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Paul George: Better than Icarus

August 2, 2014

The initial reactions evolved from whispers, stunned silences, the Oh! My! God! That was awful looking, more whispers, and then carefully worded concern. Seeing a man's leg, upon landing, go from a straight line to a ninety degree angle of skin and bone is, as it should be, a shock to the system. And whatever we said, tweeted, or even yelled as we watched Paul George handle such catastrophe with relative calmness--perhaps as a result of the certainty that this was indeed terrible--surely sounded like an echo of whatever that tragic Greek figure Daedalus said, tweeted, or even yelled as his son Icarus plunged into the sea. Except Paul George wasn't exactly flying too close to the sun.

Paul George intimidating the hell out of Icarus.

Paul George was playing in a Team U.S.A. basketball scrimmage. He was, essentially, giving of himself. Yes, playing for the red, white, and blue does raise one's level exposure, and more exposure might lead to more endorsement deals. Perhaps George even felt some pressure to play as a way of cleansing himself of the disastrous end to last year's Indiana Pacers' season, where a lack of confidence and chemistry plus an over-abundance of rumors sank what had been a rather promising start to the season. But playing for Team U.S.A. is not without risk. Just days ago, the San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard opted not to participate, citing how playing alongside Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili  has given him firsthand exposure to how basketball as patriotism can sap one's physical vigor, laying potential waste to championships, dynasties, and one's own meteoric rise. The pain of Paul George, being more than humbled on a basketball floor by the frailty of the human body and the barbarism of universal physics, is awful under any circumstance, not because it's Paul George but because he's made of the same stuff as you or I and that same stuff was rendered obsolete by suddenness.

Add to that trauma, however, the blue U.S.A. jersey he was wearing and the scenario becomes ripe for commentary about the place of the self within the confines of the institution. The injury becomes a microcosm for asking such things as: What does the individual owe one's nation? Or, what does a nation owe its individuals? But these questions seem conflated and overblown. They make light of the numerous sacrifices and tragedies that occur in the name of America everyday within and without her borders, and such questions lose sight of Paul George.

Paul George is twenty-four years old. Coincidentally, he also wears number twenty-four for the Indiana Pacers. He can do incredible things in flight with a basketball. Have you seen his Gatorade commercial? It lacks in hyperbole. He is an awesome defender, like the opposite of Peter Pan's shadow.    His body has a tendency for recognizing the moment, without his mind being fully cognizant of the moment or his physical abilities. In the Playoffs, when he's on, it is an out of body experience, where Paul George splits asunder and becomes one with the game of basketball. It is beautiful to watch. It is a moment when, as a fan, you think to yourself, yes, we all do have a purpose. You recognize this purpose because you can see that without thinking, and without being Paul George, his body fulfills some purpose that appears predestined. He takes flight, not because he wants to chase the sun with artificial wings built by his father, but because his body was built to fly. That was what Paul George was, and, hopefully, still is.

Last season ended in humiliation, shame, and disaster for #24 and his Indiana Pacers. It was supposed to be the year that Paul George became a man. Then, Lance Stephenson abandoned the Pacers not necessarily for more money or more years on a contract, but essentially not to be a Pacer. This upcoming season the Pacers were not going to win an NBA championship, and they would have struggled to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for a third consecutive year. However, this season would've been another opportunity to watch Paul George sprint down the court, take flight, and arrive, like a bird, like a plane, like the proverbial superhuman blessed with incredible physical gifts. That most likely will not happen now. His tibia and fibia have split asunder, his body seemingly betrayed by its own biology and the DNAof the game it was meant to play (the base of the basket was much too close to the baseline). He wasn't Icarus; he was actually made to fly by powers greater than his father.

People will speculate about the fate of the Pacers and recovery time. People might even present a silver lining in all the bone fragments: The Pacers could, a la Kawhi's San Antonio Spurs did in '97, end up with a high draft pick to pair with a healthy Paul George. But such speculations, whether pessimistic or optimistic, seem out of place and time as of now. As of now, as he was last night, Paul George lies on his back with the certainty of his brokenness. And all we should really be saying is don't let the story be this--let it be like this, always:
 

Bryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys.

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