If the Bad Guy Wins, Be the Bad Guy


Kawhi Leonard is weighing his options in his usual quiet fashion. There’s growing sentiment that he will become a Los Angeles Laker, though it’s unclear if that movement has any base in reality. A watched clock tends not to tick and a stone poker face gives no tells. Leonard is nothing if not enigmatic and making predictions would be futile.

If the two-time NBA champion does, in fact, choose to join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he’ll become the bad guy. Well, maybe not The Bad Guy. That honor will be reserved for James, who’s been the supervillain before in Miami.

That would either be a good thing or bad thing for the NBA

Here’s the thing about the good for/bad for argument: it’s pretty unimportant. The checks are still going to clear and the league is going to be popular no matter what Leonard decides. Interest is arguably at an all-time high.

The whole superteam sideshow is interesting to talk about and the perfect conduit for which to wedge ideological differences into debate. When people argue over the fairness or goodness of these star-laded teams, it’s less about basketball and more about the concept of hard work, shortcuts, and manhood.

What’s less controversial is this statement: that The Bad Guy has tended to win since the league took this turn. LeBron has three crowns and Durant two since they willingly joined Death Stars. Leonard just won his second after leaving San Antonio on less than great terms.

All these situations are different and lumping them together requires some smoothing of seams. But, to put it simply, the vilified have tended to also be the triumphant come mid-June.

This is the instructive point for Leonard to consider. The Bad Guy may be hated, but the ends justify the means. Becoming king of the jungle means not caring about the whining of lambs.

In today’s NBA, the nice guys don’t finish first as often as their more cutthroat brethren. No one should understand that more than Leonard.