(Spoiler alert. This post contains spoilers for both the June 19 episode of “Game of Thrones” and Game 7 of the NBA Finals. So if you somehow clicked on this post without knowing about either of those things, tread carefully.)
Sunday gave us a remarkable night of television, with simultaneous airings of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, and Season 6’s penultimate “Game of Thrones” episode “Battle of the Bastards.”
I wrote on Friday how remarkable it was that they’d be on at the same time because of their similar storylines: Jon Snow and Sansa Stark fighting to reclaim their family home at Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton, LeBron James fighting to reclaim the mantle of best basketball player in the world from Steph Curry and the NBA title from the Warriors.
Given the nature of both “Game of Thrones” and sports, I could not have presumed to know how each of those battles would turn out. But, somehow, the parallels between them have only sharpened now that we look back, a day later, on the incredible drama of Sunday night. The two stories played out the same way, at the same time — and having watched them both as they aired, their similarities have even made it difficult at times to remember which thing happened on which screen.
If we want to get overly literal with the comparison, LeBron is Jon Snow, a pure force of nature who is driving events almost through sheer will alone. Sansa is Tyronn Lue, Cleveland’s coach who got the job midseason by outmaneuvering former coach David Blatt, and whose schemes ultimately laid the groundwork for victory. Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving is Tormund Giantsbane, demoralizing the enemy by biting through an artery in the neck of one of its leaders — in basketball terms that took the form of making
Speaking of which: Steph is Ramsay Bolton, that eternally confident villain who prefers to stand behind the fight taking shots from afar rather than get into the muck himself. For that, he has Draymond Green/Smalljon Umber, the brutish enforcer who relished climbing over a mountain of dead bodies to kill some wildlings/kick them in the nuts. (Look, OK, this comparison isn’t perfect.)
Where it falls into place is how each battle played out. The Bastard Bowl was an epic medieval quagmire. The bodies piled up into a wall past which Jon and his men couldn’t escape. Everybody was exhausted, and nobody was fighting worth a damn — but the Boltons had the advantage, forming a half-circle of men with shields and pikes slowly and seemingly inevitably closing in on Jon and his people.
This is how a game against the Warriors — the team with the best regular-season record of all time — typically goes. You can only fight them to a stalemate for so long before they suddenly and violently make the move that kills you. Occasionally you might even think you have the upper hand — like the Oklahoma City Thunder did when they led their playoff series against the Warriors 3-1 before Klay Thompson and Steph Curry bombarded them with 3-pointers for three games in a row.
Ramsay doesn’t lose either. He does enjoy messing around, though he always has everything in hand. Inevitably, he’ll win the day. We’ve been watching him do it for three seasons — and the Warriors do it for two — much to our dismay.
But Ramsay did lose on Sunday, eaten by the same dogs to which he was fond of feeding others. Meanwhile LeBronJon stood on his corpse in the courtyard at Winterfell, holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champion.
He didn’t do it on his own, of course. King James played extraordinarily in Game 7, but he also made some huge mistakes that, given the margin of victory, could have easily cost him his life. Jon’s insistence on fighting Ramsay with the men they had on hand instead of trying to get extra help almost led to a disaster that even an incredible athlete like LeBron couldn’t overcome. If Curry or Thompson had been able to shoot the ball as well as they normally do, the Boltons would have won going away.
But somehow both Jon and LeBron came out on the other side victorious, LeBron taking a title back to the place he’s from, and Jon taking back the place he’s from. Both squashing arrogant upstart usurpers in doing so.
LeBron James is not actually a character on “Game of Thrones” and so is not on our ranked list of its major characters. But if he were on “Game of Thrones,” where would LeBron rank?