Superstition is a huge and wonderful part of sports, whether it be the same outfit after every win, playoff beards, or comeback caps. Last Badgers football season I kid you not I wore the exact same shirt every game and did not wash it until the end of the season. The very same superstition causes fans to start making excuses or even taking it a step further by coming up with curses. Even the most ridiculous reasoning can be used, I mean come on the Cubs based a curse solely on a fan trying to catch a foul ball. Since the Cubs finally snapped that “curse” I have been looking for the next best cursed team in all of sports. After watching the Thunder lose once again to the Jazz and looking back on how much star power they have had on that team over the years I thought to myself we might be onto something here. This series alone with the star power they have on their team, they should have at the very LEAST taken 6 games to take care of the Utah Jazz. So, what could it be a curse or something more believable like bad ownership, is it the coaching, or could it just be a case of players not performing?
For all of you youths out there reading this that have no idea what I mean when I ask the question, “Are they cursed,” here is how a curse would have happened if it were to. The team used to be located in Seattle and they were called the Supersonics (more commonly just the Sonics). Basically, in the late 90’s a bunch of bad decisions by upper management led to a slow downfall in Seattle. First, there was management mismanaging a contract for Shawn Kemp, one of their star players, and eventually after the 96-97’ season trading him in a three-team trade to bring Vin Baker to Seattle. Fast forward a year George Karl openly disagrees with the management style and they do not renew his contract. Fast forward 3 years they sell the team to none other than Mister Starbucks himself, Howard Schultz, which how everyone saw it at the time is this guy knows absolutely nothing about a team and player management. Which turned out to be partially true because in 03’ they traded off the face of their organization Gary “The Glove” Payton, to put in terms of today would be like the Lakers letting Kobe go in his last three years they had him. Side note, in theory it was not a bad trade, as it got rid of an aged Gary Payton and brought over a very young Ray Allen. All this time dealing with the issue of building a new sports arena and getting the funding for it, in 06’ Schultz sold the company for a hefty profit to an Oklahoma business man. The writing was on the wall from there and if you ask anyone in Seattle or most of the people who know anything about this, he did everything he could to get the Sonics to be moved to Oklahoma. That is pretty much the long and short of how they were moved, and Seattle still feels like they were done wrong and hence the bad juju will never allow OKC to win a championship.
Now after moving to OKC this team has seen some awesome talent go through it and has made great moves for talent to come whether it be through draft, trade or free agency. Kevin Durant was drafted in 07’ in the second round by them (although they were still the Sonics). There is a little bit of luck in this whole ordeal because the Trailblazers took Greg Oden in the first pick overall instead of Durant. In their first season in OKC 08-09’ they struggled just with a record of 23-59. The season after they added Durant they added Russel Westbrook. This would also mark the start of their long consecutive runs to playoff games and similarly them losing in them. Although, this season they lost first round to a back to back Laker team. I mean come on, two young players against an experienced Kobe, experienced Pau and a guy who went into the stands IN DETROIT to fight their fans, they never stood a chance. In 2009 during the draft the team added another star player by the name of James Harden. They once again made it to the playoffs where this time they faced the Mavericks. The Mavs won the final three games in comeback fashion, and then went on to win the whole thing. It almost seems like a trend is forming here. Fast forward a season and they easily cruise to the Finals and that is where the cruising came to a screeching halt. After winning the first game they lost the next 4 to the “Not 1, not, 2 not 3” oh wait, Miami Heat. That means they went 0-3 in their first three seasons in the playoffs to teams that ultimately went on to win the whole thing and some darn good teams at that. Next season, the team loses Harden and then ended up losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, who you guessed it, nah just messing with you. Grizzlies got trounced by the Spurs the next round. Speaking of the Spurs the very next season, guess who the Thunder lost to and guess how they did in the playoffs. You got, Spurs go on to win the 13-14’ Championship. Thunder miss the post-season in 14-15’ and lose to the Warriors the next year, who gave Cleveland it’s first historic championship. That offseason Durant much like Bilbo set out on a journey for a ring and joined the Warriors. Leaving Russel to fend pretty much for himself, which he did AND set records AND earned MVP honors. Ultimately, he could not do it all himself and they fell to the Rockets in the playoffs.
Now that we are all caught up to the year at hand. The Thunder added what they thought were the pieces for a new “Big Three” in Melo and Paul George. Early on in the year this team really struggled, and I think it was just due to team chemistry. I mean each of these players had at least one season prior where they were leaned on heavily to their respective team at the time. Throughout the long season they had some really dull moments, but also flashed some brilliant moments as well. Finishing 6-3 against the likes of the Warriors, Raptors, and Rockets it looked as though they were ready to go toe to toe with some of the Western Conference’s best. Coming into this matchup against the Jazz I figured even with the Jazz having the TRUE ROY and the DPOY that the Thunder would be too much for them. The first game looked like it was going to be so, especially since Paul George looked like there was nothing that could stop him, not even his terrible playoff alias, “Playoff P.” The next three games he did not look like any sort of playoff player, which can be said about the rest of the team as well. With a rushed shot selection, a lackluster defense and what looked like a completely uninspired performance for the Thunder, it appeared as though history was repeating itself once again. Then Russ and Playoff P showed up again with their backs against the wall with a brilliant performance, looking like the Thunder everyone thought they would be all along. Now, if I were you reading this I would say well he said a new “Big Three,” so what about Melo? That is everyone’s question watching this. The first 2 games he went 0-8 from deep and scored 18 points total. While stepping it up in the next couple of games he still has not played well enough to even be considered a game changing force. Are these Thunder under performing or are the Utah Jazz really that good?
So, we chalk this and all of the other playoff busts up to great players under performing? In the beginning of this article I asked if it could be a mismanaged team, that was a rhetorical question. I think that the management has brought in some great draft picks over the years and this past year bringing in Paul George was huge. Carmelo was a reach at this point in his career in hopes puts up years past numbers. We can chalk it up to everybody and their brother knowing that the Western Conference (in general) has been way stronger for quite a while. I know I am really jumping the gun with this whole curse thing, but you must admit when they have put the talent on the court that should have won them championships they have somehow found a way to be edged out. Let’s call it bad luck for now or really however you want to explain it. Fast forward ahead 10-15 years when they still haven’t won anything, then can we look back on this and say I am onto something here?