One of the greatest things about fatherhood is the ability to relive your childhood without having to feel one ounce of guilt or embarrassment. For example, when I was coming up, I grew up on the Street……Sesame Street, that is. So when my kids started reaching the age of noticing the moving objects on the television screen, one of the first things I put on the tube for them was Sesame Street. I would watch it with them and sing along, all while reminiscing about my own childhood. After growing too old for the Street, I progressed to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That was my fad until my cousin showed me some shoes with the insignia of a man flying through the air with a basketball in his extended left hand and his legs spread apart. It was all over for cartoons after that.
Eventually, kids develop their own individual likes and drop old favorites into the dusty corners of their long term memory. So, it was a complete surprise to me when my kids were looking through the DVD collection and grabbed my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 1 DVD and said they wanted to watch it. So, of course, we sat down and watched it and they LOVED it. Luckily, Nickelodeon was coming out with a new Ninja Turtles series themselves, so it fit in with them nicely. Now they (and myself) are all about the Turtles. I watch the new cartoon with them on Saturday mornings (I know, I didn’t know Saturday morning cartoons existed anymore, either) and we sometimes have matches where I’m the Shredder and they take turns beating me with weapons (bruises go away, memories don’t).
So, as I’m watching this new Ninja Turtles series, I can’t help but make comparisons to another team in my life, namely the Oklahoma City Thunder. If you’ve never seen or heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, let me give you a real quick overview. Four mutated turtles with humanoid features fight evil from their backdrop of their sewer lair where they are trained in ninjutsu by a mutated humanoid rat. The rat and turtles share a father/sons relationship, with the turtles coming into their teenage years. Hence, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of course, each turtle has his own personality traits, which lends to the parental struggles of Splinter, their rat sensei. Along with their human friends, April O’Neal and Casey Jones, they form a team and battle different foes.
This is not very different from any other professional team: different personalities all coming together to battle one common opponent. And that’s where I thought the similarities between the Ninja Turtles and the Oklahoma City Thunder crossed-over. The personality traits of the characters are very similar to the personality traits of some of the main component of the Thunder. So without further ado….
The Good Guys
Leonardo is Kevin Durant – The unquestioned leader of the Turtles, Leonardo is an apt pupil and the apple of Splinter’s eyes. He exhibits strong leadership qualities, but also struggles in keeping harmony with all the different personalities on his team. Part of leadership is ability, and Leonardo is a master at the martial arts. Similarly, Kevin Durant is the unquestioned leader of the Thunder. Though words may not be his tool of choice, Durant’s actions on the court often dictate how his teammates react.
Raphael is Russell Westbrook – Was there ever really any question? I mean, if there is anyone in the cartoon world that fits Westbrook to a tee, it is Raphael. Raphael is the hot head of the group. He has the most attitude in comparison to the other turtles, but also has the most swag (confidence, if you don’t speak street). He’s good and he knows it. His quick temperedness can be a detriment as it clouds his judgment. Part of the reason for Raphael’s hot temper, though, is that he cares too much about situations and about others around him. Westbrook, the volatile point guard for the Thunder, and their unquestioned second in command, has always toed the line between beauty and disaster. He has an unwavering confidence in himself that can lead to astonishing displays of awe or to frustrating learning moments that leave you shaking your head. While many question his motives, those who are in tune with the Thunder know that Westbrook does the things that he does because all he cares about is winning. The bottom line, not individual stats, are the most important thing for Westbrook.
Donatello is Kevin Martin – Donatello is the scientific brains behind the whole operation. He’s mild-mannered and spends his free time building gizmos and gadgets for his turtle brethren that will be used in combat. He’s an adept fighter, but his intelligence is his biggest asset. Kevin Martin is probably one of the smartest offensive basketball players in the NBA in terms of floor spacing and angle awareness. His high basketball IQ help him find spaces on the floor where he can launch his automatic jumper. His mellow demeanor only masked the trained assassin that lurks inside the No. 23 jersey.
Michelangelo is Serge Ibaka – Believe me, this was probably the most difficult one. Michelangelo is the fun-loving, “life of the party” of the turtle quartet. He’s very innocent and young-minded, and tends to see the good in everything. But he’s also very loyal and willing to fight for what he considers important (namely, family). Before the trade, James Harden was a shoo-in for the role of Michelangelo. But with Harden’s departure, Serge Ibaka becomes the representative for Michelangelo. He’s a fun loving guy who was probably very innocent and young-minded to the ways of the United States when he first got here. Now that’s he adjusted, though, he is the life of the party (well, parties with a lot of women in them). Due to his rough upbringing, he probably sees the positive in many things in life. But mess with his team (family), and you’ll have something else coming to you.
Splinter is Scott Brooks – Splinter is the sensei (teacher) of the turtles. He is much older than them and acts as their father figure. He is a mutated rat that has humanoid features. He has raised them from young turtles to where they are today, extolling values and morals onto them. He is ultra-protective of them, but like any parent of a teenager, knows that he must let up a bit to allow the turtles to explore the world on their own. Five years ago, Scott Brooks was tasked with taking an extremely young team, that had known nothing but losing. Through his teachings (“play defense with your heart”, “push it, push it, push it, “we’re not out of this”) the Thunder have improved upon themselves every season and are now one of the best teams in the league.
April O’Neal is Wanda Pratt – April is the human liaison for the Turtles. Since the NBA still does not have any female players (enter joke here about NBA player X whom you think is a female), super fan/mother Wanda Pratt would have to do for this comparison. She cheers on the team that her son plays for and treats them all like her kids.
Casey Jones is Kendrick Perkins – Casey Jones is a male character in the series that is a vigilante and sometimes fights with the Turtles. He carries an assortment of weapons, such as hockey sticks and baseball bats, and wears a mask. If weapons were allowed on the court, Kendrick Perkins would probably be carrying the biggest bag. Thankfully, all he has on the court is his Scowl Mask. But like Casey Jones, he will extol justice whenever necessary.
The Bad Guys
Shredder is Lebron James – The Shredder is the Turtle’s biggest enemy. He is a lifelong foe of Splinter, and would like nothing more than to destroy the Turtles and Splinter. Even though, Kevin Durant and Lebron James are all buddy-buddy off the court, there is no doubt in my mind that James is our biggest obstacle from attaining our prize. Like the Shredder, James has become ruthless when the game is on the line and is starting to come up big when it matters.
The Foot Clan are the Miami Heat – The ninja army put together by the Shredder. Need I say more how this relates to the Miami Heat. When you face Lebron, you also have to face The Foot.
Krang is Gregg Popovich – Krang is an alien brain that brought technology from space to help the Shredder and his sinister plan. Extremely intelligent and cunning, Krang is only limited by a lack of a body. Gregg Popovich has only one thing on his mind…and that is winning. No matter what he has to do. Rest all his starters on a nationally televised game against the Foot Clan (Heat), and absorb a $250,000 fine? Check. Play rookies when other contenders wouldn’t even mess with young players? Check. Extremely meticulous, he details every plan and plans for every detail.
Bebop and Rocksteady are Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph – Bebop and Rocksteady are the evil mutant equivalent to the Turtles. A wart hog mutant and a rhino mutant, they punish objects using their physicality and brute strength. Gasol and Randolph are probably the best big man duo in the league and do not lack for size.
Tokka and Rahzar are Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol – The movie (Hollywood) equivalent to Bebop and Rocksteady, these guys were also very physically imposing, but were very intellectually limited. While not intellectually limited, the Lakers’ record with Howard and Gasol manning the middle is currently very limiting.
Baxter Stockman is Mike D’antoni – Stockman, a brilliant scientist, is transformed into a humanoid fly after a mutagen accident. D’antoni, a brilliant offensive strategist, was transformed into the Lakers’ head coach after the firing of Mike Brown. So far, the results have been a underwhelming, with a 4-7 start.
If you are reading this and are over the age of 35, I can understand if this may seem foreign to you. But remember any of your favorites quartets growing up (the O’Jays, the Beatles, the Four Horseman, the Seinfeld crew, etc.), and you’ll realize that the different personalities/talents actually made the whole better than the individual parts. Cartoons never seem to have a finality to them because the writers want to keep the story arcs going. But if I were to write the ending for the Thunder this season, it would end with a Western Conference playoff run that sees us vanquishing the Lakers, Spurs, and Grizzlies. Then, it would culminate with the Thunder defeating the Heat in 7 games in OKC, and the networks renewing us for another season.