It has returned MAMBINO-maniacs - the WWE for an NBA series has invaded the Southwest division. As always, this post will give the best comparable for YOUR...favorite NBA team, with metrics based on the team's style of play, personnel and of course, attitude and tenor of the fan base that makes their existence possible.
Memphis Grizzlies: Wade Barrett
In Memphis, the basketball team of choice is the University of Memphis Tigers. With over a dozen NCAA tournament berths and three Final Four appearances, the city will always have its heart with the Tigers, though any attention on the periphery may monetarily take away attention from the main attraction. This momentary distraction would be the trendy Finals pick Memphis Grizzlies.
I for one, see the Grizz as more than just a trendy pick - they are the real deal Holyfield. They are young, hungry, and have the look of a champion. There is no reason they cannot be the best in the world, other than any internal problem holding them back. I could have cut and pasted those last few sentences to sum up how I have felt for the past 3 years about Wade Barrett.
Barrett is the Memphis Grizzlies of the WWE. There is nothing about him, on paper, to suggest that he is anything but a title contender. He is one of the very best talkers in the company, who can ably hold a conversation or throw down a scathing promo in front of the thousands in attendance, and the millions watching at home. In the ring, his skills are somewhat raw, but ultimately can wrestle just enough for me take him seriously as a major player. His move set augments the most impressive facets of his body and size - his massive wingspan and impressive shoulder width. The only thing holding back Wade Barrett from being world champion (aside from backstage politics), is time and other top contenders in the WWE.
For all of Barrett's skill, size and personality, there are a ton of already established, homegrown big men that Vince McMahon knows he can rely on. With the Big Show, Mark Henry, Kane and Sheamus on the roster, Vince already has his Memphis Tigers. Barrett, while up and coming, is simply an on-paper player, and more importantly a substantial risk, especially when compared with the already proven big men of the WWE.
Grizz fans will understand the position that Wade Barrett is in. They will root for him like their own. Because that is what he is. A big British dude that a bunch of Tennesseans can connect with.
Dallas Mavericks: Jack Swagger
Shawn Marion said a few weeks ago that the Dallas Mavericks don't seem to be getting enough respect from the NBA public as the reigning champions. Well Shawn, maybe if you had won opening week and hadn't gotten blown out at home in your first two games, then you'd get a little more of that respect you think you deserve.
But this isn't a post to deride the 2011 World Champion NBA Mavericks or it's fan base. This is a post to celebrate the best qualities of everything that embodies Dallas' titlists and best identify those with a WWE Superstar. That man would be Jack Swagger.
First and foremost, just look at the guy. If he doesn't just scream North Texas and Midwest America, I don't know what does. Swagger goes a legit 6'5", 260 lbs, with an athletic background in collegiate amateur wrestling and football. He attended the University of Oklahoma (which might not jibe with everyone in Dallas, though the city does have it's fair share of OU alums), where he set a NCAA record for pins in a single season as a senior. He rightfully calls himself the "All-American American", doing nothing to downplay his heartland drawl, blue eyes, blonde hair and caricature-like smile.
But more importantly, Jack Swagger is a champion. Two years ago, Swagger won the title from multi-time WWE Champion Chris Jericho in a surprising upset victory. Swagger's title reign went on to be a bit underwhelming, perhaps due to his inexperience as a main eventer, or his lack of fan's connection with him. Either way, Jack wasn't quite equipped for a lengthy stay at the top of the WWE, and the belt was quickly taken off him and given to the more-established Rey Mysterio. Regardless of the success of his championship reign, Swagger proved that he could ascend the ladder towards becoming the World Champion, and that fans would have to recognize him as someone who the company had enough faith in to put the belt on. In other words, his success could never be taken from him, just affirmed, even it it were under dubious acclaim or discussion.
It's two years later and I barely remember that Swagger was champion. Every once in a while, an opponent will snidely throw it in Jack's face that his title run came as quickly as it left, and that in general, some of even the most ardent WWE fans forget it ever existed. Swagger routinely fights against this notion, constantly trying to prove that winning the World Title was not a fluke, and that he truly belongs with the greats of the sport.
I expect the fans of the Mavericks to understand this notion. Their team rightfully earned their title and should feel the chip on their collective shoulders as the league so rapidly forgets what happened in June. Attaching themselves to a (relatively) local boy in a weekly plight they should understand will be easier than the Mavs repeating in 2012.
San Antonio Spurs: Big Show
The Spurs, in my mind, get a similar comparable similar to the Orlando Magic. For the Magic and their fans, I chose Kane because I thought that in central Florida, where they seem to lose franchise players as often as most teams gain them, they needed a steady hand that will always be there for them.
For the Spurs and the city of San Antonio, I have to select the Big Show. But unlike the Magic, it's out of respect rather than pity.
Consistency, professionalism and the same tedious game plan, year after year. Hmm. If you're a WWE fan, obviously I am talking about the Big Show. But if you're a NBA head, I couldn't be talking about anyone else besides the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio's run of success began in 1996, when they drafted Tim Duncan with the first overall pick to add to their already formidable team that included Hall of Famer David Robinson. Coincidentally, this is around the same time that a young man named Paul Wight, then known as The Giant in the defunct-WCW, started to rise to prominence.
With the addition of Duncan and the coaching of Gregg Popvich, the Spurs became one of the most ruthlessly efficient defensive teams of their era. Oftentimes, this deliberate pace of any opposing team's offensive deconstruction would hamper any type explosive attack a defense-first team could muster. Two-time MVP Tim Duncan was of course at the center of this game plan, being the very personification of the Spurs' collective identity. Duncan, ever the man who was born and raised on the calm seas of the Virgin Islands, left the explosive personality traits and all the notoriety and controversy that comes with it to his peers like Shaquille, Iverson and Garnett. The adjectives most saddled with Timmy would be words like "steady", "deliberate" and "boring". All words that I've used so far in this comparison. I don't know if anyone outside of San Antonio would say Tim Duncan was their favorite player, or that anyone besides the truest of NBA officianados would say they loved Spurs basketball.
The Big Show is 7 feet tall, and his entire offensive repertoire in the ring consists of deliberate movement with maximum impact. In fact, if you look at some of his most often used maneuvers, they would be a basic elbow drop, right-handed punch and a leg drop. Nothing fancy, but when used right looks like a really dynamic move. He is slow and plodding, which with his size and weight is a necessary component of his game. He says the right things, shows up and delivers the very same professional match to every show he has ever been on.
San Antonio deserves Paul Wight. They are both champions, multiple times over and years apart by simply staying the course and doing the things that they did best. They knew what their strengths were, and harnessed them to the fullest extent. I still know the Spurs as slow and boring, as I know the Big Show as deliberate and plodding. But as I see terrible NBA teams come and go and 7-footers come through and out of Vince McMahon's touring circus, I have come to appreciate the guys who can remain employed, earn a paycheck and stay relevant. That is the Big Show. That is the San Antonio Spurs. You both earn my respect year after year.
Check out the other parts of the WWE for a NBA Fan series: