Constitute a Plane

Good things and bad things both happen in three. So do deaths, and celebrity deaths, which may or may not be transferable categories. There is no question that three is a magical number, one that has echoed throughout human history and systems of belief as both structurally perfect and aesthetically glorious. It makes you wonder why, at various junctures in the NBA’s lifespan, the media has settled for the half-assed “Big Three.” If it comes to pass, the Tree People Cartel of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in Miami needs a bigger, better name that expressed exactly what forces are unlocked when three join forces. The running favorite thus far seems to be “The Triumvirate”. We have chosen to examine this option, and several others, to see if the pieces fit.

Triumvirate: This is the default name, so it falls upon us to point out the unfortunate fact that the first triumvirate of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Marcus Crassus was a secret political pact between the three bigwigs for much of its seven-year life. It was also an uneasy alliance with perpetual in-fighting, which became clear in 53 BC when Crassus died and Pompey and Caesar almost immediately started fighting for total control of the budding empire. This is the analogy for people who think the three stars’ egos would almost immediately doom what looks amazing on paper. Still, some of the correspondences work. LeBron is obviously Caesar, a man of overpowering ambition who wants to remake the world in his image as others (Alexander the Great, Michael Jordan) have done before. That makes Wade Pompey, a superstar in his own right who would be forced to play second fiddle because of circumstances, not a lack of talent. If there were to be a big blow-up in Miami, it’d be between these two. That leaves Bosh to function as Crassus, an important figure who is nonetheless likely to fall into the margins of history as the other two stars garner most of the attention. Let’s revisit this one if the trio fails miserably. It is currently too negative to describe a scenario with such amazing potential. (Eric Freeman)

The Holy Trinity: Before anyone freaks out and burns my head on a popsicle stick, remember, this whole summer has a messianic tinge to it, and LeBron’s been as embodying various modes of divinity since he was 16. This is the most famous three-part entity ever, too, which should make it an obvious choice. Except upon further inspection, it doesn’t really work. LeBron has to be the Son, since that’s buried somewhere deep inside his brand DNA. The Holy Ghost, which is of course not a ghost but a mystical presence, is generally represented in all post-Renaissance art as a glowing dove. That seems to go with Chris Bosh, who is both one of those players who fills in gaps (when in the presence of other stars) and isn’t possessed of the most aggro personality. But he still plays in the paint, or near it, which conflicts with everything we know about birds, as animals and as metaphors for people. What really drags this one down, though, is Dwyane Wade as The Father. His authority is earned and re-earned with each staggering move, not projected as a matter of fact -- that’s more something a big man, or less unpredictable guard, would do. Plus, even if you understand the Trinity as devoid of hierarchy, there’s still an implied “Jesus happened later,” and that’s at odds with the modern notions of progress we apply to sports. To us, LeBron is progress over all else. To God, it was progress to become mortal and get murdered. Good thing that bird was hanging around to light the way. (Bethlehem Shoals)

The Summit at Yalta: It’s got “Summit” in the title, which is cool, since other than “Triumvirate” no fancy-sounding word has been thrown around more in reference to this off-season. Also, if anyone cares, Eric and I both made this joke independent of each other, a testament to the depth of our friendship (or the limits of our wit, or the formulaic nature of all things FD). Maybe not so catchy, though, in name alone. “Yalta” would suffice, I suppose. As for the principals? The fact that one All-Star will be stuck playing the role of a demented genocidal maniac makes this a hard sell. Plus, there’s that innate human attraction to hierarchy. Sorry, other countries, but at this point in time the USA had taken its rightful place atop the heap of nations. That would automatically make LeBron into FDR, even though a bold, benevolent cripple doesn’t really reflect the man or his game. Maybe James is Stalin, if nothing else for the damage he can so readily inflict upon everyone else on the floor. Wade, with his backlog of injuries and fashion sense that at least references the world of blue bloods that FDR sprang from, works well as Roosevelt. His style, which prizes grand gestures over meting out elastic punishment, seems more in keeping with the President’s leadership style (and more convincingly puts Bron in his place as Stalin). Bosh may not be the master orator, humorist, or generally outsize human being that Churchill was. But like Britain, he’s the odd man out here, the one who has has beaten down and nearly defeated and needs more than anyone for this pact to restore his dignity. The slow break-up with the international-minded Raptors = Britain’s empire once and for all dwindling away. (BS)

