Who Will Be the Next Portland Trail Blazers Villain?
Thursday, December 03, 2015
To be Rip City’s next Big Bad, some ground rules must apply. This player must reside in the Western Conference, for seeing said player more than twice a year is more than we can stand. This scourge of the basketball court must be a road block to future potential championships for the Blazers. He must be arrogant and easy to loathe. His very name must invoke fear and disdain with every traveling violation to go uncalled. Kobe was all of these things and more, which made him the perfect villain for Portland, and because of that he will be sorely missed.
Let’s take a look at the potential candidates for Portland’s next great antihero and compare them to other notorious villains to see who could be Rip City’s next great nemesis.
A classic villain role if there ever was one. LaMarcus Aldridge, once the pride of the Blazers and the sole survivor of a team once destined for greatness, fled this past offseason to perennial NBA title contenders San Antonio Spurs. While it’s easy to make Aldridge a villain now, it’s hard to fault a guy who only wanted to move closer to his family and play for an organization that is one of the best in the league from the front office to the players. Aldridge is also anything but arrogant and easy to loathe. If anything, you hate him because he’s boring. He is the perfect Spur, thus making him the not-so-perfect villain. The Spurs have won multiple championships over the past two decades and yet no Spur has ever felt the full wrath of Blazers fans.
I have no doubt that the resentment from Blazers fans over LaMarcus’ decision to leave will diminish over time, so Aldridge being the next great villain seems unlikely at the moment; unless he wins multiple championships over the next few years while unmercifully beating Portland in the Western Conference Finals.
Villain Comparison: Darth Vader. Aldridge walked away from free beer to don the black jersey of the Spurs, a comparison closely resembling that of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. Anakin probably could have also used some free beer himself.
I really thought this season was going to be a breakout year for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, but injuries have derailed the Pellies, so much so that their campaign for the playoffs may already be a bust and it’s only the beginning of December. But, that’s what can happen in the Western Conference when you hit a storm of bad luck this early; just ask last year’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Davis, however, is still going to be a force to reckon with. In a year or two, he will be the best player in the league with his unique blend of size (6’10”) and skill. He is already a consistent 20 point, 10 rebounds per game machine at only 22 years old. If the Blazers reach the upper echelon of teams again, Davis will be there, waiting for them with his massive wing span.
But, Davis has yet to develop the swagger of a Kobe and he is far from being someone you hate. His name is not currently one that strikes outright fear into the heart of opponents and fans, but that will come when his team starts to win and becomes a legitimate threat to the conference. Davis is still developing, getting better with each year, and soon he will be scary good and so will the Pelicans.
Villain Comparison: General Zod. With his unique blend of size, speed and strength, it is only be a matter of time before Davis will be forcing all of us to kneel before him.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
Like Michael Jordan to Sam Bowie, Kevin Durant will always be linked to Greg Oden and the 2007 NBA draft. Durant, for as long as he plays and for how many championships he may win, will be a constant reminder of that ill-fated draft. Which is why Durant is a perfect candidate for Portland’s next great adversary. Like Kobe, Durant scores in bunches, is nearly unstoppable when in a zone, has ice in his veins in crunch time and has nearly, though not quite equal to, the competitiveness of Kobe.
Durant is coming off multiple foot injuries last season and time will tell if he fully regains his MVP caliber form. His numbers are down a notch this season, though he is still averaging over 25 points and 6 rebounds a game. Durant will still be very good for years to come and since his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, play in the same division as the Blazers, there will be even less love loss between the two teams. Durant should be coming into his prime years and he has already put in epic performances in Portland. He has all the gifts of becoming Portland’s next great villain, including blossoming into more of a trash talker in recent years, but doubts about where he will play beyond this season and potential injury problems don’t quite make him a top candidate yet.
Durant’s teammate, Russell Westbrook, is one of the most explosive players in the league. He is an underrated passer with the ability to score from anywhere on the court, but Westbrook’s confidence that anything he throws up will go in also becomes his undoing at times, to the detriment of his team and that of his teammate Durant.
Westbrook checks off all the boxes for arrogance, having his name instill a reasonable amount of anxiety into opponents, and is easy to hate if only for his appalling taste in fashion. As a duo, when Durant and Westbrook are in sync, they are nearly impossible to stop, but too often they step on each other’s toes. If they can ever find a way to be a cohesive combo, they would make the leap to best team in the NBA, and it wouldn’t be close. They would easily, together, be Portland’s next great archenemy.
Villain Comparison: Saruman and Sauron. They are both chasing the ring of power and I’m pretty sure Westbrook will dress as a wizard at some point this season.
James Harden is a built-in villain for every NBA team not residing in Houston. He scores a lot, gets more than his share of favorable calls, flops more than a fish on land, is dating a Kardashian, is a proven wordsmith of arrogance, and even wears a sinister beard. Harden is probably the most divisive player in the NBA. His style of play can be electric at times while being simultaneously frustrating. His ability to score is only outmatched by his ability to draw fouls and slow the game down to a maddening degree as fans are treated to watching Harden shoot free throws for entertainment. Harden’s ongoing ability to draw fouls as if the arena is full of snipers continues to be one of the great mysteries of the NBA, irking fans more than wooing them. Even LeBron James takes a backseat to Harden’s mastery of flopping.
However, Harden’s insistence to not playing defense makes him a difficult candidate to be Portland’s number one villain. Players that strike fear into you don’t have their own inept defense highlight reel.
Harden has the offensive skill sets to beat you on any night, but until he begins to show some concern on the defensive end, I can’t quite put Harden at the top of the list for the next great Blazers baddie.
Villain Comparison: Ming the Merciless. He looks like a formidable foe, but his defense against those that oppose him is downright atrocious.
Can you imagine seeing her at the podium every time Stephen Curry lights up Portland?
Now imagine seeing her after he pours in 45 points against the Blazers in a Conference Finals game. It is what nightmares are made of. We want to hate Curry, but he makes it difficult when he brings out this human kryptonite to deflect all our angst towards him, this and the continual awe of seeing what Curry can do with a basketball. He makes the ball itself seem like a digital effect. It’s just too hard to hate on a player when it is this much fun to watch things like this.
But I can imagine having much animosity towards his daughter, Riley Curry. I can stomach losing to the best show on earth that is the Golden State Warriors and its best player in Curry, but knowing that a certain 3-year-old is waiting, lurking just beyond view, ready to invade the postgame press conference like this is all cutesy child’s play is too much, and that makes Riley the most dangerous candidate right now to be Portland’s next, great villain.
Villain Comparison: Annabelle
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Photo via Vernon Adams Facebook page (image cropped)
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Photo via Jimmy Graham Twitter page (image cropped)
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Photo via Joseph Young Twitter page (image cropped)
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Photo via Gary Payton Twitter page (image cropped)
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