Gary Payton dances with danger (Andy Hayt/ Getty).
In which the Spurs and Thunder battle in a world of fantasy and magic.
Winter came, and few survived. A long, drawn-out battle for the mystical land of Western Conferencius was near its end. The imp Christopher Paul and his copper-haired half-brother Blake Griffin of House Clipper had fallen with little fight. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum of the Lake Lands had pooled their forces in a tenuous alliance and looked to be fearsome contenders, only to succumb to the perils of infighting and poor organization. The flaxen-haired warlord Dirk Nowitzki, the standing king and hero of many campaigns, had seen his ranks lessened. Other clans and houses had tried their best, but they were simply too few in numbers or cursed with too little experience. The worst were assumed to be the product of impure parentage, or to have contracted the rot at their municipal brothels.
Only two houses remained. The Spurs Clan of the southwest region had been a powerful family in Western Conferencius for as long as even the most aged scribes could recall. Their patriarch, Greggory Popovich, had hair the color of snow and an acerbic wit that belied his blessed heart. All his men trusted him, for they had stayed by his side through many battles. His most trusted warrior, Timothy Duncan was spoken of as a wizard (despite his having no magic), so great were his gifts. He was a stern man, but many swore that he was actually as buoyant as the court fool when not swinging his sword.
Peculiarly, the clan trusted in foreign mercenaries from far-off lands many warriors had never visited. Nevertheless, they were inducted into the ruling party of the Spurs by proving their worth on the battlefield. Emanuel Ginobili, a balding warrior who some claimed ate bats for supper, was well regarded for his trickery and subterfuge tactics. Tony Parker, a stench-ridden man with an indeterminate accent, fought in magical boots of speed that made him impossible to catch in combat.
Their foes, the Men of Thunder, were young warriors possessing of natural greatness. Little was known about their society, as they had only come to Western Conferencius after abandoning their ancestral home in the northwest. By appearances, they appeared to be built on the ideals of youth, placing the greatest physical warriors in primary battlefield roles. Prolonged observation, though, revealed their forces to be more than just naturally gifted, for they were possessed of mental fortitude and learned magic.
Their leader, a man named Durant, was tall and as skinny as a bird. He was more condor than sparrow, however, and had studied as a warlock since he had left his mother's womb. Though able to defeat his foes in many ways, he most commonly conjured hire from his hands and lobbed it with fleet release. His friend Westbrook was feared for entirely different reasons. A rock of a man perhaps rumored to have been born of a lizard, Westbrook rode a mammoth boar into battle and had the ability to levitate in midair. Harden, the third leader of the Men of Thunder, wore a black beard down to his ankles and bewildered the opposition by not participating the battle until roughly one-sixth of all men had been killed. Yet this trio were but the most famous of the Men of Thunder, who also boasted a giant troll called Perk and an ineffective yet very magical Fisher King who cast spells that made all participants in battle respect him despite his struggles.
The Spurs Clan had prepared for an assault on their castle Alamo for seven sunsets, drilling themselves in proper strategy and tactics. Popovich did not know when the Men of Thunder would arrive, but he knew that they would do so swiftly and with purpose.
On a bright day, the Men of Thunder arrived ready for battle. Westbrook, astride his boar, was out ahead of the pack, screaming all sorts of incantations to his gods. Several horse-lengths behind, Durant and his steed rode at a steady gait, ready to engage the Spurs clan without exhausting themselves too early in the contest. Far behind, the infantry trudged along, lugging the chained troll Perk forward giant step by giant step. Harden, in his style, brought up the rear.
The fight started at once. The copper-haired archer Bonner and his men lobbed arrows, yet the Thunderian sorcerer McClendon conjured an energy shield to protect the forces. Unfortunately, the spell was cast incorrectly, and the energy backfired and decimated many of their swordsmen. The Men of Thunder knew they would have to rely on but a few warriors now, but they were confident in their abilities.
Clan Spurs, meanwhile, stayed strong. Popovich and Duncan marshaled the troops with great discipline and structure. Parker led a group of quick attackers into the front lines, while Ginobili and his small band of assassins devised ways to sneak nearer to the Thunderian forces. It looked as if there was no stopping them from seizing the day.
But the Men of Thunder would not go quietly and fought strong. Seeing the trouble, Harden finally began his assault and felled many members of the Spurs Clan with fireballs cast out of his beard. Westbrook and his boar managed to penetrate the keep and changed the shape of the battle. The Thunderians spilled through the walls, knocking over many statues of Spurs Clan luminaries and thinning out their warriors' numbers in kind. The combat was chaotic, but also graceful, a wonderful picture of skill and strategy in their greatest forms. The Spurs Clan and the Men of Thunder were different, but they were of the same exalted order. Watching them fight, even amidst the brutality, was a work of art.
After several hours of sustained fighting, the battle ended. It was unclear who had won, by the standard definition. Both sides had suffered numerous casualties, with only their leaders and a few stragglers remaining. The village was a shambles. All anyone could agree on, really, was that the poets would ensure that the battle would be remembered for a long time.
Prediction: A thoroughly entertaining and watchable series in which, if we're honest, we can all agree both teams had played well enough to win. Thunder in 6, I suppose.