NBA
October 7, 2020
BY Isaiah Freedman

NBA Finals Players as 'Succession' Characters

Yes, the NBA is entertaining, but it’s also a business full of competing egos, teams, players and rivalries; which doesn’t make it much different from HBO’s Emmy Award-winning drama series, Succession.

After debuting in 2018, the show has gained massive critical acclaim and popularity due to its proclivity for devious backstabbing, helpless characters and strong acting.

We are down to two remaining teams for a shot at all the glory in the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. Let’s have a little fun and cast some players, coaches and executives as characters from the hit show. Obviously, the fits will be far from perfect, but we’re here to have some fun. Let’s get to it.

Beware of spoilers, but, if you're reading this, you're probably all caught up, right? 

Pat Riley as Logan Roy

Riley, “The Godfather”, is an NBA-lifer, and he’s been with the Heat organization since 1995. Over the past few seasons, when it looked like Miami was going nowhere and capped out due to questionable long-term deals doled out, people were starting to wonder why Riley didn’t tank. He was doubted but bounced back to build a versatile monster of a team in less than a year, bringing in youngsters Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones Jr. and Duncan Robinson over the last three years. He then swung for the fences to trade for Jimmy Butler.

Riley’s infamous Heat conditioning test that results in players often puking has hilarious similarities to Logan Roy making his family play Boar on the Floor, where family members were forced to hunt sausages on the ground at dinner.

Like Riley, Logan’s old-school mentality of running a company is constantly doubted, but he always emerges victorious.

Anthony Davis as Kendall Roy

Not every comparison will be as perfect as Riley and Logan, but there is a similitude between Davis and the anguished oldest Roy sibling. First off, Davis left the New Orleans Pelicans in what many felt was a betrayal — which it clearly wasn’t, the dude gave seven years of his life to a team that never got him a competent supporting cast —  the same way Kendall betrayed his family when he sought to take full ownership of Waystar Royco, the Roy’s family-run company.

After their reputations took a hit, both have bounced back better than ever. AD has been on a tear all season for the Lakers, and he’s been one of the best players in the playoffs, mere games away from his first ring. For Kendall, he rehabilitated his image, gained his father’s trust back, then ended the season by positioning himself on top by pinning a scandal on his dad to the press.

LeBron James as Gerri Kellman

This might come as somewhat of a surprise, considering Gerri is only general counsel while LeBron James is the head honcho for the Lakers. This is a worthy comparison for one reason: competence. So many people employed at Waystar Royco either have no idea what they are doing, are sycophants, or both. Gerri is a breath of fresh air. She is who everyone goes to with their problems, the same way most Lakers look for LeBron after a failed drive attempt.

Gerri knows the company inside out and actually provides sound advice. LeBron is her counterpart in performance because he rarely makes mistakes and is the most competent player in his organization as well.

Tyler Herro as Roman Roy

The 20-year-old Tyler Herro looks like someone who would be in line at a GameStop, not draining tough buckets in the NBA Finals. Of course, he’s going to be doubted because of his perceived youth and confidence. Roman, the youngest sibling, rarely takes situations seriously. He’s a goofball most of the series.

Both of these guys, however, have stepped up to the challenge. Herro averaged 19.2 points to defeat the Boston Celtics. And down the stretch in Season 2, Roman successfully sniffed out that a potential deal to take the company private was a scam. He was also promoted to sole Chief Operating Officer.

Kyle Kuzma as Connor Roy

Kuzma went from one of the promising young Lakers on an up-and-coming roster to a role player that has gotten somewhat lost in the team’s transition to championship contender. Kuzma probably has greater ambitions than a bench player, and his ability to score off the dribble will always be sought after. Connor is in a similar boat. A child from Logan’s first marriage, he is the somewhat forgotten Roy child. He doesn’t work in the family business, instead, he wants to be president of the United States. Conner also offered to be a scapegoat for a company scandal in return for money.

Both Kuz and Conner are not perfect fits for their respective teams, but they’re found useful roles and everyone seems to enjoy their company.

Jimmy Butler as Shiv Roy

Butler is the rare superstar who has been on so many teams because of trades, not his own free will. In Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia, he performed admirably, providing his usual output of scoring, tenacious defense, ball handling and intense leadership tactics. Now, he’s found his home with the Heat, who are a perfect fit for Butler’s tough mentality.

