Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What if NBA players went to Hogwarts instead?

The first time Oliver Wood explained the game of quidditch to Harry Potter, Harry remarked, "so--that's sort of like basketball on broomsticks with six hoops, isn't it?"

Now, Wood figured that he was a little too Wizard to admit that he knew what Harry was talking about, but I like to think that a small lumos clicked in Wood's brain that day, because it certainly did in mine. Despite knowing nothing about quidditch at the time, Harry was on to something; quidditch is  sort of like basketball on broomsticks with six hoops, and there are no athletes better suited to filling the various positions on a quidditch team than basketball players. You have long and athletic shot-blockers to play Goalkeeper,  bulky power forwards are your natural Beaters, small forwards and shooting guards become Chasers. That leaves you with the point guards whose fast hands, agility while weaving through traffic at high speeds, and preternatural ability to see the entire court at once make them the ideal Seeker in a quidditch match.

Taking this concept and fleshing it out a little bit, I decided to craft a hypothetical scenario where all NBA players are wizards, many of them attend Hogwarts, and the best and brightest get chosen to represent their houses in a quest to bring home the Larry O'Brien Quidditch Cup at the end of the season. All I ask is everyone sets their time-turners back to about 5 years ago when Hogwarts was still relevant and pretend that the window for this type of topic didn't close a long time ago.

Before I get rolling with this, I want to make a few clarifications regarding the Sorting process:

- The Sorting Hat will place players into each of the four Hogwarts houses, based on the attributes that the school's founders valued the most. Duh.
- Anyone looking for a cheap, "The Miami Heat is Slytherin. Hee hee hee!" might as well stop reading right here. This isn't the right blog for you.
- This is not a list of who I think are the best 28 players in the NBA. Style of play, personality, and transfer of basketball skills to quidditch are my criteria here, as well as the occasional "just because". For example, Monta Ellis just seems like a Gryffindor to me, even though others might say Slytherin. Remember, "It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
- I mentioned transfer of skills. This is big for a guy like Dirk Nowitzki, who just doesn't seem to have the skill set to succeed in quidditch. He'd be just as slow and clumsy on broomstick as on a bball court, and his high-arcing shot would have a predictable trajectory for any goalkeeper worth his salt to track and save. Nitch once tried to convince me that the same is true of LeBron, but I disagree. LeBron could dominate at every position, just like in basketball. The only one where he might conceivably struggle is at seeker; even then, Cedric Diggory was oversized for a seeker too, and he was still able to hand Potter the first loss of his career. I chose not to include LeBron in this list, but not because he isn't a capable player. Think of his omission as something in the vein of Charlie Weasley, who likely could have played on England's national team if he hadn't decided to take his talents to Romania.
- Ironically enough, no player from either the Magic or the Wizards made the cut (but great for Washington, getting Albus Dumbledore to be their logo).

With that, I'll let the sorting begin. I've chosen to unveil Team Hufflepuff first, with the other rosters being released at a later time.

CHASERS: Russell Westbrook (OKC), Kevin Durant (OKC), *Captain/Prefect Kyrie Irving (CLE)

Durant- You can draw a lot of Cedric Diggory parallels with Kevin Durant. In any other era, he's a once-in-a-generation superstar who is showered with post-season awards and wins multiple championships. However, he's a player who seems to be entering his prime at the worst possible time, competing against another once-in-a-generation superstar who is better than him, has better teammates than him, and will likely steal away many possible championships from him. Diggory had the misfortune of having 2 full years of his quidditch career cancelled (Books 2 & 4) right when he seemed to finally be in position to finally deliver Hufflepuff their first Cup in ages. He then missed what would have been his 7th year at Hogwarts due to death, and the one year that he had a fair chance at a championship (Book 3) happened to be the most competitive top-to-bottom that the Hogwarts league had been in decades. Even after pulling a big upset against Potter and Gryffindor, there was still a stacked Slytherin team standing in the way. Once again, this year Durant is having yet another fantastic season that would win him the MVP award in most seasons, but with LeBron performing at an otherworldly rate, at this point poor KD evokes Diggory at the Little Hangleton graveyard. Wrong place, wrong time.

Westbrook- As with Seamus Finnigan, the Sorting Hat sat on Russell's head for an exceptionally long time before making a final decision. There was a thirst to prove himself that Slytherin would have admired and definite courage that he could put to good use in Gryffindor (though his questionable quidditch IQ may disqualify him from a Ravenclaw placement). However beneath the surface there lies a loyalty to his team and the hint of an inferiority complex in his style of play that make Hufflepuff a best fit in this case. 

Irving- I don't know whose shoes would be harder to fill: Lebron's when he left Cleveland, or Diggory's when he was tragically taken from Hufflepuff. In either case, Kyrie Irving is the second coming, both for the Cavs and Hufflepuffs. He has inherited a trampled and heartbroken franchise who questions whether it can ever love again after losing their one shining beacon of hope. He has incredible talent, and is given the honors of quidditch Captain and house Prefect at a young age. An impossible battle to fight, he must instinctively know that the only way out of this fallen hero's shadow is by delivering a championship, one that seems harder to come by with each passing year. All hope isn't necessarily lost though; Durant and Westbrook alone would give Hufflepuff a chaser corps as good as anyone, and adding Kyrie Irving to the mix only magnifies the impact that this unit can have on a match. 

BEATERS: Josh Smith (ATL), Andre Iguodala (DEN)

Hufflepuff takes athleticism and temperament over sheer brawn at Beater, a position where Smith and Iguodala will thrive. However, for all their athleticism, these players are not exactly known around the league as being enforcers. Against Slytherin's thug tactics, their main role is likely to be serving as bodyguards for their Seeker, and with everything on the line, the main question is whether these "nice guys" have the toughness to stand up to Salazar's Brutes with a Quidditch Cup on the line.

GOALKEEPER: Dwight Howard (LAL)

As a quidditch keeper, the best policy is usually to try and avoid comparisons to Ronald Weasley at all costs. Weasley somehow managed to get the keeper position for Gryffindor, but mega-talent Dwight Howard is not so lucky and has slipped through to Hufflepuff. In life, lack of a killer instinct is actually a pretty admirable trait to have, and I would have loved to see his impression of Kobe Bryant in the all-stars locker room this year. On the quidditch pitch, however, these traits are instead indicative of a second rate club that will always struggle to win when the stakes are highest.

SEEKER: Darren Collison (DAL)

Collison has the prototypical Seeker's build; small, lightning-fast, and with quick hands. I would imagine his broomstick of choice to be Firebolt, and he certainly has the agility to wield it properly. However, he doesn't quite have the skill level that many of his contemporaries possess, and overall he'll struggle when matched up against the juggernauts. 

Perhaps the defining trait of this Hufflepuff squad is the total number of NBA Championship rings that they have as a group: Zero. They're loaded with talent at most positions, but seeker remains a critical weak link that, combined with a perceived lack of toughness, will cause them to struggle against the elite sides that Gryffindor and Slytherin have put together.

Stay tuned for Team Slytherin, to be released in my next post.

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