The Ultimate Playoffs (of Ultimate Destiny)
Basketball fans rejoice: The playoffs are finally upon us! After a lockout that threatened to turn the whole season into a figment of our imagination, it's time to use that imagination as a tool to analyze, predict and experience the greatest spectacle our sport has to offer, the NBA playoffs. You've already seen some of what that imagination can do, with last week's excellent Game of Thrones themed Playoff Preview, but this series will be something a bit different.
Here are the ground rules: first, a different group from literature, cinema or pop culture has been chosen for every single playoff team, based on the qualities inherent to that team; second, in a genre-bending twist, the fictitious groups will battle it out at the same time the teams are competing in their first round series with the playoff results dictating the plot of each story; third, this will continue until the champion is crowned, and the characters representing that team is the last to survive.
Now, it's time to meet our cast of characters, and get into the story of each match-up. I've broken these up into two parts: this post contains the first installment of the teams who played Saturday, later today I'll put up the post for Sunday's games.
San AntonioSpurs = The Great Old Ones (by H.P. Lovecraft)
The trophy was theirs, once. It shall be theirs again. Ancient beyond reckoning, yet more powerful than mere humans can conceive, the stars have aligned at last for the Elder Gods of the NBA to reclaim their thrones.
Oklahoma City Thunder = House Atreides (From Dune)
Forced to move their home from a rainy land, to one far more dry, they have emerged from years of wandering in the desert to claim their birthright. Now they wield frightening power thanks to the instinctive abilities of their young leadership.
Los Angeles Lakers = The Corleone Family
The old Don used to run this town. Now, people say that the family has lost its guts, and that the Corleones are not the force they once were. It's not personal, it's just business ... but it's personal. Also, this allows everyone to make all the "put a hit on" jokes they want.
Memphis Grizzlies = Bond Villains
Who but a Bond villain could reliably bully organizations that should, in theory, be far more powerful?
Los Angeles Clippers = Toys from Toy Story
They're fun, they're a charismatic ragtag band ... but are they in over their heads? Also, tell me that Blake Griffin isn't Buzz Lightyear. He's not flying, he's falling with style.
Denver Nuggets = Pokemon
Denver has collected a diverse assortment of players with interesting and unique skills ... but have they evolved enough to battle elite teams?
Dallas Mavericks = Watchmen
They used to be in charge. Then things fell apart, some members left the team, and now the world has turned its back on them. Their players became alienated or lost their mojo, and now they're being picked off one by one.
Utah Jazz = Dumbledore's Army
These kids have only begun to understand the great power that dwells within them, but is it enough to defeat the Team That Must Not Be Named?
Chicago Bulls = 300 Spartans
The strength of the team is not the individual soldier, but the discipline of the whole. They can survive anything - even the loss of key players - if they keep their shields locked together ... but if you can shake apart that wall, what remains will crumble.
Miami Heat = The Totalitarian Government of Oceania
in George Orwell's 1984 (A.K.A. Big Brother)
Miami is the favorite. Miami has always been the favorite. Miami is, and will always be, victorious. Rumors of a bench shortage are lies planted by traitors. The enemies of Miami shall be crushed. Big Bron is watching you.
Indiana Pacers = The Fellowship of the Rings
A ragtag band drawn from all corners of the league … somehow, this motley crew has forged a destiny for itself, but the road ahead is long and fraught with peril.
Boston Celtics = Ocean's Eleven
These guys may be a little down on their luck lately, but they’re seasoned professionals and smooth operators and this ain’t their first rodeo. Taking home the trophy would be the heist of the century – are they up to the task?
Atlanta Hawks = The Dirty Dozen
These jailbirds don't get much love, but they've been getting results. Is this year's quest for gold more than just a suicide mission?
Orlando Magic = Reservoir Dogs
This isn’t how it was supposed to go down. The plan was perfect – but then the backstabbing started, people got hurt, and now they’ll be lucky to make it out of this season alive.
New York Knicks = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The boys from the big city have partied hard this year, but will a few talented and happy-go-lucky warriors be able to overcome their more disciplined foes?
