Jack Tame: Leonard knows a conspiracy


It was half-time in game six between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, and Leonard smelled conspiracy.

"Seriously, bro, it's way too close. And I'm telling you, it's always like this in the play-offs."

Leonard always smells conspiracy. He listens to podcasts about drones and CIA-sanctioned killings, and the NSA data-mining revelations of the past few weeks have him particularly suspicious.

"You don't think it might just be close, 'cos these are the two best teams in the NBA?" I asked.

"Too much money. Think of the scrillah if the title comes down to game seven!"

I scoffed and rolled my eyes, and as the bar turned to the big screen we clinked glasses to the fight.

The second half was a sensation. Fifteen supreme athletes, busting with muscle and attitude, scrapped and tussled and fought and crashed and ripped at each other like rottweilers in a pen. The Miami crowd drummed and hissed, delighting then despairing as their team slipped further behind, every wound and scoring spree met by a predictable time out.

America loves time outs.

A time out to a New Zealand fan is but a cynical excuse to increase ad revenue. They'll point out the absurdity of the final 10 minutes of a basketball game lasting more than half an hour; a 30-minute gridiron match that goes for three hours.

But in America the experience is embraced as sport itself: the DJs, the dancers, the shooting competitions and semi-automatic T-shirt cannons.

And, in a tumultuous basketball game, it's digestion. The communal take-stock and take-nachos in an otherwise exhaustively exhilarating match.

It looked like they were done, the Heat. Down by five with 20 seconds to go, the league's most talented and most loathed star fumbled and lost possession. Even LeBron James looked glum, as hundreds of Heat fans more concerned with beating traffic than watching their team lose the championship, poured into the car park outside.

But that's not how a script works. An intercept, a fast break. And with two seconds to go, a momentous 3-pointer to tie the match, that Leonard will tell you was always going in. The fans outside rushed back, blocked at the gates by police in their desperation and shame.

Extra time went to the Heat, of course. The series tied for a final duel.

"Can you honestly believe it?!" exclaimed the commentator.

Leonard gave the wryest of smiles.

The Heat won another close game 7 to take the crown on Friday.

- Herald on Sunday

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