As the Los Angeles Lakers have progressed through the playoffs and achieved a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, readers have been treated to discussion about how one player in particular deserves his own billing, and should not be relegated to the mundane category of “LeBron’s supporting cast.”
“Is Anthony Davis LeBron James’s best teammate ever?” wondered the writers of Sports Illustrated. Anthony Davis is “the best playoff teammate of LeBron James’s career,” claimed the Washington Post. Even runner-up Dwyane Wade conceded the mantle.
But the reality can’t be danced around forever. That framing is flawed, as it asserts that Anthony Davis is a “teammate” at all, when in fact he is a masterfully engineered mecha suit that LeBron James intends to pilot to a championship.
Consult your deepest intuitions. Is this a man or a 6-foot-10, 253-pound humanoid possessed of gyroscopically maintained balance, lateral quickness impossible for flesh-and-bone of such proportions, and a psychic link to his remote operator? Does he have a recognizable personality trait beyond his eyebrow, which may well be a designer’s single visual flourish? Does he not look purposeless and powered-down when the control signal is weak? Does he have a favorite meal beyond a multi-use cable that replenishes the energy core and balances system fluids? Was his entire tenure in New Orleans implanted in our memories as a cover story?
The New Yorker speculated about Davis looking like a passive spectator to his own historic career, in an article that incorrectly designated him a sphinx, as opposed to a Gundam:
The machinations that led him to the Lakers last summer—a move that the ESPN analyst Zach Lowe described as “the single most important trade of an NBA veteran since the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Milwaukee in 1975”—was the biggest story line of its season, but it was one in which Davis himself often appeared to play a passive part. At the end of the Pelicans’ dismal season, when everyone knew that Davis was as good as gone, he showed up in a Looney Tunes T-shirt emblazoned with the words “That’s All, Folks!” Pressed to explain this uncharacteristic bit of trolling, he said that someone else had chosen his clothes for him. It was an obvious metaphor. No one doubted his desire to go to Los Angeles, which he made plain. But, for all the talk of player empowerment, the one flexing the power in Davis’s move seemed to be LeBron James, who had joined the Lakers a season before. And that impression hasn’t gone away. After the Lakers won the Conference Finals, James, sitting on the court, exultant, his shoes off and confetti swirling around his head, reflected on Davis’s resplendent performance in the series. “This is the reason I wanted to be his teammate, and why I brought him here,” he said, during a post-game press conference.
If LeBron James, who is on track to becoming the sport’s second player-turned-billionaire, were to design such an entity, and used his “Zero Dark Thirty-23” sessions in a subterranean lair to fine-tune a unit that could conquer the rest of the NBA, would it not fit the following specifications?
- Revamped rim pressure ability (to compensate as James’s athleticism gradually fades)
- Best-in-class lob-finishing technology (to suit one of the most creative playmakers ever)
- Dynamic defense and versatility schemes (to save James some sweat as resource management becomes a top priority in late 30s)
- Enhanced 7-foot-6 wingspan with shot-erasing capabilities (because all those chasedown blocks are exhausting)
- Patched and upgraded program for initiating the offense (with a built-in kill switch to make sure no one forgets how badly they need James)
- Long-term load-management scheme (as James maintains de jure authority while segueing into the mogul phase of his career)
“We see the message from our leader saying this is a must-win, and he just left it at that,” said Anthony Davis of a text message James sent the team before Game 4. It’s cute of him to pretend that they still require such lo-fi channels to communicate. Now is the time for the mainstream media to acknowledge the truth and expose the blueprints of Project AD.