This past weekend I went to the theater with a buddy of mine and saw the (supposedly) final installment of the Fast & Furious movie franchise, Furious 7. I grew up on these movies, and while it's not exactly the peak of American cinema, it's a thoroughly entertaining series that (except for Tokyo Drift) progresses in quality from one movie to the next.
If you're unfamiliar with the series, it follows a group of street-racers, centered around Dominic Toretto (played by Vin Diesel), and Brian O'Connor (played by the late Paul Walker). The movies follow Toretto and O'Connor as they ride around in ridiculously fast cars in equally-ridiculous settings; get into feuds with either the government, a super-villan, or both; and build their "family" of drivers from the ground up. The dialogue in the series is tremendously corny, sometimes forced, and filled with one-liners. The franchise is built on it's illogical-yet-unbelievably-fun driving and fighting sequences that keep the action going as long as possible.
Furious 7 was, in my mind, the pinnacle of the franchise. The action was dialed up to 10 the whole time, never pausing for more than 5 minutes. There were more catch-phrases and cheesy one-liners than you could dream of. It even had some legitimate sentimental moments, none more powerful than the perfectly-executed send-off they gave Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident before filming was over.
It was everything I wanted and more from the final chapter of the series. The one part of the film that I kept coming back to was Walker's send-off. Through clips of different scenes from earlier films, it showed the bond that had not only been forged between Brian O'Connor and Dom Toretto; but also between Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and the rest of the cast. The message of family and brotherhood before anything else was not just part of a plotline, but a real narrative being pushed by people that had come to sincerely care for each other. Through all of that, the series has achieved something great. It may not win any awards, or do well with critics, but it has cultivated a strong, dedicated fanbase that loves it.
After beating the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, Tony Parker had some in-depth comments regarding Kawhi Leonard's recent surge of production.
One of the better quotes I can ever remember from Parker, on striking balance with Leonard: pic.twitter.com/7AzeVMoM0z— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneySAEN) April 9, 2015
See that from Parker mad it difficult for me to not see similarities between the San Antonio Spurs and the Fast & Furious franchise. Not on just a basic level, either. Sure, Gregg Popovich and Dom Toretto are both strong leaders who you wouldn't dare cross. Yes, Tim Duncan and Brian O'Connor are the backbones of both franchises, but the similarities run even deeper.
The ethos of family and brotherhood that the Fast & Furious movies were built on is more than just a message to the audience which, coupled with the humor and action, form a powerful gestalt. What makes the Fast & Furious franchise great is that everyone involved knows what the films are. They understand that all they need to do to make the audience happy. The formula may be simple, but it's still easy to screw it up, as so many films do.
These attributes of selflessness and self-awareness are a formula for success on the basketball court as well. As has been discussed at length in basketball circles, the Spurs also have a system driven by what the players are willing to do for each other. From the days of David Robinson, to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and then Kawhi Leonard; transitions have been made without a hiccup because each player knows when it's their time, and everyone trusts the next man to step up.
Once you get down to specifics, the differences between the two become clearer. Fast & Furious films are an adrenaline rushe, while the Spurs tend to lull opponents to sleep before striking. And while the Spurs have been said to have one of the greatest styles of basketball every played, Fast & Furious films have never really been critically-acclaimed. Both franchises remain on the same path, though. They understand what works, and while they've adapted over time, they've stuck to their core values, which is something this fan appreciates.
Kawhi Leonard - 20 points on 9-15 shooting, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
While Parker seemed to score at will, Kawhi had the most impact. He was able to score, supplement the rest of the offense as needed, and change the game on defense as he does so well. He constantly forced turnovers, deflected passes, and made the Rockets' lives so much more difficult. Just another well-rounded game from a player who has been on an absolute tear lately.
NUMBERS ON THE BOARD
62: Points in the paint for San Antonio. Dwight Howard wasn't enough to keep the Spurs at bay, as they dominated the painted area. Tony Parker especially took control of the scoring load for the night, and scored 12 of his 27 close to the rim.
40: James Harden's field goal percentage on the night. The Spurs' defense as a whole forced him into tough looks all game. Harden also only had 8 free throw attempts (he hit all 8), compared to his league-leading season average of 10.2. Those free throws and his 4 assists helped improve his offensive efficiency for the evening, but he didn't have the same offensive impact that he usually does.
9: Straight wins for the Spurs. Oh, and all of those wins have been by at least 12 -- which ties an NBA record. Once again, they're peaking at the right time.
- For the past 5 or 6 games, Patty Mills has been losing minutes at the backup point guard spot to Cory Joseph. Mills' perfect fit with the bench unit was reliant upon his ability to play fast and hit three pointers. He's struggled for a bulk of this season with his shot, so Joseph's relentless hustle and defensive ability have started to outweigh Mills' fast pace and lost scoring potential. As they head into the playoffs, it will be interesting to see who gets playing time based on opponents' varying personnel and strategies.
- Tony Parker took a heavy portion of the scoring load tonight. With Patrick Beverley out due to injury, he was guarded by Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza for a bulk of the game. Those two are very capable defenders, but Parker was able to get his early and often. His scoring performance was wonderful, and was a big part of the Spurs getting a victory.
Pop and James Harden compare beards https://t.co/sIN6fLVK4q— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) April 9, 2015
Tony Parker to Tim Duncan alley-oop! pic.twitter.com/NUxozCtnr7— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) April 9, 2015
Tony Parker's achilles seems fine. pic.twitter.com/Q03nQ4vpYy— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) April 9, 2015
Spurs played the first quarter hypnotized by the blood of Kali, and Short Round just woke them with fire.— David McGinnis (@dav_mcg) April 9, 2015
The condor has landed. Leonard with the breakaway dunk, Spurs have their largest lead at 65-57.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneySAEN) April 9, 2015
and that's why they call him SloMo https://t.co/6FB0xIMeFl— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) April 9, 2015
Pop on why he keeps pulling guys before they can score 30: "because I'm a jerk"— Michael Erler (@MichaelErlerSBN) April 9, 2015