Shiv has also cycled through multiple employers. For most of the show, she serves as a political strategist for various candidates, at one point advising Gil Eavis, a stand-in for Bernie Sanders. After a contentious end advising Eavis, Shiv comes to the family empire, where Logan convinces her she is the perfect person to be the next successor.

The only difference between Butler and Shiv is that Butler walked into his own paradise, while Shiv may have been lured into a trap, as Logan plays his usual sneaky mind games with his only daughter.

Duncan Robinson as Cousin Greg

This one might be too good of a match. Robinson was a Division III college basketball player who had so little confidence he would make the NBA that he was sending outreach text messages to sports media figures:

Robinson has since clawed his way to a starter for an NBA Finals team. His trajectory is similar to Cousin Greg’s, because Greg went from Logan’s nephew that no one ever heard much from to a player in the corporate game. Greg arrives in the first episode in need of work, and slowly works his way up the company ladder with remarkable efficiency.

Just like Robinson can splash 3-pointers, Greg is adept at avoiding conflict and staying close to the power players. 

Andre Iguodala as Karl 

Iggy is now in his sixth straight Finals, which is simply a remarkable feat. You know what Iguodala is going to bring to the table: veteran leadership, tough defense and playmaking flair. Just like Iggy is a Finals lifer, Karl has been the Chief Financial Officer for what appears to be over a decade. Karl is a trusted member of the family’s inner circle, and he’s seen every situation one would come across in the high stakes corporate game, just like the Heat forward in the NBA’s biggest stage.

The one difference between the two is we're not so sure Iggy would go blaming other co-workers when the going gets tough.

Nobody as Tom Wambsgans

Sadly, there is just no comparison for Shiv's scene-stealing husband. Any player, exec or coach compared to Tom would be an incredibly disrespectful gesture because no one is nearly as incompetent as Tom.

In the show, Tom and Shiv's relationship is more of a corporate powerplay than a true romance. Shiv repeatedly cheats on Tom, and no one in the family takes anything he has to say seriously. Tom has grand ambitions to be head of the company one day, but his management of the parks and news departments display his inability to do the job. It seems his only trusted associate is Greg, which would be like Bob Iger, the Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, only talking to his intern  — although Bob can actually run a company and Greg has slightly more responsibility than an intern, but you get the point.

Bam Adebayo as Karolina Novotney

Bam is everywhere for the Heat. He can guard any position and hustles like hell on offense. He had a monster 32 point, 14 rebound performance to close out Boston, and cleaned up what would have been a nasty Jayson Tatum dunk that nearly sent the game to double overtime. Karolina has similar duties for Waystar Royco. As head of Public Relations, she is always putting out fires and cleaning up the messes that one of the other characters creates.

Rajon Rondo as Stewy Hosseini

Rondo is conniving, wily and a gifted trickster with the ball. His patented fake behind-the-back pass into an easy layup is still a classic move, and when LeBron is off the court, he’s the Lakers best — and only — floor general. He sees the floor differently from other players, which leads him to attack passing lanes most people would not think to pursue.

In Succession, Stewy is Kendall’s old-school friend turned private equity businessman. Stewy eventually betrays Kendall and almost steals the entire company from the Roys. He is a character that always pulls through with fantastic performances as the season draws to a close, just like his NBA counterpart.

Dwight Howard as Frank Vernon

This is one of the easier comparisons. Dwight Howard is an NBA veteran who played the 2012-13 season for the Lakers during his superstar years, before leaving in free agency to join the Houston Rockets. Lakers fans were outraged, labeling Dwight as a traitor for leaving. Seven long years later, Howard returned on a one-year, veteran-minimum deal. While he’s not the player he once was, Howard has still been a key contributor, using his impressive physicality to bully Nikola Jokic and Bam Adebayo in consecutive rounds.

Frank has had a similar trajectory. After betraying Logan by attempting to overthrow him and insert Kendall into the CEO position, Logan immediately fired Frank. But later the next season, as the going got tough and Logan realized he needed someone who knows what they’re doing, he invited Frank back to the team. Frank then helped the family connect with the owners of a potential acquisition.

After Dwight and Frank “betrayed” their organizations, they’ve both been mighty competent in their roles since they returned.

Photo: Getty Images/WarnerMedia