffs.
First off, Chris Paul is a straight up anime villain. Dude’s mannerisms while he’s on the court are that of no-nonsense anime villain who’s here to do the job, and lord help whoever stands in his way. Which is why CP3, in my mind, is the Eren Jaeger of the NBA.
My tumultuous relationship with the Phoenix Suns, much like my relationship with Attack On Titan, comes from CP3 being hella proficient at what he does at the expense of teams I was rooting for. Yes, I’m very butthurt they took out the Pelicans and made Willie Green cry.
Now hear me out. Just like showing up to a game like a no-nonsense plumber who’s looking to get in and get out, CP3 is a warmonger out for his next conquest. He’s here to take out all the teams across the shore. And who can blame him for that mindset when there are “fans” like that one asshole fan pushing his mom on Mother’s Day no less? The NBA is CP3’s war. Also, the fact that CP3 and Devin Booker have been given limited playtime together on the court, almost as if to say that were the two were to make contact, humanity as we know will get stomped out, gave me big Eren and Zeke Jaeger vibes. That being said, I begrudgingly enjoy viewing them as an unstoppable force that I hate to watch win. The Suns must be stopped. But just like AOT extending its finale into next year, I fear the reign of The Suns and the Paulgerists in the NBA will continue as well.