Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray and Cults I Have Once Known

It’s generally accepted that social media killed blogging. I assume it’s probably not quite that simple. Capitalism tends to kill just about everything that exists outside of its structured moneymaking  parameters, so maybe it killed blogging. Or social media killed it, but capitalism was watching in the background like, “you got this, right?” making social media’s role in blogging’s demise real but irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

In the great bygone era of blogging, sports blogging was ripe to be turned into a commercialized asset because it concerns subjects in which things like halftimes, replays, and jerseys are “brought to you by” things like Taco Bell, State Farm, and Bumble. Still, basketball blogs helped formulate the patterns by which we construct a lot of modern NBA narratives, silly or otherwise. Then social media came around. NBA Twitter is fun in the sense that it’s a community in which anyone can join and the material for fodder is new and fresh every day. Social media makes basketball games easier to participate in, but sometimes more difficult to enjoy. 

Basketball blogs were places that indulgently documented what individual NBA fans already believed was cool, and fun, and hilarious, so that we, the viewers/readers, could think, “Wow, that’s crazy, I was just thinking that Ben Gordon is altering the course of history and retroactively undoing every Boston Celtics dynasty.” 

A blog you disagreed with was only ever that to you. NBA Twitter, on the other hand, tends to reverse engineer that notion by collectively deciding what is cool and fun and Good or Bad, and telling us to watch games through that lens. Engagement is about finding your particular route to agreement (even if it’s framed as an argument). Once we’re all on the same page, the prompts for the jokes are very clear, so it’s crucial to know how we all feel about Kyrie Irving at any given moment. 

I don’t really know if there’s anything to mourn, because ultimately this blog is just about the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets; everyone who doesn’t read it will be just fine. Maybe I’m just 31 years old and not 21 anymore, so it all doesn’t quite resonate with me the way it did when I had, like, four responsibilities. I can still watch my favorite team with general, naive sports passion. But a random Blazers/Lakers game is weirdly tainted with a hint of “OK, but is there maybe an angle for, like, a Ben Simmons joke here?”

But then there’s Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchel and the very specific vacuum of the playoff series they’re existing in right now. The ceiling that represents how high you’ll ever be able to realistically rank those two players in the NBA coincides almost perfectly with the 2020 ceiling of their respective teams. Mitchel and Murray can’t just become the best and second best players in the league, but in trying to prove they are each the best player in this series, they’re matching and reaching new heights. As a result, we’re being gifted a seventh game in this wild series. If it could go 10 games, it seems almost certain one of them would have a 70-point performance. You can definitely hop on Twitter to see what people are saying about the shot Murray just made, but you might miss the shot Mitchell is about to make.

There was a time when a Steve Francis or a Baron Davis would decide that a game was actually just about their matchup and it was very fun, wildly inefficient, magical stuff. Murray and Mitchell are doing that while making the majority of their many shots and keeping their teammates in the flow of every game. It’s terrific to watch; I honestly wish I was a Nuggets fan just so I could be more deeply invested.  (I definitely don’t wish I was a Jazz fan). 

The other day, I told my friend who I knew was watching Game 5 to text me when Murray and Mitchell both had 35 points so I could start to watch. Their performances have made tactitions like Mike Malone (who, apparently, could just grow hair all along?) and Quin Snyder (who coaches with the intensity of someone who took a shower in a bathroom sink but is determined to sell you some speakers out of a Wendy’s parking lot) appear pretty pointless. I know the job is complicated, but when the fourth quarter comes around it’s hard not to think, “I have a pretty good idea what to do on this possession, and you aren’t going to believe this, but it doesn’t really involve Joe Ingles.” 

Murray is just an outrageously smooth basketball player. Every pickup hooper with a jump shot who’s got a handful of sessions holding court under his or her belt can watch him and think he does all the things they do, except he does it much, much better and the ball goes in a lot more. Mitchell plays with a tad bit more physicality (which probably makes him a slightly better player?), but he essentially just bounces his body in different directions and defenders are right there with him until the moment he happens to decide to aim the ball at the basket. 

Every Game 7 has stakes, but this one has an element of Enjoy this while you can. Because it probably won’t be the same next round. There’s a very real possibility that Murray or Mitchell come into Game 1 against the Clippers with the same intentions, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George say, “We simply won’t allow that.” Maybe that series will have its own new elements. But Game 7 can just be a version of what we’ve already gotten and it will be everything I ever wanted. Nikola Jokic might find new and creative ways to get Murray the ball. Gobert could very well be thinking, “I swear to the French God that I pray to, the next time Murray comes down here I’m going to engulf his shot.” 

This has just been a series that’s made me enjoy basketball a little bit more than I had been recently. So, I blogged about it.  

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