Which Marvel Movies Best Mirror NBA Western Conference Playoff Teams?


Avengers, assemble. Or rather, NBA superstars and their supporting casts.

Two themes the NBA shares with Marvel movies and shows are action-packed thrills and compelling storylines with teams of super talented — and sometimes, superpowered — individuals. While one is fictional and the other is reality, both are exhilarating and popular forms of entertainment with similar narratives and personalities.

As the NBA kicks off yet another postseason, let’s explore where this year’s Western Conference playoff teams can find inspiration, motivation, and/or lessons in the vast universe of Marvel movies and series for their playoff runs.

No. 1: Denver Nuggets – Spider-Man: Homecoming

One of the biggest lessons that Spider-Man: Homecoming has to offer is that you are worthy because of your own talents and characteristics.

Because the fancy, high-tech suit Tony Stark made is not what made Peter Parker a hero. This idea is a great one for the Nuggets to keep in mind as they go through the playoffs the best of the West.

Denver is a smaller-market team, and it doesn’t have a flashy superstar like LeBron James or Stephen Curry as its best player. It isn’t seen as an alluring, attractive team. The Nuggets have an extremely talented and technical prowess of an All-Star in Nikola Jokic as its best player and leader and a strong and balanced supporting cast in Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

And that is enough. After all, they’re the West’s No. 1 seed for a reason.

No. 2: Memphis Grizzlies – Spider-Man: Far From Home

Much like Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Grizzlies are young but not completely inexperienced. They’ve done impressive things, like earning the West’s No. 2 seed for the second-straight season.

So the talent is there, but they aren’t a seasoned playoff team by any means. If the Grizzlies can make it to the Finals, then great. Good for them. However far Memphis goes, though, this postseason run is still a learning experience more than anything else. This is where the Grizzlies can find inspiration in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s resident web slinger.

In Far From Home, Parker is a young superhero with some valuable experience — including the biggest fight in the MCU thus far, the Battle of Earth. But his inexperience, naivety and insecurity are still prevalent. It nearly costs the world its safety. Memphis can learn from him by acknowledging its inexperience, trusting the experience it has, and believing in the talent and support it possesses.

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No. 3: Sacramento Kings – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The past can be a tough thing to escape.

And for a long time, the Kings were known as losers. Until this season, the Kings hadn’t had a winning record or made the playoffs since the 2005-06 campaign.

But things are more than just different now. Sacramento is the No. 3 seed in a competitive Western Conference. No matter how far the Kings go this postseason, this is the start of their reinvention into something better — a theme that was prevalent throughout Marvel’s Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

In TFATWS, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes both have past traumas to overcome. Wilson is slated to become the next Captain America but grapples with the shield’s past and the mantle’s legacy in a country that doesn’t favor those who look like him. Meanwhile, Barnes is still trying to escape his past as a mind-controlled super soldier who was manipulated into a Hydra weapon and is figuring out his new identity and life.

While the Kings aren’t overcoming anything quite as political or personal, the lesson remains the same: you can choose who you become and not be defined by the past.

No. 4: Phoenix Suns –  Avengers: Age of Ultron

Just two seasons ago, the Suns found themselves in the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1992-93 season. Both times they ultimately fell short and failed to capture the franchise’s first title.

But they know what it’s like. They even finished atop the Western Conference last year. They’re a talented team who has had a taste of success. Now it’s just a matter of doing it right this time around — much like in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In Age of Ultron, science bros and geniuses Tony Stark and Bruce Banner first showcase their intelligence by creating Ultron, a sentient form of artificial intelligence who ultimately wants to end humanity. So what the two heroes created to be an agent of peace in an increasingly dangerous world ended up being a failed experiment. But they do get a second chance with the creation and addition of Vision.

Likewise, the Suns have their second chance at a title ahead of them, and they have a new game-changing addition in Kevin Durant.

No. 5: Los Angeles Clippers – Captain America: The First Avenger

When it comes to professional basketball in Los Angeles, the Clippers will always be seen as the city’s lesser team. They don’t have the storied history and past success that elevates the franchise in the way the Lakers do.

But just because some people may not see them as anything special doesn’t mean they aren’t — just as Steve Rogers was special before he ever took the Super Soldier Serum and became Captain America.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, we see the journey of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America. We learn that, despite being the underdog, he is a fighter. He isn’t someone who gives up in his pursuit to join the U.S. Army and defend his country from the Red Skull and Nazis. The Clippers can find inspiration in the first Avenger and how he had worth before he became the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan.

No. 6: Golden State Warriors – Avengers: Endgame

Since the MCU kicked off in 2008, no NBA team has won more titles than the Warriors have — being crowned champions in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022.

So like the Avengers, they are no stranger to battles and the ultimate victories. But there’s no doubt that their reign is coming to an end. Even last season’s championship was a surprise.

Since that 2015 title, the Warriors have lost and gained an array of key players— yet their core has remained the same. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson aren’t going to last as the franchise’s star players forever, though.

As the Warriors transition into a new era and enjoy their final runs with the Splash Brothers, Avengers: Endgame can help set the scene for this season’s postseason run. After all, it’s the last time the Original Six are all Earth’s mightiest heroes but also the last time they’re leading the way in the fight for humanity (and really the entire Earth-199999 universe).

No. 7: Los Angeles Lakers – Thor

Given its star-filled, championship-heavy history and proximity to Hollywood, the Lakers franchise will always give off the energy of an entitled team. It doesn’t matter how good or bad they are.

The Lakers are still the Lakers, a team where movie stars and other celebrities are always seated courtside.

This season’s Lakers aren’t the best by any means, but they have talent. They have potential — it’s tough not to even with a 38-year-old LeBron James on the team — and they know it.

But it’s a matter of proving their worth. Because the wins aren’t going to come without the work, which is something the God of Thunder needed to learn in Thor. Sure, Thor is the God of Thunder and wields Mjolnir, but he needs to be humbled and re-learn what it means to be worthy to wield his weapon and channel the powers he once had.

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No. 8: Minnesota Timberwolves – Captain America: Civil War

Anyone who has seen Captain America: Civil War knows that the movie doesn’t have a particularly cheerful ending.

But the film offers a very relevant lesson for the Timberwolves, who made the playoffs after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in the play-in tournament.

Minnesota’s regular season ended with a game that featured Rudy Gobert throwing a punch at his teammate Kyle Anderson and Jaden McDaniels punching a wall that led to a fractured hand.

So the comparison here is rather straightforward. When the stakes are high, emotions are strong and egos are big, it can be easy to lose your cool — even for Captain America and Iron Man.

Even if Minnesota doesn’t have the best odds are making it far in the postseason, it’s still good to remember the lesson that Civil War offers: the real fight is not between you and your teammate, so don’t get distracted by insecurities. For the Wolves, the real fight — which shouldn’t become an actual fistfight — is that between them and the teams who stand in their way of an NBA championship.

Click here to view our Eastern Conference edition of this article.

About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Filipina American writer and Illinois journalism graduate based in the Chicago suburbs. She has a decade's worth of sports writing experience, having been published in several online publications. She writes about the Bulls, the Sky, and general NBA content for The Lead.

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