The Three Special Triangles: Basketball is a sport with geometry built into its foundations, even if we don’t always acknowledge it. And while it may seem difficult to compare basketball players to shapes, several correspondences fit quite well. LeBron is obviously the equilateral triangle, a shape without flaw that embodies perfection we have come to assume only exists in the divine. Wade is the isosceles, a near-perfect shape with only minor faults (the unequal side, Dwyane’s penchant for getting injured) in its attempt for equalaterality. Sadly, Bosh cannot be the right triangle. His well-rounded game cannot be seen in a shape with such a sharp angle; it’s for a role player, not a lanky star. Trying to put him in a role that doesn’t suit him would simply be obtuse. (EF)

Chimera: The chimera wasn’t actually three things (nor was the Trinity, exactly, but that’s a finer point). However, on a perfect basketball team, players achieve the synergy of oneness, a unity of performance that elides anything like ego or selfish demands. Thus, behold, a monster of myth and legend that combined that best—and some might say, the worst—qualities of a lion, snake, and goat. LeBron is the lion. He likes lions, and his name begins with an “L”. Plus, the lion has a head and body on there, indicative of the many ways James can contribute to the team. In strict, formal terms, no player has ever been more torso-like than LeBron, as he literally fills out the tasks a basketball team must execute like few players in the game’s history. Wade is the serpent, a deadly weapon coiled to strike, quick and decisive but not exactly the hub of activity. Also, the snake is a phallic symbol, and everyone knows D-Wade gets around. Bosh is the goat; people seem to dislike him, which means if this goes sour, it will be his fault for lacking toughness (no one understands it in the goat, either!). Also, the goat improbably juts out of the lion’s body, much in the same way that Bosh’s low post game will serve as an appendage of whatever James decides to do with the paint at any given moment. The perfect big man for LeBron is a skilled one capable of matching his skill level and physical ability, but sublimating his need to be anything more than a fantastic appendage. No, that’s not another dick joke. Think Nash and Amar’e, if Nash were more generally commanding and Amar’e more understated and steady. If only there were some wings on this thing. (BS)

Charmed: The strength of the sister witches was based on “The Power of Three,” and since teams are like families, this is a natural comparison. Upon closer inspection, though, it doesn’t hold . At first glance, LeBron would seem to be Shannen Doherty, the dependable, talented leader of the group. But Miami will likely remain Wade’s team, so perhaps he should be Doherty. But where does that put LeBron? He is certainly not Holly Marie Combs, who never stood out in any season and only registered as the one who would nag her husband for wearing white robes with the other White Lighters. And what of Alyssa Milano, who lacked discipline and needed to learn the value of responsibility? Surely none of these established stars could be spoken of in such a way, and Rudy Gay was never going to be in this group. Plus, Bosh looks more like one of the demons that the sisters vanquished with poorly rendered CGI. There are no easy comparisons here, just as there is no way to easily deal with the fact that Milano turned into a mermaid and wants to live in the sea. (Note: If you are a fan of post-Doherty seasons, substitute Milano for Doherty and Rose McGowan for Milano.) (EF)

John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Albert Ayler: In 1967, not long after Coltrane’s death, Marxist free jazz critic Franz Kofsky quoted Ayler as calling Coltrane “the father,” Trane’s sidekick Sanders “the son,” and himself “the Holy Ghost.” This one is in serious trouble from the beginning, since it’s essentially a metaphor built on the back of another. Let’s not even bother with discerning whether this works against the original, religious formation. Not because we couldn’t, or didn’t already type it up before deleting it, but because if that’s the basis for inclusion, this one might be a loser right off the jump. Instead, let’s just compare musicians the ballers. LeBron and Coltrane are a good fit, as both combine the magisterial with the truly expressive. Wade as Sanders, the hell-raising wingman, is great, and for all we know Wade could end up with Eryakh Badu, wear a knit arm sleeve, and start celebrating Blackness after every dunk. Bosh as Ayler? That’s all wrong. If Sanders pushed Coltrane while living under his roof, Ayler—like the actual Holy Ghost—was floating in the air as both insinuation and untapped energy. He was possibility, freedom, and maybe even impossible to pin down. That’s Anthony Randolph, and unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see James, Wade, and Randolph coming out of this summer as anyone’s Team of Titans. (BS)

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At 7/02/2010 7:25 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

A true reminder of why I love FD.

P.S. Can Darko's mood be "overpaid"?

At 7/02/2010 9:26 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Triptych: In art, the classical function of the triptych has been to show multiple aspects of a single person or event (through a form of simultaneity). In this case, roles don't need to be assigned to any particular player, but overall ascription is apt. LBJ, Bosh, and Wade are all members of the Class of 2003, and simultaneously represents a different aspect of that group as well as of the classic NBA type. As to the latter, Bron is the long-struggling supertalent who must suffer multiple defeats on his path to glory. Wade is the early succeeder whose team then falls apart around him, his chances to repeat his triumphs uncertain. Bosh is the first-tier talent with second-tier recognition, drafted by a league edge-dweller and looking for his first chance of escape. But in coming together, they represent the 2003 use of the mini-max to take greater control of their own destinies and, through superstar solidarity, create a never-before-considered form of leverage.


