Film Don’t Lie: The Oklahoma City Thunder and “The Breakfast Club”

 

Of all the John Hughes films, Breakfast Club is the best. I don’t mean that in that it is the most critically acclaimed, nor the smartest, nor the funniest, nor even the most popular. It is simply that it manages to combine what makes the funniest movies funny (memorable lines and gags), with what makes the most iconic coming-of-age-movies iconic, relate-able feelings (“being a teenager suuuuuuu-uuuucks”),  and the most difficult element to replicate, simply being cool. Christmas Vacation, Uncle Buck, or The Great Outdoors are funnier (sorry, Judd Nelson, but you can’t really compete with Chase, Candy, or Aykroyd), Pretty in Pink, Home Alone, and Sixteen Candles more iconic, and Ferris Bueler’s Day Off way, way cooler. But none combine those elements the way Breakfast Club does. Everyone has a favorite moment from that film, and everyone has a favorite character (though Molly Ringwald’s is never it).

When you watch that movie as a teenager, you inevitably find yourself saying “Yeah, man.” If you don’t, congratulations, you’re somehow even more cynical than the false cynicism of the average teenager. The movie captures too much of the experience, emboldens you too much with the idealistic concepts of staying authentic to what should matter, to getting beyond those stereotypes that seem to weigh you down so much, the ones you realize are utterly useless and outdated the minute your high school days end, just as you realize that your parents’ damage to you is only relative to the damage done to them, and that of the world on you. But in that moment, where you’re first experiencing it, you form a nostalgia for it that carries over. This is what a film about high school should be about.

And the Thunder against the Nuggets, that’s what basketball should be about.

They make mistakes, the ill-temperance of youth tainting what needs to be flawless execution, but the drama shines through. The Nuggets don’t make a fair Mr. Vernon. Which is why Rob will be along shortly to deal with their own version of dystopia. No, what the Thunder were really fighting against was the idea they needed detention. That young teams aren’t ready, that they don’t win. Vernon was tradition, experience, the cynical idea that a team like that simply can’t make it to the next step, that it needs detention.

Even the way the five are brought together is vaguely reminiscent of the Thunder. After all, Westbrook was the star at UCLA. He was the point guard for a UCLA team, never supposed to play second fiddle. Harden was the role player, never supposed to be drafted third, and was the underwhelming gunner prospect who wound up as a vital cog that seems at once worth the pick and not. Ibaka, we don’t know what he is. Thabo, the cast off, the list goes on and on and on. And everything, as we learned in this series, just as we learned when the romance failed between Estevez and Ringwald, leads back to Judd Nelson as the unconquerable Bender, and Kevin Durant as the unfathomable hero.

The translations aren’t pure, and that’s what makes the elements in play so much more fulfilling. Bender’s needling of Vernon to the point where he sucker punches him is Westbrook’s own intemperance. The infamous dance sequence screams loudly of the Game 2 romp, the Thunder’s first real routing of an inferior team in the playoffs, high on their own play. The growling monologue of Bender relating his own disturbing relationship with his father reminds us of Perkins, that he was cast aside by the franchise he loved, the brothers he’d played with, prayed with, because of money and a doubt of his knees. Ally Sheedy’s deceptively shallow Allison (the girl every guy who watches the film falls in love with while hoping Ringwald vanishes) reminds us of Harden. Quirky, confusing, and bizarrely wise. There’s Brooks, trying to keep everyone together as the mild-mannered Brian. Westbrook can’t decide if he’s Bender or Andrew, constantly slipping between both. Durant shares this role in him. Milk and cookies and marijuana and beer, but just on the floor. The two can never sort out who’s in the lead or should be.

The sneak down the hall to get the joint has to be the escape in Game 3, where by all rational sense the jig should have been up, but they narrowly escape thanks to the key contributions. And Westbrook’s gunning in Game 4, right or wrong, speaks of Perkins’ lack of patience.

The movie isn’t really about triumph, you realize that as you get older, it’s about those brief moments in life where you feel like you’ve learned something. It doesn’t matter if you really have. It doesn’t matter that you likely face a superior Spurs team in the second round or barring that, a much superior Lakers team. Nor does it matter that all you’ve really done is win a first-round playoff seed as a favorite seed, which so many forgotten teams have done before. It’s big in your life, at that moment, and that’s what matters, that’s what you hold onto. There’s all the time in the world for you to come to grips with the fact that in many ways, high school is about those simplistic terms, those cliched definitions, because you’re not a real person yet. For the time, you can thrive in that knowledge that you’re different, and that the experiences you have matter. You can hold that defiant fist high as a great song plays to end the flick, and think of the letter.

 

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

 

 

 

…and an athlete…

 

 

…and a basket case…

 

 

…a princess…

 

 

…and a criminal…

 

 

Does that answer your question?… Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

 

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.