Return to the NBA Journey, Week Eight: (Un)Expected Domination

What good is a series without a trilogy? For the third time, The Sports Fan Journal heads on the NBA Journey. For the first two years, we had a level of surety as to where our destination would be. The first year, we were correct. The second, we were correct in location, but not in victor, as the Toronto Raptors won the title last year. Now, the NBA springs anew and for the first time in a while, we're not totally sure where our destination lies. This allows for a current kind of exploration. Let's continue with our next installment after a week of games.

Song of the Week: Street Fighter V Soundtrack - Laura's Theme

An interesting facet of the underdog story is where most of the mainstream world just wasn't exposed to the underdog. That person or team has always had the skill and talent to compete amongst the elite but circumstances limit the recognition, thus leading to the surprise of the underdog.

In the fighting game community, this is true for Derek "Idom" Ruffin. Idom is an NYC-based Street Fighter V player. His main character is Laura Matsuda, a character who most experts around the game feel isn't as strong a character.

Idom is known as the best Laura player in the world. In the over three years since Street Fighter V's inception, he's mostly used her and it has led to lots of success on the East Coast. However, Idom had been limited in traveling to tournaments elsewhere while he finished college.

This year, Capcom had its Pro Tour, a series of major tournaments that rank players around the world. The final 32 face off at Capcom Cup, a final tournament where the winner walks away with $250,000. Idom qualified for Capcom Cup last month, but wasn't looked at as a serious contender to win. Well, the man affectionately known as "Ivan Domination" proceeded to do just that, winning all of his sets until losing in Winner's Finals to victor "Punk" Woodley. Idom advanced to Grand Finals, where he faced Punk again, having to win two 3-out-of-5 sets while Punk only needed to win one. Idom was down 0-2 and fought to win the first set, 3-2. This appeared to have Punk rattled. The second set began and it's clear momentum was on Idom's side. He defeated Punk 3-1 in the second set, winning Capcom Cup.

To most of the fighting game world, Idom was an unknown. But those on the East Coast knew how good he was. He just finally got the chance to showcase his abilities.

The NBA has had its share of underdog stories. One of them is brewing in Miami, where the Heat are a first-class team that may have the best scouting department in the NBA. No organization does it better than the Heat when it comes to finding guys who fit their brand of basketball and professionalism.

It’s been all too common for Pat Riley to find hidden gems. The reason being is that Pat Riley is a basketball guy and he knows the game just about as good as one can know it. He isn't one predicated on analytics, but he values the eye test more than what is revered today.

In the 1990s there were mainstays such as Ike Austin, Anthony Carter and Voshon Lenard going from unknowns to solid NBA Players. In the 2000s guys such as Rasual Butler and Udonis Haslem were under the radar before the Heat took a chance on them. Most recently, Hassan Whiteside and now Kendrick Nunn fit that mode. If you asked anyone about Nunn a few months ago, many wouldn't know that he would be the player he is today.

Nunn landed in the perfect place that will highlight his talents showing that he has a chance to be a special player.

Nunn’s path to the NBA has been nothing short of amazing. While it's unconventional from recent NBA success stories, his is a testament of his determination to be great.

The Chicago native started his basketball career for the in-state Illinois Fighting Illini where he made the All-Big Ten freshman team in 2013-2014. He was later dismissed from the team and transferred to Oakland University, where he was named the Horizon League Player of the Year.

Many high school players scoff at playing for a Mid-Major, but Nunn joins the likes of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Ja Morant as successful hoopers that didn't hone their skills at the Duke's, Kentucky's, and UCLA's of the world.

It wasn't always as glamorous for Nunn as he paid his dues in the D-League, now he is a household name on South Beach. To say Nunn is a budding star isn't a stretch.

He’s arguably been the best rookie during this NBA season. He is second in points per game for rookies and he is the overall leader in total points for rookies. While the basketball world salivated for the arrival of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, Nunn altered those plans as he and Morant are atop of the rookie pecking order.

Not to slight his fellow rookie teammate Tyler Herro, who is also having a great year, what Nunn is doing is unprecedented.

Just Wednesday night, Nunn played 41 minutes, scored 26 points and hit the go-ahead shot to win the game. A testament to Nunn’s success is his experience. What’s impressive about Nunn is that he plays at his own pace. In addition to that, he is shooting 45 percent from the field and over 36 percent from three-point land. For a rookie with a usage rate such as Nunn’s, that is superb. Oftentimes rookies have trouble with finding their footing as shooters when adjusting to the league; Nunn has stepped right in and is shooting the ball at a respectable percentage.

As of late guys with more college experience such as Nunn are having more success in today’s NBA. As basketball Yoda and Twitter aficionado Rashad Phillips stated, four-year guys, make good NBA players contrary to the popular stigma.

At age 24, Nunn is molded as a player and is more mature than a teenager that hasn’t played meaningful basketball games or had many real-life experiences.

The evolution of Kendrick Nunn has been one to behold, and as the great Rick Ross once said, "all we wanted is an opportunity", and Nunn is getting just that and he is making the most of it.

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