The Wire Finale and the NBA

By Sam Rubenstein

Last night was the series finale of The Wire, and if you didn’t watch it, I don’t want you reading this. Do not proceed unless you have watched the finale, because all spoilers are out of the bag.

You may have been asking yourself, “Now that we know how they wind up, how do characters impacted in the series finale relate to today’s NBA?” Good question! You are a genius for asking. Let’s get down to it…

Officer James “Jimmy” McNulty – We all thought his final come-uppance would be life in jail, or suicide, or he would sacrifice his life and the lives of everyone around him in his quest to take down the kingpin Marlo. We got none of that, Jimmy probably retires into life as a caring husband, never has his great victory, never recaptures the glory of his youth, though his potential for individual, renegade greatness will always be there.

Let’s call him Kobe, pre-Gasol trade.

Colonel Cedric Daniels – He preached for years about doing everything by the book, and then he was molded into the puppet master system just like everyone else. But, Daniels refused to compromise his morality, and so he had to step away from being the commish, and settle for life as a (much higher paid?) lawyer.

Kevin Garnett. Set in doing things his way, never running out on a bad situation, until the end when he had to get out of Minnesota and try something new. He seems much happier, so does Daniels a.k.a. Skeletor face.

Detective Shakima – Hard-working, dedicated, but in the end she’ll be remembered as a snitch. And by that I mean, she was honest in a world that doesn’t reward honesty. To be fair, by shedding light on the serial killer/illegal wiretap, she allowed the side of the law and government to come up with contingency plans, and it’s possible that if they had been blindsided and taken apart in a public trial, the ending could have been much worse for them.

Shawn Marion, always the whiner. If he could just keep his mouth shut and be happy, things would have been smooth, but probably nothing would change. Now Miami has a chance to rebuild with some serious talent and Phoenix thinks it has more of a direct shot at winning it all, because Marion spoke up.

Detective William “Bunk” Moreland – The Bunk! Still clearing murders doing the same thing he’s been doing since episode one of season one.

Ray Allen. Not much has changed for him since he came into the league, despite the mulitiple teams. He just keeps scoring points, and I saw him smoking a huge cigar at the Jordan party in New Orleans. Bunk has enjoyed a cigar or two in his day.

Detective Lester Freamon – The brains behind the wiretap itself, an old man who was uncontrollable in his youth, hence he was dumped to the small arts and crafts detail, then given a second chance to play a relevant role in policing the city, and because he was a little too relevant, he had to be put out to pasture. His ending is away from the world of The Wire, still loved by many.

Latrell Sprewell. A controversial career ended prematurely because of one stupid quote. Uh, and a bunch of “incidents.”

Sergeant Ellis Carver – Didn’t really have much of a role in the finale, but we found out he got promoted again. A onetime knucklehead, who got his professional life together and made something of himself.

Nate Robinson. For all the negativity surrounding the Knicks, the overlooked rose that grew from the bowels of the septic tank is the development of young Nate. He’s reigned in the child-like goofiness, but kept some of that spirit and is very much an NBA professional with a chance to have a nice career.

Officer Thomas “Herc” Hauk – Ends the show as one of the big “winners.” He now will rise in Levy’s organization, in a totally unethical way. Disgraced by a crime in his past, yet Herc always lands on his feet, never accepting blame, going behind people’s backs and behind the scenes to put himself into a better position.

Jason Kidd!

Detective Leander Sydnor – The young up-and-coming detective who always seemed to be on a stakeout, or cracking a code, or undercover. Fittingly, his last scene mirrors an early McNulty conversation with the judge about how real police don’t exist anymore.

Dwyane Wade. If I’m calling McNulty Kobe, then Wade is like Sydnor. Is he destined to follow Kobe’s example of winning it all with Shaq, and then having to suffer through not winning it all without Shaq for years? We’ll see…

Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman – Her career was about to end, but she cut a deal, and was able to move on to become a judge. She saved herself through some nifty compromise.

Jerry Stackhouse, once a big-time scorer and superstar, he is the rare NBA player to decide he’s cool with coming off the bench. He made adjustments to his game, and his career has been going on nicely, thanks for asking.

