The ‘meme-ification’ of Paul George

As we enter the stretch run of the NBA common season, the Los Angeles Clippers have quite a bit to show. Although the workforce is third within the West with a 43-20 report and has gained 17 of its final 21 video games, the common season appears unimportant. After Los Angeles blew a 3-1 collection lead towards the Denver Nuggets within the second spherical, the main focus is on the Clippers redeeming themselves and delivering upon the hype and promise that got here when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard loudly joined the workforce through the 2019 offseason. 

On the middle of the Clippers’ playoff struggles final yr was George. The Robin to Kawhi’s Batman, George shot underneath 40 p.c from the sector and 33.3 p.c from behind the three-point line in 13 video games. George’s troubles within the postseason began in a first-round matchup with the Dallas Mavericks when he went 10-for-47 over a three-game stretch and admitted that he handled nervousness and melancholy whereas being remoted within the bubble.

Dealing with the sting of final season, George has bounced again in his eleventh NBA season. The 6-9 wing is averaging 23.7 factors, 6.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.2 steals. George is having his best season, posting career-highs in true capturing proportion, three-point proportion and free throw proportion. Because the Clippers place themselves as certainly one of only a handful of groups that has legit claims to win a championship this season, George must flip his latest postseason struggles round for the franchise to make some noise. 

When knowledgeable athlete secures an endorsement deal, it’s imagined to be a joyous event. Over the course of some years, George signed a sponsorship take care of Gatorade and acquired his personal signature shoe from Nike. In a dream state of affairs that solely a choose few of his friends expertise, George had reached the top of relevance within the affiliation. 

For the primary six years of his profession, he established himself because the plucky star of the underdog Indiana Pacers. He additionally confirmed grit and dedication by returning to All-NBA type after he fractured his leg in a Workforce USA scrimmage in 2014. 

The inflection level within the public’s view of George was the Gatorade spot that aired late within the 2016-17 season and took off through the 2017 postseason. The advert featured George quenching his thirst with a bottle of Gatorade earlier than he nails a game-winning shot and calls “ballgame.”

Whereas the industrial was airing, George was swept out of the postseason that yr by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and in an ironic accident, he bricked a late three-pointer that may’ve tied the fourth and closing recreation. The memes started to roll in as George’s observe report of missed clutch pictures grew to become a degree of debate. At that time, he was 0-for-15 on profession go-ahead pictures with lower than 20 seconds left. The numbers nonetheless don’t look nice. This season, George is capturing 8-for-27 (29.6 p.c from the sector) in clutch conditions in accordance with NBA Stats.

That offseason, George requested a commerce from Indiana, and his want was granted when the Pacers dealt him to the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder. The clutch curse and the memes continued to comply with. George anointed himself Playoff P in 2018 earlier than the Thunder’s first-round collection towards the Utah Jazz. Since then, George’s playoff heartbreaks have solely been extra damaging. He and his groups have solely been victorious in certainly one of his final 4 playoff collection with the Thunder and Clippers. 

It’s not a lot that George has misplaced, but it surely’s additionally the best way that he’s misplaced. In 2018, he had simply 5 factors on 2-for-16 capturing in 45 minutes because the Jazz eradicated Oklahoma Metropolis. In an elimination recreation towards the Portland Path Blazers in 2019, George performed very properly (36 factors on 14-for-20 capturing), however he guarded Damian Lillard on the ultimate possession that noticed Lillard nail a three-point buzzer-beater and name collection. After Lillard’s shot, George got here off as a sore loser, in his postgame press convention: “I do not care what anyone says, that is a nasty shot.” 

Then final yr within the bubble, George shot 4-for-16 and scored 10 factors in Recreation 7 of the Clippers’ second-round elimination towards Denver. He grew to become social media fodder once more when he hit the aspect of the backboard on a shot try late with the Clippers’ collapse nearing its finish. The nickname has come to outline George’s profession to the general public. Now, followers recurrently label him “Pandemic P” or “Wayoff P.” The memes have primarily overtaken George’s profession.

The narrative round George has remodeled since his preliminary rise because the younger phenom who seemingly shot up out of nowhere to rise from defensive specialist to two-way star. A few of his nice playoff performances in his profession have turn into simply forgotten. 

There’s his 37-point eruption towards the Warmth in Recreation 5 of the 2014 Jap Convention Finals. He scored 21 factors within the fourth quarter to stave off elimination. He had a 30-point, 11-rebound efficiency in Recreation 7 of Indiana’s 2014 opening-round win towards the Atlanta Hawks. In 2016, George (27.3 factors, 7.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a couple of.0 steals) dragged a Pacers workforce that is three subsequent finest gamers have been George Hill, Monta Ellis and Ian Mahinmi to a close to upset of the 56-win Toronto Raptors within the first spherical. 

When all of George’s profession moments are added up, the great and the unhealthy in all probability cancel one another out. Profitable is the cure-all that might clear up his issues. LeBron James and Kevin Durant misplaced recurrently within the postseason and ultimately altered the narrative round their careers by successful championships. Kyle Lowry developed a fame as a lovable loser in any case of Toronto’s playoff failures earlier than a 2019 championship seemingly erased all the ghosts from Lowry’s previous.

The Clippers have flown underneath the radar a bit this season. They’ve made a number of adjustments round their two stars to take that subsequent step. The Clippers changed head coach Doc Rivers with Tyronn Lue. On the courtroom, they added Serge Ibaka, Rajon Rondo and Nicolas Batum and moved on from Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Solely time will inform in the event that they’ve discovered the successful recipe. 

At this stage of his profession, the regular-season accomplishments of George don’t matter. A possible Corridor of Famer already, the playoffs would be the true check that defines his profession. If he can no less than step up in these key moments, George can change his story. 

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