On Thursday night, LeBron James will take the court for his eighth straight NBA Finals. It’s an unfathomable run by a once-in-a-generation talent. Or is he? Thirteen years ago, the world got a brief glimpse at a young paper salesman who flashed his own LeBron-like potential.
Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) is a lot of things: Hopeless romantic, prank connoisseur, a big fan of tuna sandwiches. But, in The Office season 1 episode “Basketball,” we learned that he was to Dunder Mifflin what LeBron is to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is also a lot of things: The world’s best boss, a big fan of The Devil Wears Prada, “That’s what she said” icon. What he’s not is a good basketball player or a basketball player who realizes how bad he truly is.
The polar opposite skill levels of the boss and his underling come to a head in the most physical, hyped, contentious basketball game to ever be played in a Scranton Office Park warehouse. Like most storylines on The Office, the match-up between the office staff of Dunder Mifflin and the warehouse crew stems from Michael’s desire for others to like him. And what should be a friendly game soon becomes a must win when the stakes are raised to make the losers work on Saturday.
With the pressure on, Michael has to create his own Dream Team, which actually looks a lot like the Cavaliers that will take the floor on Thursday against the Golden State Warriors. Ryan is Kyle Korver, the handsome shooter (Ryan shoots just once, but he makes it). Stanley is Jeff Green, the player who teams think looks the part, only to eventually disappoint. Phyllis is Kendrick Perkins, technically on the roster but really there to be a cheerleader. Dwight is Kevin Love, the talented sidekick who always shoulders the blame from the team leader. You would think this would all make Michael the LeBron. Well, take away building the team and Michael is basically J.R. Smith, a reckless shooter who thinks he’s the best player on the team.
Now that brings us to the real star of the Dunder Mifflin Finals: Jim Duncan Halpert (Duncan is listed as his middle name on Wikipedia and I assume it’s because he also reminded people of a young Tim Duncan). Remember, this is season 1 Jim, meaning that he was madly in love with Pam, who was engaged to Roy. And who was the warehouse team’s best player? Yep, that means Pam was basically Rihanna at last year’s NBA Finals, sitting courtside as everyone tried to impress her. Even though, on second thought, Pam might be more like Drake, unable to decide what team she’s rooting for.
And while I have no exact proof, I am going out on a limb and declaring that this was the day that Pam fell in love with her future husband. I mean, how could you not after a performance like this? Let’s recap what this unique blend of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and LeBron did in a short span:
An incredible diving pass to Michael (see below); a behind-the-back crossover into a layup; demands to take over guarding Roy and subsequently shuts him down; goes right at his romantic rival for a layup and as he runs back up the court essentially dunks on Roy by nodding and smiling at Pam (it’s the most disrespectful move since Lance Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear); takes a cheap shot from Roy and stays in the game; hits a short jumper and then immediately steals the ball from Roy and goes coast-to-coast for another layup (Pam is absolutely glowing at this point); and finally, gets physical, throwing a little elbow at Roy on a post up and hitting the jump shot.
That all happened in like four minutes! If he was in NBA Jam, the game would break from screaming “He’s on fire” too many times.
As a Celtics fan, I’ve lost count of how many times LeBron has single-handedly destroyed my team and, in turn, my will. Hell, he just did it a few days ago. But as many 40-point games or triple-doubles that he’s put up in our building, I’ve never seen anything like “The Halpert.” Oscar, Kevin, Angela, and the rest of the spectators will never forget where they were when a seemingly ordinary salesman became something much more. And, clearly, the man can still score.
That’s what she said.