Deputy Commissioner for Operations William A. Rawls – The ultimate in survival of the ruthless. You think drug dealers and murderers will do whatever it takes to stay alive? Rawls goes from running a sloppy police unit for political favor, to a cushy job with the governor, because he’s willing to be himself, which is to say do whatever he has to do to keep his job.

Kevin McHale. Still doing it.

Sergeant Jay Landsman – A man (a huge fat man!) who lives by the credo “Don’t rock the boat!”, has a humorous streak, and is known to yell. He ends up doing the same thing he’s always done. But underneath his exterior of just wanting to do his job, you could tell that Landsman found humor in the ongoing pain in his a$$ that was Jimmy McNulty, hence the light-hearted yet heartfelt “eulogy.”

He’s George Karl. Just keeps things the way they are, talks big, but also seems to have a lighter side to him.

Deputy Commissioner for Admin. Stanislaus Valchek – The old man gets his dream of becoming commish. Valchek is pretty much every old coach who should be retired, who gets another chance, just because they coached before.

Larry Brown.

Officer Beatrice “Beadie” Russell – She gave McNulty an ultimatum, and I guess he came around eventually, when he had no other choice. She gets the happy ending of hopefully finding a good man to raise a family with, but she’s also setting herself up to be treated like a doormat, cheated on, etc.

The city of Cleveland. Do whatever you have to do to keep LeBron in town. Play up the loyalty thing and the “You were born in the state!” thing, Cleveland. The man’s eye is going to wander regardless.

Bubbles – After years as a junkie and one of the heartbreaking figures in television history, Bubbles cleans up and turns his life around. His sister finally invites him up to dinner from his room in the basement. David Simon loves his imagery, so it was like somebody sentenced to hell finally making it to heaven.

Pau Gasol. A bit of a push-over for much of his NBA life, and doomed never to win a single playoff game. Until, boom, now he’s on one of the best teams in the league. Oddly, the long-time homeless junkie has nicer hair than the high maintenance Spanish whatever the word is for metrosexual these days.

Marlo Stanfield – The good news for Marlo is that he walks away with his money and freedom, all he has to do is fade into the sunset as a retired rich man. But of course, once you’ve worn the crown, you don’t want someone else telling you it’s time to hang it up. It takes Marlo going up into the ivory tower to motivate him to go back down to the street, just like Omar wanted him to do.

This could be any number of NBA champions who don’t know when to quit, but going by today’s players. It’s Shaq. Hey, the big guy still has it at times like we saw against the Spurs, but ultimately failure and disgrace, or a tragic ending (for him) seem inevitable.

Chris Partlow – Ends up getting life in jail, taking the rap for all the murders in exchange for Marlo taking care of his family. He was once the most feared killer in the city, who had people believing he was turning them into zombies or something like that, but he ends up doing life with no parole.

Stephon Marbury. He is being used as a scapegoat, but he also deserves blame. And the $20 million or so a year… not bad work if you can get it.

Maurice “Maury” Levy – The most immoral character on the show. Naturally he is the greatest success, gaining incredible notoriety for the deal he cut for Marlo, which will take his law firm to new heights.

Nobody in the NBA is as unfeeling and greedy as Levy, and that’s saying something. But, if I had to pick, I’m going with Carlos Boozer. When he abandoned young LeBron and the sweet handshake of a blind man for the money, it was about the money. And look at him now, Boozer is thriving in the best possible scenario for himself. Well played.

Melvin “Cheese” Wagstaff – He was talking a lot of trash, reveling in how the game is played, how smart he is, and so forth. He gets a bullet in the brain.

It kind of reminded me of Gilbert Arenas’s speech about how he does more for his team than Kobe, Wade, or LeBron. And much like the actor who plays Cheese, Method Man was once a fan favorite who people grew tired of when he started attempting to tackle serious subjects. The death is of course extreme, and Gilbert will be back, but goofy light-hearted Gilbert might be dead already.

Slim Charles – We never knew much about him, other than he had a cool voice, he was tall, and pretty loyal. Slim ends up still doing the drug thing, and respected by his peers.

Michael Redd. Some call him a superstar, some say he’s just going to keep doing what he does forever. Likeable.

Kenard – Kids today. Yeah, Kenard is a little man who you know will be running the streets in no time, with no fear whatsoever.

This would be Chris Paul, and sure the streets are the NBA in this case.

