Metaphors can be misleading or illuminating. This week, they'll be just a little ridiculous.
I'll tell you this: once you come up with the idea of picturing various bands as famed NBA basketball teams, you've got to follow that idea to its inevitable conclusion. Bon appetit.
1965 Celtics (The Beatles)
So good for so long and so mind-blowingly new that we have a hard time catching up. Lets cast Red Auerbach as John Lennon and Bill Russell as Paul McCartney; one the architect and early coach, the other a superstar and final coach. And lets cast John Havlicek as George since he had some of the best post-group success.
1990-1998 Chicago Bulls (Rolling Stones)
The Stones had the constants of Keith/Mick dominating in a Brian Jones then a Ron Wood era. Jordan/Pippen did it with the Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant crew - then again post-MJ-baseball with Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc and Dennis Rodman. Ron Wood and Rodman both were "wild cards" (massive understatements).
1977 Portland Trailblazers (The Clash)
The Clash was a nice enough punk era band, just like the mid-70s were a near .500 team with some elements. Then it all clicked (Jack Ramsey and Bill Walton for the Blazers, London Calling for The Clash) and they were both game-changers and too short-lived.
1983 Philadelphia 76ers (Fleetwood Mac)
A well-respected blues act for a number of years, they took off once Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came into the mix. The same could be said for the Sixers once Moses Malone and Andrew Toney were in the lineup. Arguably the best of all time with a surprisingly short run.
2019-2023 Brooklyn Nets (The Police)
A trio that could have conquered the world if they could just get out of each other's way. When it comes to The Police or any band at the star level whose members don't like each other - they just had to see each other for 10-12 hours on stage and just play. Nope. Couldn't do it.
1995 Rockets (Pearl Jam)
The Rockets had a (then game-changing) offense of Hakeem posting up and four shooters all stationed at the 3-point line. They won back-to-back championships in between Bulls three-peats. Both the Rockets and Pearl Jam never seem to get the credit they were due; even though the band and Kenny Smith are still fixtures on the scene.
1990-1992 Nuggets (Sex Pistols)
Head coach Paul Westhead brought a unique experiment to the NBA with the Nuggets: push the ball as fast as possible and don't worry about defending. "Enver" Nuggests - no D. Existed for a short period of time and get a lot of credit for changing everything. Yet, you don't sit around watching old 1991 Nuggets gams (just like I don't feel the need to actually listen to the Sex Pistols).
2001 Kobe/Shaq Lakers (The Eagles)
The biggest act going at the time which could have lasted longer and accomplished more except they were led by 1 or 2 assholes who didn't want to give anybody else in the group any credit.
1988-2000 NY Knicks (The Who)
Couldn't get over the hump and overtake their rivals (Bulls/Beatles), outlasted them for another good few years but never were able to win a championship.
2015-2023 Golden State Warriors (Grateful Dead)
Bay Area link aside, the Warriors play fast and loose with the ball; you're gonna get some turnovers and you're gonna get some clunkers with the Dead from time to time - both are priced into the deal. Yet the ball movement, improvisation, creativity, communication of both the Dead and the Warriors remind me of each other. And neither of them seem like they'll ever quite go away.
1969-1974 Milwaukee Bucks (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
Kareem is Tom Petty in this situation. Strong out of the gate (1976 eponymous album vs. 28.8 points per game in rookie season). Kicked ass for a while, then both Tom Petty & Kareem did just fine on their own afterwards. Nothing fancy about the sky hook or Tom's songwriting but both effective as hell.
2002-2010 Phoenix Suns (R.E.M.)
Critical darlings that got close but never quite got over the top for a championship.
1983-1985 New York Knicks (The Doors)
Bernard King and the early 80s Knicks were shockingly unique and shockingly good. After King tore his ACL, that was it. Naturally, a lot of "what ifs" surround their memory. The parallel, of course, is "what if Jim Morrison didn't die." That said, neither those Knicks nor The Doors were on a collision course for all-time best status.
2000-2003 Sacramento Kings (The Beach Boys)
Brian Wilson's work on Pet Sounds and sMiLe are still beloved today by aficionados - just as a basketball devotee, I still remember the 2002 Kings as a thing of beauty. Then some speedbumps followed by decades of mediocrity.
1992-1996 Orlando Magic (Jane's Addiction)
If you asked me in 1989 what was going to be THE band of the 90s, I would have answered Jane's Addiction. Similarly in 1993 had you asked me who would form the next NBA dynasty, I would have said the Orlando Magic. In the case of Jane's Addiction, the downfall was lunatics taking drugs; as for Magic, I still don't quite know what went wrong there.
1987-1992 Boston Celtics (Queen)
Kind of a strained analogy but here goes. This band was making great music and fun as hell. But they obviously couldn't withstand the loss of Freddie Mercury. At the end of their 80s run, the Celtics had been poised to continue but couldn't survive the losses of Len Bias, Reggie Lewis and Larry Bird's healthy back.
2010-2014 Miami Heat (Cream)
A Lebron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh superteam that was supposed to be the best group in the world and was. For a little bit. But eventually Eric Clapton gets bored and must move on. Yes, I'm talking about Eric Clapton with no other subtext whatsoever.
1984-1991 Detroit Pistons (Led Zeppelin)
Powerful and the championships speak for themselves. After John Bonham's death, Zeppelin just ran out of gas. Both were a product of their era - 60s/70s stadium rock, 80's physical basketball - and relics only a couple of years later.
2007 Boston Celtics (Genesis)
Hear me out on this one. Let's say Larry Bird retiring was kinda like Peter Gabriel leaving the band. Then Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have respected, critical-fave careers and plod away. Then late in their career, they're #1 and bigger than they ever have been - even if individually they were all past their prime.
1998-2014 San Antonio Spurs (U2)
Rock solid for a long time. A clunker of a season/song every while - e.g. 2010-11 Spurs w 61 wins get a first round loss and for U2, "Lemon". Just when you think the dynasty is over, they reinvent themselves and win another championship.
1979-1990 Los Angeles Lakers (Steely Dan)
I'm not super happy with this analogy. Steely Dan were never quite as successful as the Showtime Lakers. But stylistically, both were as close to jazz as basketball or pop-rock were ever going to get. You either love or hate the 1980's Lakers; the same goes for Steely Dan. Personally, I love both a lot.