The Basketball Iliad: I sing of arms and of a Cav

Daniel Rowell | Yale University Art Gallery | Wiki Commons
Daniel Rowell | Yale University Art Gallery | Wiki Commons /

“Hey KEVIN,” Lebron called across the locker room, sweaty with much needed victory. “You got any more pretzels?”

“I’m sorry man, I think I’m out.”

“Out? Out of PRETZELS? For the great LeBron?”

“Yeah man, I only got one left and uh…and I’m going to eat it.”

“So you DO have pretzels.”

“Yeah, but like, just one, and it’s mine.”

“Alright man, I understand.”1

Lebron wandered down to the seaside where lived his goddess mother and roared his wrath to the heavens.

“Mother! You who bore me doomed to a short life! It seems so little to ask that all the gods on Olympus would afford me, in that brief season, Kevin Love’s last pretzel! Why do I bear the hardships of this campaign, I to whom San Francisco is nothing? I, who won us game three with a 32-11-6 line! To be denied that pretzel, the reward for my valor, is more than any human being that has ever lived can, or should stand!”2

Read More: Which Greek God is Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Thetis-Gloria wept and answered “what would you have me do, son? Also, where did you find a seaside in Cleveland, Ohio.”

“Go to Olympus, mother, and ask mighty Zeus – if he owes you any favors – let the Cleveland Cavaliers suffer. Let them go down 3-1 in this series. Let them pay for denying me that delicious, salty pretzel. Then they will know how much they have need of me and wish desperately that I had been given the snack of my deserving.”

“Alright LeBron, but I just have to ask one time: did you let Kevin know that the pretzel was a weirdly huge deal for you?”

“Honestly, he has to fit out.”



“Again, fine, but I just honestly don’t think anyone doubts it.”


“I said alright, dang.”

The Trojans resurgent

Steph Hector Curry, who had been named unanimous MVP for his regular season victories against the Phrygians, was tweeting “lock in” on his phone when the voice of his patron, the Archer God, shattered the stillness.3

“Steph,” he said, “nice kicks.”

“Thanks, Apollo.”

“I’m here to deliver you a message – your bolts from afar will once again be puissant; the gods have lifted the curse they placed on you when you slipped in Donatas Motiejunas’ sweat.”

“That was VERY disgusting.”

“I agree. The gods have given it into your hands to drive the Cavaliers back to their black ships in disarray.”

“Ships? Is that some sort of metaphor?”

“Yes, it is a metaphor. You’re actually just going to beat them a couple more times.”

“A couple more times? We need like three.”

“yeah, that’s uh…*mumble mumble*”

So a noble fire was formed in Steph’s breast, and a burnished halo about him as he struck again and again from beyond the arc of the Cavaliers’ bulwark, driving them inwards and back upon themselves, while LeBron sulked in his tent, mourning the delicious pretzel that swift-footed Kevin Love had not relinquished to him.

Soon the Cavaliers were pressed as far back as they could go, and they talked of boarding their swift busses and returning home.


Twice, the bold Warriors sallied forth against the reeling Cavaliers, without LeBron putting up pedestrian near triple doubles, the taste of purloined pretzel burning in his mouth. Twice, Delphic Apollo whispered in the ear of her champion, Steph Curry, bolts leaping from his hand. The Cavaliers were pressed back, back against their own basket, hemmed in by perimeter movement and vicious below-the-belt kicks.

On the morning of the third day, Tristan Thompson came to LeBron’s tent, weeping. “LeBron,” he said, “we will lose this championship if you only average 20 points a game. You must return and score like 40 points a game. Also, why are you living in a tent.”

“I have sworn, Tristan, not to dominate these matchups until Kevin Love knows my worth. But since it grieves you so, wear this, my jersey, and strike terror in the hearts of your foes.”4

“I honestly don’t see how that will help. Plus, I don’t think it’s legal.”

Nevertheless that night, an inspired Tristan Thompson led the Cavs to a stunning victory over the Warriors, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 boards while shooting five of six. The Game Three victory, making the series 1-2, breathed life into the previously crest-fallen Cavs. But, as he was leaving the court he banged his knee on a guard rail.5


“I’m fine, man, it’s alright.”

“Brothers, tonight we mourn Tristan’s knee. I would help you in Game Four, but I no longer having my jersey, having given it to Tristan. But, I will have Hephaestus make me a new jersey and join you in Game Five.”6


“And then Steph Curry will learn what a true warrior can do.”

“Isn’t his team the….”



A shiver passed through the Warriors ranks as the Cavs’ lineup was announced. LeBron James had returned, pretzel or no pretzel, vengeance shining in his eyes.