Eternal Champion: For those unfamiliar with the work of Michael Moorcock, the Eternal Champion is a hero who exists in all dimensions of the author's "Multiverse," taking on a different aspect in each. Of the Eternal Champion stories, a subplot in King of Swords and is relevant. Three aspects of the character--Elric, Corum, and Erekose--are drawn to the same place at the same "time." They temporarily combine into a single entity. Bosh must be Erekose, the lesser known of the three, but also the one most aware of his shared nature with the other two. Wade is probably most akin to Corum--physically damaged and his early aristocratic life destroyed. If he leaves Miami, it will be like slaughtering the last remnants of his own race. On the other hand, fitting Wade into Celtic mythology is, well, a stretch. And of course, LBJ must be Elric. An emperor bored by his own domain and a physical oddity who, despite his powers, relies on an external source for his strength, just as it seems that Bron must now find an equal partner to help him to a championship. Ultimately, Elric literally sets the world on fire, clearing out the past to make way for the future and restore balance. He doesn't become a billionaire in the process, however.

[Two side Moorcockian side points: This trio would definitely need a Jerry Cornelius. I'd also rather call them The Dancers at the End of Time.]


Of course, you could also just keep it simple and call these three Voltron.

At 7/02/2010 11:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

this is the kind of shit that made me love freedarko to begin with. vintage

At 7/03/2010 3:30 PM, Blogger vp said...

this is so brilliant I had to stop at 'the power of three'.

At 7/03/2010 6:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Butter, Sugar, Flour.

The universal ingredients of everything worth anything at the patisserie.

Clearly, LeBron is Butter, providing most of the calories and the true heft of the pastry.

D-Wade must be Sugar. You've seen him play, right?

This makes Bosh our Flour. You need him inside, but you don't really taste much.

At 7/04/2010 10:16 AM, Blogger deeceemorris said...

Also, a chimera is a mythical, fantastical, or illusory phenomenon. A pipe dream

At 7/04/2010 4:22 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Bosh is Shemp.

At 7/04/2010 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great.

At 7/05/2010 4:03 PM, Blogger Asher said...

I liked Yalta and the Triumvirate the best, as they acknowledge Bosh's bit player role in all this.

At 7/06/2010 6:53 AM, Blogger Russ Grote said...

Three Ninjas - Rockey = Lebron, clearly the leader also has a precarious relationship with Emily aka his legacy that people talk a lot about aka Rocky loves Emily. Colt is DWade. He just charges through the lane most of the time like a colt. Tum Tum is Bosh. He is the comic relief and Bosh looks funny. moreover, its Bosh who needs to be hungry for a title for this to work. He will take a huge drop in stats plus will need to turn down some money to make the deal work. Unlike Lebron and Wade who have significantly bigger earnings from endorsements, a max deal matters to Bosh financially. Plus, montages involving the three players and the three ninjas is awesome. Pat Riley is clearly the Japanese Grandfather. Eric Spoelstra the slightly estranged father that plays a significantly less role in the development of the three.

At 7/07/2010 6:19 PM, Blogger Jack said...

There are lots of other alliances; the Triple Entente-- LBJ is High Imperial Britain for obvious reasons, Bosh is France, fighting it out inch by inches in his own territory: the paint... the problem is no one fits with the agrarian Russian Empire.

The Triple Alliance could work as Italy's position is comparable to Bosh's. That makes James Germany and the once-Champion Wade the once dominant Austro-Hungarian Empire. Of course, they lost.

The Axis Powers fit really well except that Wade or James would have to be the Nazis.

Other options: the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Raphael is Bosh because he was a bit player and because the first three letters of his name are also the first three letters of "Raptors". Wade is Gabriel, the Messenger. After all, "The Flash" is derivative of the Mercury/Hermes mythos... as is the figure of Gabriel. James is obviously Michael, "The Prince" and leader of God's army. The big problem with this one is that the Archangels is a pretty lame name and Lebron can't be a Michael for obvious reasons.

At 7/08/2010 12:24 PM, Blogger walrusoflove said...

great, great, great piece on fanhouse about thedecision. very FD. only thing i've read about bron lately that didn't make me throwup inside my mouth. hate commenting on aol so will drop it in here.

i really like the lebron as napolean paradox. the most awesome physical force in the league has little-man complex. his insecurity and ego leading him down a path of no return - a collapse of epic proportions awaits. cleveland is the safe confines of corsica that must be abandoned to gain infamy. prokorov (at some point in time) will play the feisty muscovites. jayZ as some kind of slippery turncoat (britain?) that will seek to screw both sides and make a play for the empire (state of mind) himself.