Philadelphia 76ers = The Scooby-Doo Gang
The machine that got them this far is something of a mystery. These meddling kids have somehow discovered a secret entrance to the Playoffs, but what will happen if that scary monster isn't just Old Man Withers in a rubber mask?
The Story Begins
Now the only question is, how will it all play out? See below for the first chapter in each of the unfolding stories; updates will follow as each series progresses.
Those Meddling Spartans: Part I
"Jinkies." Velma peered out the window of the Mystery Machine. "This spooky old place sure doesn’t look like an abandoned amusement park to me."
Daphne glanced up from her compact mirror. "You’re the one who gave the map to Shaggy." She rolled down the window until the impenetrable fog of acrid smoke had dissipated. "Hey, loser! Where in the world are we?"
"Like, search me man." In the back of the van a gaunt, lanky fellow wiped crumbs from his goatee. He prodded the demon-dog beside him. "It says here that we should totally turn left at Thermopylae, right Scoob?"
"Ruh? Rats right. Reft rat Ruhr-ropylae," the mutant Great Dane affirmed, dribbling a gobbet of blotting paper onto the floor.
Shaggy tried to focus on the crumpled old map with eyes as red as strawberries. "Hang on a sec…" He trailed off. "Zoiks! Like, I was holding this thing upside down the whole time!" He dissolved in a fit of uncontrollable giggling.
"Don’t worry, gang." Fred stepped on the brake, coaxing the van to a wheezing halt. "We’ll just ask these fine gentlemen for directions. How does my hair look?"
The Mystery Machine had stopped in the middle of a stone agora. All around them stood a silent throng of helmeted men. Daphne sighed as Fred fussed with his ascot. "Oh no you don’t – we’ve got a case to solve. Somebody else go."
"I’ll do it!" declared an abrasive, squeaky voice. "Never fear, gang! Scrappy-Doo will–"
"How does he chew through gags so fast?" Daphne wondered aloud as Velma clamped her hands around the dwarfish abomination’s muzzle. "Fine, let him go. If we don’t let him out soon we’ll have to hose out the van again anyway."
"Leave it to me!" The canimunculus leapt out into the hazy sunshine of the ancient Peloponnese. Scrappy-Doo scrambled around the lip of a vast, inexplicable pit and addressed the apparent leader of the warlike strangers – a tall man with a long spear and abs that could grate parmesan. "Hey, mister! Is this Krazy Eddie’s Funworld?"
A moment later, Shaggy cleared his throat. "Like, that solves one problem." He cringed as a volley of spears reduced the Mystery Machine’s tires to vulcanized rags. "But it looks like we’re not the only ones looking for that trophy. Run for it, Scoob!"
Kowabunga, Big Bro: Part I
It was a bright cold day in May, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Mikey sat up and groaned. "Dude, what time is it? What the heck did we do last night? And where are we?"
He had awoken in a cramped, sparsely-furnished room with a generally dystopian decorating scheme. Leo was quietly scraping congealed mozzarella from his shell with a katana. "No clue, bro. That guy at the liquor store should be fired – fake ID or no, the word ‘teenage’ is right there in the name of the freakin’ franchise. Anyway, I feel like I’m forgetting something important. Hey, Donny! Do you remember what we’re supposed to do today?"
"April," moaned Donny from one corner of the unfamiliar room. "April … oh, April…" He began to snore.
"Hmmm. Hey, that’s right!" Leo snapped his turtle-finger-things. "I think April’s in trouble!"
Mikey shrugged. "Probably a safe bet."
"No, no, I remember now!" Leo stood up and began to pace. "April was on assignment in Oceania, doing a story on some character named _____ O’Brien. Something about a missing Trophy."
"Whatever, dude." Mikey yawned. "It’s Saturday. Let’s see if there are any cartoons on, this show sucks."
Leo glanced at the large screen that dominated one gray wall. It simply depicted an enormous face; the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said.
"Is that Tom Selleck?" Leo asked. "His career really hit the wall."
Mikey shook his head. "No, man, this is the British version. They do a celebrity one, like Jeopardy. Whoa … check it out!"
The face on the screen had disappeared, to be replaced by a familiar figure in a red mask.
Mikey rubbed his eyes. "Holy cow. What’s Raph doing on TV?"