Roland “Wee-Bey” Brice – Wee-Bey! Hey, how’s the lifetime sentence coming? He chose it for himself by taking the rap for all the murders when they offered it to him.

Joe Johnson. He wanted Atlanta, and Atlanta is what he got. Seems like a good guy though.

City Editor Augustus “Gus” Haynes – So ethical, so right. He tried to make a positive impact on the world, and that just doesn’t fly in The Wire’s Baltimore. Gus did the right thing, and for his efforts he gets demoted and the world he care so passionately about becomes significantly worse, despite his best efforts.

Elton Brand. He went to the Clippers and has done nothing wrong in his time there. He’s even made them better than they’ve ever been for much of his time there. But sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. The Clippers will always be the Clippers.

Scott Templeton – Everyone’s favorite Pulitzer-winning fictional non-fiction writer. Only out for himself, truly a loathsome character. But, he understood how to take advantage of a situation, to play the game, and the mass majority of (fictional) Baltimore Sun readers will never know the difference.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but he’s Vince Carter.

Alma Gutierrez – She wanted to be a real reporter, had the same passion as Gus, and really tried her hardest to do her job the right way. So, she got shipped out to the burbs. Man, David Simon did not treat the newsroom people well.

She is Drew Gooden, sure she doesn’t have the same quirks, but Drew was a viable enough second option to get to The Finals, and he maximized what he could be in the NBA, before being shipped out to a team that’s going nowhere.

Mayor Thomas “Tommy” Carcetti – His single-minded goal was to become the Governor by any means necessary. He wanted to do well for the people along the way, but really he’s just about winning votes.

Drawing a blank here. Help out if you can. Who is a big talker, successful, but also just talking for the sake of talking? I can’t think of a fit at the moment.

Norman Wilson – The cynical voice of truth. He is Tommy’s right hand man, and in the finale he was able to laugh during the most serious circumstance and was irreverent until the end. Also, he was never afraid to speak loudly about race issues, no matter who was listening.

Rasheed Wallace. Entertaining, and more important than you realize. Both have kind of an old school vibe about themselves too.

State Senator R. Clayton “Clay” Davis – Old Clay wasn’t in the finale, but I just want to take this moment to point out that last week Khalid and I discovered that the actor that plays him is named Isiah Whitlock, Jr. And the character of Clay Davis seems to be a perfect blend of Isiah Thomas and Jason Whitlock.

Council President Nerese Campbell – The woman who becomes mayor when Carcetti ascends to the state house, and her ideal way of business is more of the same. Juke the stats, pass the buck, stay corrupt, Baltimore!

It would just be GM bashing. Take your pick, any bad GM whose team will always be bad.

The Greek – A quick appearance, just to let you know that somebody is the kingpin of everything, the supplier. The guy who is getting money off of everything.

David Stern

Michael Lee – The big question regarding Michael this season was whether he was destined to become the next Marlo, or the next Chris. The final answer, driven home in as blatantly obvious fashion as they could do it, was that he has become their worst enemy – Omar. Instead of piggybacking or running with the best organization, Michael will have to do it all on his own, or with whatever ragtag group he can assemble.

He is Tracy McGrady. Despite the apparent talent, and what should be pre-ordained greatness, there is always tragedy around the corner. But he overcomes, as evidenced by the 18-game winning streak. Still, a tall task (pun!) with no Yao and his ragtag group in a battle against playoff heavyweights coming this summer.

Duquan “Dukie” Weems – Another heartbreaker, Dukie had the potential to do well in school with some help, but he fell through the cracks of bureaucracy and ends up as the new Bubbles, a junkie in the making.

Some people, you hope and you think because they seem to be a good person, that you want them to succeed, that they can turn it around. But, it’s just not in the cards for them. Eddy Curry. It’s just not happening.

Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski – from goofball screw-up cop, to what seems to be a teacher with commanding authority and someone that has found his calling. Sure, the Dukie thing was rough from Prez, but it looked like he knew what he was doing as a teacher.

Allen Iverson. He had to overcome a lot to establish his career, and even as it went along productively, it was never accepted. But, he has become that mentor now, and while his leadership is not perfect and his team is still kind of a mess, he’s doing the best he can.

Thank you David Simon for five amazing seasons. You went out on top. I’m still trying to sort through the finality of it all.

Image courtesy of HBO