“AND FROM AKRON, OHIO!” the voice over the loudspeaker screamed. “LEBRON JAMES! AND FOR SOME REASON HE WANTED ME TO TELL YOU THIS: There is no truce between lions and lambs.”7

From that moment on, LeBron unleashed an assault the likes of which few have ever seen and lived to tell the tale. In Game 5, he scored 41, grabbed 16 boards, and dished 7 assists, filling Scamander with gore and cotton candy wrappers. In Game 6, it was 41 again, with 8 rebounds, and 11 assists, shooting nearly 60% from the field. The once proud Warriors, who had not lost two battles in a row with Steph “Hector” Curry at full strength since the days of King Laomedon.

The day of Game 7 dawned cold and clear, the fire of Helios flickering faintly above the horizon. The jerseys gleamed, freshly cleaned and starched. The regulation basketballs shined an ochre red, hungry for what was to come.

All day long the combatants battled, never giving quarter, barely ever breathing space. At the end of one quarter, the Cavs had a one point lead. At the end of three, the Warriors did. Wherever Lebron was, the Warriors fled, but the other captains fought stout battles in the paint and around the arc. The Warriors opened up a small lead, but LeBron took it back on three throws and a three pointer. Klay “Glaucus” Thompson tied it up at 89 with 4:39 to go. And at that point, a furious stalemate erupted.

At last, even the oak heart in Steph Curry’s breast began to give. With the Cavs chasing him around the court, as around the walls of the citadel, and still weakened from his previous exertions, Steph threw turnovers, committed sloppy fouls, and missed shots he used to hit in his sleep. At last, after four full minutes of the most existing scoreless basketball in history, Kyrie “Diomedes” Irving hit a three.

All of a sudden, out of the corner of his eye, Steph saw his brother Seth, nicknamed Deiphobus for now obscure reasons.8

“Seth!” he said. “Thank god! All my other brothers have abandoned me. I’m sure that you and I together can stand against the Cavs even if it’s illegal!”

“I am with you, Steph. Don’t overthink how I could be here on the court. You were born for this moment. I mean honestly, if this were a movie, and you had just spent a whole season laying waste to everyone from three, and winning every game, and you needed to hit one three in a big moment to redeem a kind of meh playoffs, hitting a three right now would be the most obvious thing that you could possibly do.”

With that, and with 30 seconds left on the clock, Steph took a deep breath and got ready to grab the inbounds pass. Turning with the ball in his hand, he saw only Kevin Love in front of him, and smiled. But just as he rose to shoot, he saw that Seth had disappeared and it shook him to his core.9

And Zeus held out his holy scales, and placed the fates of the heroes upon them, on one side swift-footed LeBron, and on the other, horse-breaking Steph. He grasped it mid-beam and raised it high, and down went Steph’s day of doom, down into darkness. And god Apollo left him, to purchase a soft pretzel.10

And the shot went wide.


1. The Iliad begins with a quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. Agamemnon demands that Achilles give him his prize, a woman named Briseis, which caused Achilles to sulk and stay out of the war for nearly the entire poem.

2. Achilles asks his mother, Thetis, a sea goddess, to intervene with Zeus so that the Trojans do well in his absence and the Greeks learn how valuable he was to them.

3. Hector is a Trojan, and the major rival to Achilles. He’s by far the best warrior among the Trojans and the one who does the most damage in Achilles’ absence.

4. When the Greeks seem about to be defeated, Achilles’ best friend comes to his tent and begs him to return to the war for the sake of the men. Achilles refuses, and Patroclus asks, then, if he can wear Achilles’ armor so that the men think Achilles has returned to the battle, inspiring the Greeks and putting fear in the hearts of the Trojans. While this completely defeats the purpose of Achilles sitting out, he agrees but makes Patroclus swear he will do no more than drive the Trojans from their position threatening the Greek ships, and then he will return.

5. Patroclus does not obey Achilles’ orders, and almost succeeds in driving the Trojans back into Troy. However, the gods conspire against him and at his moment of greatest glory he is killed by Hector. It is his grief at the death of Patroclus that actually brings Achilles back into the war.

6. The Trojans succeed in stripping Patroclus of Achilles’ army and there isn’t any other set that fits him in the camp. His mother goes to the Hephaestus, the god of the forge, to get him a new set, but in the meantime he can’t rejoin the battle. He does, however, go stand on a hillside overlooking the battle just to freak everybody out.

7. This is a real thing Achilles says to Hector, when Hector wants to talk it over with him, in the Iliad, and it is cold as hell.

8. Hector eventually freaks out at the thought of having to fight Achilles and runs away. Achilles chases him three times around the walls of Troy. Finally, in order to get him to stop running, Athena appears to him in the guise of his brother, Deiphobus, and promises to fight beside him. Hector is overcome with gratitude and turns to face Achilles.

9. Hector throws a spear at Achilles, misses, and asks Deiphobus for another. But Deiphobus has disappeared. And that’s when Hector realizes that he has been tricked and is about to die.

10. This is more or less a translation of the actual Greek?