Sports | May 9, 2019 1:38 pm

The NBA Playoffs Could Use a Bad Guy

Every good drama needs a bad guy and the playoffs don't have one

James Harden drives on Draymond Green. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
James Harden drives on Draymond Green. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Whether you viewed him as a hero or a heel, there’s no denying LeBron James was a consistently great and interesting character in the months-long drama that is the NBA playoffs.

Now, with James watching from home after missing the playoff for the first time in more than a decade, the playoffs are lacking a truly compelling figure to root for, and perhaps even more importantly, against.

In the past, whether it was James or another player (the “Bad Boy” Pistons of the late-80s and early-90s, Reggie Miller, Kobe Bryant and J.R. Smith come to mind), there was usually someone for fans to focus their attention on and hate-watch.

This postseason, with James at home and sometime-villains like Draymond Green behaving himself, there’s just nothing compelling in the way of playoff heels.

Instead, you have traditional losers like the Toronto Raptors conquering their demons and on the verge of the Eastern Conference Finals, newbie playoff teams like the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers playing inspired and entertaining ball, and Giannis Antetokounmpo hooping it up like there’s no tomorrow and being completely likable while doing it.

Even the defending champion Warriors who have plenty of unlikable qualities (Steph Curry’s mouthpiece, Kevin Durant’s aloofness), aren’t quite in villain territory anymore as injuries to DeMarcus Cousins and Durant have put chinks in their armor and made them appear more beatable than ever.

“As entertaining as these playoffs have been, and I’ve loved hanging out with each of these teams, eventually, I would love to focus my attention on witnessing someone’s demise,” according to SI’s Rohan Nadkarni. “Only then would the playoffs feel perfectly in balance.”

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