At 7/08/2010 2:08 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

F what to call this unholy amalgamation of greed, ego and selfishness. How about the fact that this proposed power sharing will do irreparable damage to Lebron, Wade and Bosh’s brand (to a much lesser extend for Bosh, in fact he could gain significantly from this three way, IMO)? The fact is that the tripling of superstar power does not somehow enhance everybody, Garnett gained the most out of the whole “three amigos” thing. “Ubantu” might have been good for the team but it greatly diminished the stars of Ray Allen (particularly) and Paul Pierce (even if only marginally). “We are all witnesses” to the fact in Cleveland he was the marquee, he will not be getting any stand alone billboards in Miami I guarantee you that, not unless Dwayne is also getting one of the same size, adjacent to his preferably. The two man tag team has always carried both players in the NBA, mostly because there clearly is a leader and everybody’s profile is enhanced by the winning. The triplets thing worked for the Dallas Cowboys mostly because everybody had such clearly defined roles and the abilities of one did not negate the strengths of the other two , also they were all drafted by the Cowboys and hence were never in direct competition for audiences or AD dollars at any point in their careers, the way these three were just three months ago. Tell me, would Nike or brand Jordan be the willing to subjugate their respective marketing efforts, will they be out there blending promotional smoothies? I don’t see it happening, I see them as a serving of vodka and cranberry juice with Chris Bosh as the lemon wedge. It might taste good and make them happy for a while but eventually everybody would be drunk and puking their guts out.

At 7/09/2010 12:18 AM, Blogger Freddie said...

Never has the problem with ESPN's conflicts of interest been more apparent than tonight. ESPN broadcasts NBA games, and thus has a direct financial stake in this deal, thanks to the publicity and notoriety. And there's just no question that that's contributing to their coverage, which has been very deferential to Lebron.

At 7/09/2010 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can I smack Browny down?

Regardless of how anyone feels about this situation, "diminishes the brand" argument is so false. They're could rack up five titles! That brand would be winning... that's just so terrible.

Robert Horry has six rings, but no one thinks he's better than Karl Malone. Does it really matter that Wade will have one more ring than the King for a long time? James is younger; I'd say he has a decent shot at six, surpassing Wade, etc.

More to your points: People talk about Paul Pierce like he's a HOFer now. He's got a lot of all-star appearances, but the championship validated him in a way equal to Garnett (and in the ways that this site has described). It only seems lesser because he isn't as good as Garnett, possibly? Allen as well, is now known as a complete basketball player, rather than just a scorer or shooter.

At 7/09/2010 2:30 PM, Blogger SYL said...

In popular culture we place a lot of emphasis on rings. But I think there is a difference between earning greatness, and chasing it.

Does LeBron truly want to be the greatest player ever, or does he just want to be known as the greatest player ever?

I think LeBron lost his innocence before he even entered the NBA, and last night was the inevitable outcome.

At 7/09/2010 2:36 PM, Blogger SYL said...

"Regardless of how anyone feels about this situation, "diminishes the brand" argument is so false. They're could rack up five titles! That brand would be winning... that's just so terrible."

The problem is not whether this move diminishes his brand. The problem is that the concept of 'brand' even enters the equation here. I don't think any of the true greats ever considered their 'brand' in the equation. It's even more crass than trying to factor in the difference in state tax rates and endorsement potential for different cities.

This whole thing has become so self-reflective. If someone is perceived as doing something just for their 'brand', their 'brand' actually takes a hit. We are all now in this sort of territory with LeBron.

None of this has anything to do with basketball, greatness, or even winning. They have all become simply a means to another end. Because when you're a 'king', these are merely trifling subjects aren't they? A king doesn't have to be anything to anyone, because he's the king.

At 7/09/2010 2:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Essentially, this is a win-lose situation for Lebron. If he wins, he loses (he would have piggybacked his way to a title). If he loses.....watch out.

At 7/09/2010 11:27 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

If the Heat win a title, let's not be so quick to say that LeBron piggybacked his way to it. I'm pretty sure that if the Heat win a championship, it'll probably have something to do with how LeBron plays. He's not some veteran looking for spot minutes, and, because this Heat team hasn't played a game yet, it's difficult to claim how this move will diminish him as a player. We may perceive that he's diminished on the court, but as far as we know he's still the same player, just not as cool as we wanted him to be.

At 7/12/2010 5:22 AM, Blogger FredEx said...

In brighter news, Anthony Randolph is a Knick...

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