Why do we love sports? Sure, some of us are naturally competitive. We love being pushed to our limits by stiff competition and selfish desires. And maybe some of us just fall in love with the game that was passed down from our fathers.

Most of all though, we all love an underdog.

We love the story of David versus Goliath. And we watch these spectacles in anticipation of a similar story manifesting itself into reality.

That explains the massive amount of appreciation fans, players, and coaches have had this season for the resurgence of great players like Derrick Rose, Gordon Hayward, Zach LaVine, and, most of all, Paul George.

If we take a quick stroll down memory lane, it’s not hard to remember the 2013-2014 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Indiana Pacers and what they felt to be the “LeBron Stopper”, Danny Granger, were poised to defeat Erik Spolestra, LeBron James, and the Miami Heat and advance to the NBA finals.

While the Heat managed to win the series in six games, it was clear that Danny Granger was no longer the sole star on a young and exciting Pacers team.

Then, during that summer, the Pacers new star took part in a scrimmage with Team USA. With James Harden driving to the basket, Paul George leapt towards the glass and landed awkwardly on his right leg.

Fast forward to the 2018-2019 NBA season.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone the way Paul George has ascended to such an elite level. I mean, why would it?

He looks like someone designed him in a lab. Created with the vision of a perfect player in today’s NBA. George graces the hardwood at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot wingspan. His ability to shoot from 3-point range is a clip that only the league’s best shooters could match.

Pair that with the ability to tackle any defensive assignment, and the strength and creativity to finish through contact around the rim, and you have a true superstar.

For almost a decade we’ve known that PG13 has all the tools necessary to become an unstoppable force.

And he’s delivered, earning six All-Star appearances and four All-NBA nods in the eight seasons in which he’s been able to remain healthy — pretty consistent work.

Paul George leaps to the basket during the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, just two years removed from a devastating right leg injury.
Credit-Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

However, this year’s different.

When you look around the league, there seems to be a different ‘glow’ to George this season. It’s been increasingly clear that as of late, the 28-year-old small forward is playing the best basketball of his career.

Over the past 20 games, George has averaged 32.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 38 minutes per game. He’s managing to put up such egregious numbers all whilst shooting an absolutely devastating 45.4 percent from 3-point range on nearly 11 attempts a night.

In simpler terms, George is second in the league in scoring and first in 3-point percentage during this stretch. But if offense alone doesn’t do it for you (and James Harden isn’t your cup of tea), PG has consistently been one of the better defenders in the Association.

George has publicly stated that he would like to win a Defensive Player of the Year award. And he’s on his way to doing so. He leads the league in steals and ranks second in deflections and loose balls recovered. He also plays the most minutes on a team that suffers immensely when he’s not on the floor.

Paul George lines up for a free throw for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Credit-USA TODAY via Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the helm of the best team in the Eastern Conference, putting up numbers at a rate we haven’t seen since Kareem in his prime. On the other hand, James Harden is currently scoring at a rate that has him leading the league in points per game at almost 37 buckets per contest.

Early on, their case for MVP seemed strong enough to carry them through a two-man race. That is until a third man entered.

George has had help though. Russell Westbrook will continue to be an immovable object and an elite counterpart as he excels in distinct parts of the game. All in all, the attention that Russ demands when he has the basketball is what allows George to spot up for open opportunities and exert maximum pressure on defense.

Westbrook leads the league in assists, and grabs a staggering 10 rebounds per game at his position. He certainly helps front a physical and aggressive Oklahoma City backcourt.

Nonetheless, without the contributions of Paul George and his exceedingly impressive resurgence, OKC would likely not be sitting among the top teams in the Western Conference.

The Underdog Newsletter

A bite-sized rundown of the best underdog stories in sports – handpicked and delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

Subscribe Now