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Top villain

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WHAT makes for great theater in the big stage of the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs? Pardon my Shakespeare, but it’s a great cast, high drama, riveting plots, unexpected twists, great heroes, and yes, great villains.

This NBA Playoffs has all those. Maybe not the tried-and-true playoffs cast led by LeBron James and Steph Curry. But a new exciting cast led by new and resurgent heroes the likes of Chris Paul and Paul George. Or heroes long waiting in the wings and eager to grab the spotlight with the crown on their heads. Enter Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young.

High drama? How else would you describe Khris Middleton’s game-winning shot with less than a second to go that made the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Heat in Game One of the first round of the playoffs?

Riveting plots? Unexpected twists? You can take the twists literally when we think of how sprained ankles, pulled hamstrings, bone bruises or hyperextended knee injuries can rewrite the scripts and change the paths of teams already mind-rehearsing their victory parades.

The heroes? One steps up every minute. When Kawhi Leonard went down, PG13 (Paul George) showed his true rating. When Chris Paul went down, Deandre Ayton went up. When Trae Young sat out Game 4 because of a bone bruise on his foot, Bogdan Bogdanovich sparkled with five assists, four steals, three rebounds and 20 points largely derived from six 3-pointers. Now that Giannis looks like he’s going to miss Game Five, Middleton and Lou Williams are going to raise the MLK flag, Iwo Jima style.

But more than these scintillating scenes that define this 2020-2021 playoffs, what has provided a lot of spark and elicited raw, visceral reactions from the crowd are the villains­so-called, at least. These are the guys that everybody loves to hate. They get hissed at, booed, taunted by the home crowd. But they couldn’t care less. In fact, they seem to savor it, revel in it. They’ve accepted—and perfected their roles with a flourish.

Who’s the guy that seems to be cut out for the part? Trae Young, that 6-foot-2 Atlanta Hawks guard formerly from Oklahoma U that has given the Playoffs some showbiz sizzle.

What has made the guy they call Ice Trae such an object of hate—like a true arch villain—by crowds and, maybe players, of the opposing team? Well, he has always shown a cocky attitude every time he plays. But in this playoffs, he has been most deserving of the Best Kontrabida Award.

Remember how he figured in playoffs news because a New York Knicks fan spat on him at Madison Square Garden in Game 2 of the first round? Young had played with aplomb in Game 1, icing the series opener with a floater in the 0.9 seconds mark. “It got real quiet in here,” he said, after the game, twisting the knife just a bit more.

So when they came back for Game 2, this one fan couldn’t stop himself from gifting Trae with lots of DNA in the fourth quarter of another heated game.

But did Trae back down? Nah. For one, he was matter of fact about it. He didn’t feel the spit, he said, but he saw it on video.. “I have no problem with the fans and what they’ve been saying and things like that, it’s a part of it…I love it. I’m not mad at fans who chant things or whatever..But for spitting and things like that, that’s uncalled for in any arena or any environment,” he told ESPN.

Looks like Trae got the last word anyway. And he made sure the Knicks fans wouldn’t forget it. In Game 5 as the Hawks closed out the Knicks and sent them fishing, Ice Trae bowed cavalierly to the crowd. Whatever for? “I know there are a lot of shows in this city…and I know what they do when the show is over,” he said matter-of-factly, his way of nixing the Knicks.

Now that the Hawks are in the second round, disputing the Eastern Conference Finals with the Milwaukee Bucks, Trae hasn’t toned down his cockiness one bit. In Game One, Trae did a shimmy before drilling a 3-pointer over Bucks forward Bobby Portis. He did it again in Game Two.

Trae Young’s proclivity in triggering the crowd seems to be legend by now. But maybe that’s just the way he is. Typical Trae moves are standing aside to watch the beauty of his shot, with a little shake of the head after release; shushing the crowd when they’re too loud, or letting go of glad-happy quips after a won game to rub just a little salt in.

But that’s because he’s been living with skepticism and pooh-poohing all his life. Even back in high school, the future NBA superstar was heckled and booed, taunted with jeers of “overrated” every time he stepped up to the foul line.

He’s been called too short, or not good enough. He was never considered the top point guard in his class because of his size. He resented it, and to get back, he made it a point to outplay all those who were considered “the best.”

He finished the season as the country leader in both points and assists per game, breaking the Big 12 freshman scoring record held by Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley.

His villain role is thus not a negative for Trae Young. In fact, he’d feel different if the crowd showed him some fluffy love.

Teammate John Collins says “Trae loves to use that negative energy and use it as fuel..Fans who want to keep antagonizing that man, please go right ahead. It’s not gonna bother him…” Collins said.

He’s in good company anyway. The cockiest players in the NBA are GOATs and thrive because of it. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Steph Curry, LeBron James, make way for Trae.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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