The answer soon became clear. The turtles listened as their friend stammeringly confessed to stealing a certain trophy and selling it to Eurasia – also to sabotaging machinery in critical Minipax facilities, and publishing several works of illegal testudinal literature. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, Raph was gone. Patriotic music swelled, and it was time for the Two Minute Hate.
"Whoa. This is ungood." Leo turned to Mikey. "Way, doubleplus ungood."
Fellowship Dogs: Part I
"It was a set-up, do you hear me?" Mr. Pink looked back nervously as they hurried through the deepening twilight. "The Nazgul were waiting for us, man! Brown is dead, Orange might as well be, and–"
"Just shut up, okay? Orange is gonna be fine, we just gotta get to Gondor." Mr. White smiled reassuringly at the pale man who staggered along beside them. "You hangin’ in there, buddy?"
Mr. Orange stumbled, clutching at his stomach. Mr. White caught him as he fell.
"C’mon now, kid. Nobody’s dying today." Mr. White dragged the fainting man to his feet. "You took a Morgul blade in the gut, but that takes a long time to kill ya. You’re gonna wish you was dead, but you’re gonna make it. We’ve just gotta get you home."
"Home?" The sound of pursuing orcs grew louder and Mr. Pink fired wildly into the forest behind them. "You know we can’t go back without the trophy, and … what the-- ? Blue, is that you?"
The black-suited robbers had careened around a sharp turn, and headlong into a new predicament. Evidently Mr. Blue had escaped the ambush – he now stood in the middle of the path, staring down upon a motley crew of travelers who were apparently heading in the opposite direction. The new arrivals shattered the uneasy détente; in the blink of an eye weapons had been drawn.
With one pistol aimed at a knife-packing hobbit and the other at an axe-toting dwarf, Mr. Blue sneered in the face of the elf whose triple-notched bow was aimed at his head. "Looks like we got ourselves an old-fashioned Middle Earth standoff."
Who Watches the Fremen: Part I
"Well, I think it was nice of Adrian to fly us all out here." Dan slipped an arm around Laurie’s waist. "This is just what the team needs – if we’re going to get back to the kind of crime-fighting squad we used to be, we need to bond a little bit. C’mon, take the mask off and get some sun."
Rorschach’s silence carried more withering contempt than any reply could have. He gazed out across the barren dunes that stretched to the horizon and beyond. "Couldn’t have done ropes course? On Earth?"
Laurie raised a hand to shield her eyes against the glare. "Jon did say that spending some time on Mars really helped him get his head straight. And this is better, because there’s oxygen."
"And sand. Mainly sand." Rorschach grumbled inaudibly beneath his mask. He turned on his heel and disappeared into the crowd. Around him the domes of Arrakeen gleamed in the noonday sun, an island of civilization in an unforgiving and waterless ocean.
"Let him go." Adrian chuckled. "How much trouble can he get into? We should drop off our bags, I got us rooms at the Ducal Palace."
Laurie eyed Adrian suspiciously. "Y’know, I’m surprised that you were able to take so much time away from your vast business empire and shadowy artist-kidnapping hobby. And you were lobbying pretty hard for this little teambuilding exercise, even though Jon can’t come to Arrakis because that spice-stuff gives him headaches. I wonder what your motives are?"
"Nothing ulterior, certainly." The Smartest Man in the World flashed a winning smile, then made a meaningless gesture to two hooded figures lurking innocently in the background. "There’s the palace. Last one in is a rotten egg!"
As it turned out, Adrian himself was the rotten egg. Despite his exceptional athletic physique he remained two steps behind Dan and Laurie as they dashed through the vast doors of the fortress that had so recently been vacated by the disgraced House Atreides. The surprising absence of tripwires and pressure plates, however, was offset by the surprising presence of a pile of corpses in the place that should presumably have held the reception desk.
"Harkonnens," Laurie gasped, recognizing the livery of the deceased.
"Sardaukar," Dan corrected, noting a ‘Salusa Secundus 4 Life’ tattoo.
"Competition," Adrian muttered. Then he grinned. "Well, I never expected to get the Trophy without a fight. Now that we’ve arrived, I may as well tell you why we’re here…"
to be continued...