It would have been something if Trae Young had simply strapped on a spacesuit and blasted into uncharted territory, collecting 48 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists while usurping control of the Eastern Conference Finals from the Milwaukee Bucks. We would have marveled at the poise and presence of the young 22-year-old point guard and wondered aloud if he's on a collision course with one of the more profoundly surprising and steely coming-out parties in NBA playoff history.
But it was how he did it that made it extra special. Young punctuated his momentous performance (the first player to tally at least 45 points and 10 assists in a conference finals game) with style and swagger. He threw alley-oops off glass in the halfcourt offense and broke out an Antoine Walker shimmy after dropping a helpless defender but before sinking one of his four triples.
In his revisionist history, this was simply because he had time and needed a breather. In reality, he did it because he could. Because no one can stop him and he knows it. Armed with the greatest natural high known to man, Young is inhaling deeply as the smell of a championship wafts ever closer.
Young was The Entertainer. The most convicted and creative artist our there, sneering at the idea that he didn't belong and doing all he could to prove no one else belonged out there with him. It was nothing short of remarkable.
He was Third Act Maximus at the Coliseum. A killer and a showman. It was a singular experience literally without precedent that was both difficult and delightful to try to contextualize in the moment. As the third-year player poured in bucket after bucket en route to 17 field goals and wore courage on his sleeve with an artist's spirit, my mind wandered.
Just who does he remind me of? Stephen Curry, of course. With some Allen Iverson and White Chocolate Jason Williams mixed in. Then there's a Patrick Mahomes element with the fearlessness and panache, the overcoming of narratives shaped in the Big 12 country.
Prisoner of the moment stream of consciousness is a breeding ground for hyperbole but the empirical data bolsters the argument that Wednesday was truly special. Young sent a message loud and clear wondering how anyone could have missed his previous messages. Reggie Miller, arbiter of such important things, began referring to the Hawks' slender assassin as a superstar mid-game, which felt like the appropriate editorial decision.
Atlanta is playing with borrowed money and ahead of schedule. After sending the paper tiger Knicks and neurotic Sixers into vacation, they've set their sights on bringing the the new fashion to the Midwest. Which makes sense as trends tend to start on the coasts and work inward. They play with a fearlessness and confidence that suggests they either don't know they aren't supposed to win it all or are too young to care. Whatever it is, it works.
There has already been talk pre-discounting the eventual champion due to this season's bizarre timeline and pandemic-related exhaustion. But make no mistake. If Young puts this team, which won all of 20 games last year, on his back and delivers a shocking championship, the only asterisk will exist with the small-minded. Because there's nothing cheap or fake or tainted about what's taking place while the ball is in his hands.
The most exciting realization for neutral observers isn't that he's capable of doing this for seven more wins and 10 more years. No, the most compelling thing may be that Young is the first of the post-Curry superstars of that size. And he won't be the last. We're on a timeline that includes the very real probability that Curry clones come fast and furious over the next 25 years. Like Eminem clones in that music video released shortly after Young's birth.
Are you in the proper mental headspace to appreciate just how incredible a reality that would be? If Young isn't an aberration but a promise of things to come?