It’s the question that needs to be answered after this weekend.
Heroic moments are part of what makes sports so important to our society.
Rooted in a history of gladiators who entertained crowds by using their physical prowess to escape death, athletes use skills, heart and determination to entertain us as they pursue glory in the form of a championship.
During this journey for gold, we spectators watch in anticipation of seeing a triumph so iconic, breathtaking, mesmerizing and frankly unbelievable that we want to tell our kids’ kids’ kids’ kids about it. Those moments from right out of a movie.
This past week, Damian Lillard provided one of those moments as he capped off one of the most brilliant first-round series the NBA playoffs have ever seen. And it just so happened to coincide with two of the biggest blockbuster events in pop culture the world has been waiting years to see. Obviously Dame scoring baskets in a game can only equate but so much to The Avengers fighting Thanos in Endgame and The Battle of Winterfell from the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, but, I think I got a way we can make a comparison work. So let’s see just how well Dame’s heroics stack up to those of some of our favorite fictional heroes, in an actual superhero and literal assassin. Where do Dame’s heroics rank in comparison to those of Captain Marvel and Arya Stark?
3. Captain Marvel
It would have been entirely too unfair to compare Dame to the entire Avengers. That team is more stacked than if you put LeBron and Joel Embiid on the Warriors.
So, we’ll look at The Avenger I feel put together the most spectacular performance in the crusade to defeat Thanos, Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel.
Although the movie was very clearly aiming to highlight Tony Stark completing his final quest, it was the MCU’s newest addition who made the greatest contributions. Ironman cracking the quantum code to make the time heist a reality and stealing the Infinity Stones from Thanos in the final minute were the type of moments that would normally signify who the Real MVP of the series was. But in the end, all he did was deliver the final blow like John Paxson after Captain Marvel set the table like Michael Jordan in the 1993 Finals.
Going up against MVP Charles Barkley, MJ averaged 41 points on 50.8% shooting with 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals.
As if whooping Thanos 15 minutes into the movie after delivering some of the coldest dialogue of the film wasn’t enough, she left to go help the rest of the universe at a scale nobody else could, just to return in the final hour to blow up an entire ship in a scene that was only rivaled by Snoop Dogg knocking down the towers in 1995 to put the Dogg Pound on the map.
Ironman played a role equivalent to a combination 1997 Steve Kerr and Scottie Pippen. He had the game-winning shot and the series-clinching steal.
But the badass lady who gave Thanos those hands like nobody else ever dreamed of doing won six Bill Russell Awards in this one championship round alone.
However, the unheralded awesomeness of Captain Marvel did come in a situation where she had little too much in her favor to be higher than third among the heroes we are discussing.
Carol had an iconic moment in a battle with much higher stakes than a first-round series, even if the Blazers were seeking revenge for a sweep from the year before. But, despite having a bigger stage, she also had Ironman, Captain America, Thor (aka The Big Lebowski) carrying Stormbringer, The Hulk and Doctor Strange. And unlike the other two on this list, she didn’t deliver the final blow and have a walk-off moment.
2. Damian Lillard
We could spend time here dissecting the basketball greatness of Dame’s first round, but the theatrics is what makes it so memorable.
It’s the fact that his battle is against the snarling former MVP whose style of play is as polarizing as can be. A player who questioned Lillard’s legitimacy as an All-Star last season and boasted this year about how he’s “been busting that ass for years.” He was the perfect candidate to get handed his comeuppance by Dame.
The series started with some foreshadowing.
Then Dame proceeded be amazing, all while moving like an assassin and picking the right spots to talk his talk. Shoot, he even made sure to save his best shots for the right moment: After Westbrook misses, when he was sure to cause most pain to his antagonist.
It couldn’t have been scripted any better.
Dame Time will never be the same after he shut Russ’s mouth with a 37-foot dagger in Paul George’s face.
But it was the first round. And even though Jusuf Nurkic was hurt and the Thunder won the regular-season series 4-0, the Trail Blazers were the higher seed. That didn’t mean anything last year, sure. But it’s a bit harder to sell the movie when the good guy was considered the favorite and had a major advantage.
1. Arya Stark
The Battle of Winterfell has been hyped as the most important moment that will ever happen in the HBO series. Game of Thrones fans have been waiting on edge to see this war for life and death and it delivered.
But the reason it was as amazing at it was was who the biggest hero was. From the instant we were introduced to the Stark family, the youngest daughter, Arya, always stuck out as a fan favorite. The Battle of Winterfell was her chance to show just how much she grew as a fighter in the many years she spent preparing to avenge her family members that were murdered and protect those that were still living. And this was after years away from the home she is now protecting from an army of undead solicited whose only objective is to end all of humanity. Think LeBron returning to Cleveland to defeat the Warriors.
But Arya’s playoff run was even more special than 2016.
Her first round in the battle was like Game 5 in Detroit in 2007. We all knew she was a beast, but we didn’t fully understand that she is indeed operating in GOAT territory at such a young age.
Round two was like Game 6 in Boston in 2012. As more characters started to die the White Walkers seemed even closer to a victory, Arya leveled up and let the jump shot do the talking just because she could.
Round three was Game 6 against the Spurs in 2013. Yeah, she already proved to be a champion the season before when she killed Littlefinger, but now was her chance to elevate her status by overcoming adversity to defeat odds that seemed insurmountable on a stage that was somehow even bigger.
And the final round? The Championship in the God’s Woods? The one-on-one showdown with the Night King? That was Games 5–7 against the Warriors. Nothing else was ever going to matter after that moment. The Night King was on the verge of completing the most ridiculous run the world had ever seen, but one person had a chance to save humanity and write the perfect ending to her story.
With a move that was smoother than MJ switching hands in 91 and at a time even more clutch than The Block, Arya Stark looked death in the face and saved the world just because she practices how she plays.
And, the memes. I mean, Twitter wasn’t this good since the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.
Arya killed the night King in the same yard with the blade Bran gave her saying he doesn't need but she would be able to use it. Bran Phil Jackson running the triangle. Didn't call a timeout and let his superstar take over— Kings (@kingsbruh) April 29, 2019
The only debate that can be had about Arya Stark’s achievements and pure magnificence in The Battle of Winterfell is if they are actually better than General Sherman marching to the sea through the South to end the Civil War. That’s it. Unless you literally helped end slavery in real life, you will never outdo what The Girl of Many Faces did on April 28, 2019. From now on when you address her, you call her by her full title like A Tribe Called Quest and nothing less. She is Arya Stark, Night King Slayer. Protector of Winterfell. Avenger of Catelyn, Robb and Benjen Stark. Dancer of Swords. Girl of many faces. Ned Stark’s youngest daughter. Savior of The Three-Eyed Raven (Brandon Stark) and Aegon Targaryen (Jon Snow). The greatest killer of the Seven Kingdoms. The one who told Death, “Not today.”