The Four NBA Teams That Qualified For the Conference Finals If It Was The Sopranos
By Sam Hixson, Guest Contributor
The NBA is the world’s greatest reality TV show. Besides the actual sport being incredibly entertaining, the drama is consistent and widely publicized. COVID has forced people to revisit some of their favorite shows from over the years. The Sopranos has come back in a big way and now even has a lot of scenes from the show trending on Twitter and a lot of people checking it out. This got me thinking about the high stakes drama in both the NBA and The Sopranos and how they have parallels between the players and the characters from the personalities and the roles they play on their respective teams/families. Bear with me on some of them, but I give you the four teams that competed in the conference finals in the bubble if it was the Sopranos.
LeBron James and Tony Soprano
LeBron James is the emotional leader of the NBA family much like Tony Soprano is of the New Jersey mob family. They are both successful men with fiery personalities and a knack for getting the job done no matter the cost. They both have trophy wives and kids to come home to and they have caught their son smoking weed on at least one occasion. Business wise, LeBron and Tony share similarities with how they operate. Tony has more beef going on than LeBron has on his tacos most Tuesday nights. So he always knows when to give someone’s life the pink slip and LeBron isn’t too shabby at “waste management” either (See Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyrie Irving). Tony has overseen construction work for the better part of his time as acting boss. Now, if LeBron really wanted to get into the business of stacking up bricks I’m sure he could; he would just have to hang out with Russell Westbrook a little more often. LeBron and Tony both sit at the head of the table of respect, both are strictly business and I wouldn’t recommend pissing either of them off
Jimmy Butler and Christopher Moltisanti
This was a tough one because Rajon Rondo and Christopher Moltisanti share a similar lack of self-control but I ended up choosing Jimmy Butler for this one. Imagine Jimmy Butler and Christopher Moltisanti sitting in the same room at the same table, the animosity would be incredible. It would be more hostile than Happy Gilmore being a contestant on the Price is Right. Christopher and Jimmy are both excellent at what they do. Christopher is a top earner; Jimmy is a top basketball player. Christopher would thrive in the bubble. He would be able to plop right down and work on that movie script he started back in season one. Maybe he would even stop by Jimmy’s room to get some of the famous bubble coffee Jimmy has been brewing. The cafeteria workers better not short him on the tater tots at chow time though. They might end up at the bottom of Lake Buena Vista after a stunt like that. They both have their good qualities too. Both leaders of men, both with a goal of establishing a legacy and a name for themselves. But at the end of the day both are loose cannons with a fuse that can be ignited if someone breathes weird.
Nikola Jokic and Furio Giunta
Nikola Jokic is a tough one to place as a character. I find him to be one of the most likable guys in the NBA. Guy is a straight baller. Furio Giunta is a person that is impossible to not like in the Sopranos. He’s funny, loyal, sensitive…. Well that is unless you owe him money. If that is the case, you are probably getting your kneecaps taken out by a nine iron for betting two grand on the Jets to cover the spread. Furio was a character I always wish stuck around a little longer with the crew much like it would be cool to see Jokic stick around for the finals. Jokic looks like Big Bird wearing Oscar’s trash can lids on his feet out there when he’s moving around in the paint. But the guy does stuff that no other big in the NBA can do. The Nuggets have a true franchise player in Joker.
Jayson Tatum and Johnny Sack Jayson
Tatum is the guy in Boston and quickly turning into one of the best young players in the NBA. It wasn’t always like that though. He had one thing in his way preventing him from being the guy and that was Kyrie Irving. That’s much like Johnny Sack had to wait out Carmine before he could become the New York family boss. Johnny and Jayson don’t exactly mesh with their personalities, but they are both guys who are at the top of the food chain in their organizations and have a common goal of staying at the top of that chain. I like to think Jayson Tatum and Johnny Sack would conduct business the same way if they were in the bubble. They’d be sitting around a table in a dimly lit corner of a room, top associates by their sides, waiting for some poor sap to cough up what he owes them. For Tatum that would just be collecting Joel Embiid’s tears or Paul George’s ankles.
Anthony Davis and Silvio Dante
Anthony Davis and Silvio Dante really strike me as a great comparison. AD and Silvio are what the show calls the strong, silent type. They both serve as the right-hand man to the boss. Even if LeBron has an off night, AD is going to be there to steer the ship on track with a cool 30/15/5 stat line, much like Silvio does for Tony when things are tough. Another similarity is the injury report. Anthony Davis has had times where he hasn’t come up big for his team because he’s been injured. Let’s be honest. He’s the type of guy to be walking down the street in Los Angeles minding his own business and get struck by an air conditioner toppling out of a 10th-floor window. The injuries have cost his team before and Silvio almost cost his team with his asthma not allowing him to act as a leader for the family when Tony was down. Two strong characters, bad health issues.
Danny Green and Richie Aprile
When you think of Danny Green, you think of a sniper who’s been around the block a couple times and won a couple championships. Definitely a guy who has experience, but also a guy who has struggled to find his way at times in Los Angeles. When Richie Aprile got out of the can, he thought things would go back to the way they were all those years before Tony was running the ship and had a hard time finding his way too. That’s where I can compare them. Both guys are respected people with a desire to win (earn) and are adjusting to the new settings they are placed in. Danny Green’s personality compared to Richie’s is very, very mild. Richie is a dude who acts before he thinks and consistently defies Tony despite him being the boss. Danny Green is a team-oriented role player who would never defy what a guy like LeBron is telling him to do. He just better hope his significant other isn’t a Janice Soprano….
Jamal Murray and Paulie Gualitieri
Jamal Murray was the hottest player in the bubble for a while. A lights-out performance almost every time he touches the hardwood. Murray is also known for liking his Instagram models. Objectively it is hilarious, but you know when Murray started to take off? The second he accidentally put a video of him getting head on his Instagram story. A weird confidence builder, but hey I guess you won’t have many nerves if 800k people know what you’re working with. Even if accidental. I digress, the person I think Jamal Murray is most like is Paulie Gualitieri. Jamal and Paulie are both guys that are pretty great at getting results. They are both important people who have important roles on their team/family. Paulie is in Tony’s inner circle and is known for being a top earner and Jamal is an up and coming superstar who has earned the respect of many people just based off his time in the bubble alone. I think Paulie would be the person most likely to get caught trying to sneak his Goomar into the bubble. Much like I think Jamal Murray has the urge to get some Instagram models down to Orlando. Would they get caught? Absolutely. Just ask Daniel House about that strategy.
Artie Bucco and Kyle Kuzma
Artie Bucco just can’t catch a break it seems. He always tries to do right by what people ask of him, especially Tony. It’s like he just doesn’t know when to shut his yap. Artie is going through kind of a mid-life crisis with his restaurants and marriage and, on top of that, is always doing favors for Tony. That’s why Artie is Kyle Kuzma. Kuz is a young player whose role got watered down with the Lakers in 2020. It’s tough to keep him in the starting 5 when you have a guy like Anthony Davis join the team, so his minutes decreased off the bench and so did his scoring averages. Kuzma is the type of guy trying to do right by Bron but also has almost been sent away by him much like Artie and Tony’s relationship. They both even had their mid-life crisis body changes when Artie gets a stud earring and Kuzma dyed his hair blonde to make himself look like a knock off early 2000s Eminem.