As the Internet continues to establish itself as the next media medium in our culture, it’s important to remember moments in time that cause a stir in the endless sea of information. Paul George unleashed a ripple effect that not only caused the world of basketball to rejoice, but more importantly, gave the casual sports fan a moment.
With the evolution of cable television and the ability to stream seemingly every sporting event from anywhere in the world, moments come few and far between these days. The Super Bowl is a moment because it’s the culmination of almost an entire year of paying attention to a sport that dominates our weekends (and Thursday nights) for five months. The championship series in any sport is a moment for the same reason.
For most people the regular season in every sport outside of football is just a barometer for how much you care about the sport. If you’re a die hard fan, you’re there from opening day until the end of the season. If you’re a casual fan, you’re there for opening day, possibly one or two big games during the season before dipping out until the playoffs. If you’re a smart fan, you understand how to identify trends without watching every game of the season, because after all there are just too many things to watch on television these days and that’s not including other sports.
(Did I mention that it’s necessary to have a life away from the tube or computer?)
It’s rare for a moment during the regular season to grab all three of those types of fans and combine them into one group of people. A group of people that understands when something is important. A group of people who get the gist of why something as simple as a dunk equals a new star being born.
There were many questions surrounding the Indiana Pacers as they entered the 2013-14 regular season. How would head coach Frank Vogel fit Danny Granger back into the fold, after he missed most of last season due to injury? Was last year just a fluke? Would they be able to once again avoid the injury virus? Would Paul George evolve?
The Pacers have not only answered every single one of those questions with flying colors, but they have played as the best team in basketball during the first half of this season. Most of that has to do with their obsession with finishing the regular season as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The team knows they have a much better shot of playing for the NBA title if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is in their building.
This obsession has led to the Pacers playing hard every night. The obsession has pushed Lance Stephenson to evolve his game. The obsession has helped everyone on the roster to be the best possible version of themselves. The obsession has most importantly made Paul George into a leader.
Again if you’ve paid attention to the Pacers this season, you understand just how different this year’s Paul George looks compared to the kid that looked overwhelmed as the leader early on last season. No longer is he scared of splitting a pick-and-roll. He no longer looks afraid to take over games, which is something he can do in multiple ways. Until Kevin Durant’s recent explosion without Russell Westbrook, George looked like the second best player in basketball. He doesn’t DH like a certain shooting guard with a ridiculous beard.
The problem for Paul George and more importantly the Pacers as a whole, was that their style doesn’t mesh with the type of highlights the internet sports culture wants to click on. We’re way more obsessed with watching Stephen Curry make ridiculous shots from random spots in an area, or the Heat’s latest photobomb or Gerald Henderson hitting a lady in the head with a basketball.
George needed to release the type of dunk that can be replayed on various video packages on television and be morphed into a series of never ending gifs across the web.
The stock in his brand shot up through the roof with that spectacular display of athleticism. The idea of showing off your athleticism certainly worked for Mr.Kia Blake Griffin, but unfortunately Paul George already participated in the main event of NBA’s All-Star Saturday Night. He doesn’t have a reason to go back to the dunk contest unless LeBron and or Durant decide to participate, which just isn’t going to happen at this point.
So the only way for George to reach the highlight reels was to realize the moment that was happening in front of him when he stole a bad pass from Darren Collison. In an interview after the game, George said that he just wanted to prove that he still had it in his legs to pull off a dunk like that. It seemed like a ridiculous statement from someone who is only 23 years old and is just morphing into a household name, but George has laid down a similar and a more impressive dunk last year in China:
The Pacers still had the Danny Granger storyline attached to them when that video hit Youtube. Also, and more importantly, those dunks were done in a controlled environment. George has had multiple chances to showcase his dunking ability, but failed to grab anyone’s attention the way he did with his dunk against the Clippers.
The world was finally introduced to the other side of Paul George. The showman side that gives fans extra incentive to stand up when he’s on the fast break. More importantly, it gives people an extra reason to watch Pacers’ highlights, which only helps the team’s brand grow.
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