The NBA Playoffs are upon us, and I can’t think of a better way to ring them in than to compare the participants to crappy food establishments. For a few moments, stop thinking of the places you eat and the basketball teams you watch on TV as mutually exclusive organizations. Let’s mold the two together to create preposterous contrasts. From fast food joints to sit down restaurants, these are your 2016 NBA playoff teams in food service terms.



In the first half of 2015, Chipotle was an increasingly adored burrito source, and the Houston Rockets surprised the masses, overachieving in the NBA playoffs and making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Here we are in the present, a mere year later, and both Chipotle and the Rockets have suffered significant setbacks. The public’s trust in Chipotle’s food safety deteriorated as they spread a norovirus and dealt an E. Coli outbreak. Houston’s trust in the Rockets’ abilities declined as they began the season 4-7 and looked awful.

The Houston Rockets’ struggle to get on the winning track was bad, and it only got worse when they fired coach Kevin McHale. Chipotle’s difficulties resolving their issues was bad for their reputation, and they only made the situation worse when they fired an employee who’d criticized the company on Twitter. The two organizations stumbled, and because they didn’t do themselves any immediate favors catching their fall, we’re now seeing Chipotle give away free burritos and the Houston Rockets give away free points. In the end, they’re likely going to get pummeled and eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.


The stuff Chef Curry flashily serves up isn’t unlike the deliciousness a Benihana chef gaudily prepares. One uses the hardwood court while the other uses a grill, but both do their cooking surrounded by an audience who’s seeking a unique experience. Oohs and ahs aren’t a bonus, they’re an expectation. You don’t go to Benihana just to have a plate of fully prepared grub gently placed in front of you, and you don’t watch the Warriors simply expecting them to dully win a basketball game. You want a sociable, knife-wielding chef to spectacularly slice and dice your meal on a grill like you’re eating Japanese cuisine at Cirque du Soleil, and you want up-tempo, exciting basketball that leads to slashes to the basket, and spectacular shooting.

In 2014, both organizations hired Steves in leadership roles – Steve Kerr, for the Warriors, and Steve Shelmon (President and Chief Executive) for Benihana. Both have been doing well for themselves and if you think about it, they’re pretty much the only super successful establishments in their corresponding fields, doing what they do in such an entertaining fashion.


Whether you want to admit it or not, there’s no denying how delicious Chick-fil-A’s food is, and how talented the Los Angeles Clippers are. We know the waffle fries are delightful, just like we know CP3 is a future Hall-of-Famer. We know the chicken sandwiches are magnificent, just like we know Blake Griffin dunks are wondrous. We know we can rely on Chick-fil-A for satisfying nourishment unless it’s Sunday, just like we can rely on DeAndre Jordan putting the ball in the hoop at a high percentage, unless it’s from the free-throw line. All that being said, Chick-fil-A and the Clippers both had discriminatory controversies in recent years that left a bad taste in the mouths of many.

While some have moved past the Donald Sterling racism and the Chick-fil-A opposing same sex marriage ordeals, the unpleasant ambiance has lingered for others, who find themselves unable to eat at or root for the chicken chain and basketball squad, respectively. Both organizations tried to change for the better – the Clips cutting ties with Sterling and Chick-fil-A refraining from donating to organizations that promote discrimination, but sometimes people just don’t forget. Let it be noted that the Clippers could also be In-N-Out Burger, as they’re continually in and out of the playoffs every year.


One features pancakes and the other features Damian Lillard, but aside from their greatest attraction, there’s a lot of meh to choose from. C. J. McCollum is a great complement, like the Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity toppings that enhance the pancakes, but then you’ve got a bunch of guys on the roster who are like options on IHOP’s all-encompassing diner menu. You want chicken fingers? Here, try the Allen Crabbe. Want an omlette? Try the Mason Plumlee. The Blazers have their fair share of players to choose from, but ultimately they’ve already massively overachieved by making the playoffs this year, thanks to their pancakes, Dame Lillard.


Both of these establishments pack an awe-inspiring, exhilarating 1-2 punch. For Dave & Busters it’s a full service restaurant and an arcade. For the Thunder it’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Interestingly enough, there’s no Dave & Busters in Seattle, but they are in Oklahoma City, and the same goes for this basketball team.

Success-wise, one can’t help but wonder if the entertainment aspect of things will ever translate to the Thunder and Dave & Busters being the best in their business. Yes, it’s a joy to watch hostile Russell Westbrook Dunks and Kevin Durant jumpers. Yes, it’s a blast to play video games in-between devouring The Caveman Combo. Dave & Busters is an entertaining place to dine, but will it be the #1 chain restaurant of 2016? The Thunder are an entertaining basketball team to watch, but will they win an NBA Championship in 2016? In all likelihood, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding: probably not.


The most notable similarity here is that both Hooters and the Dallas Mavericks have highly praised, arguably overrated wings cough Chandler Parsons cough. In addition, there’s a public perception that both are somewhat tacky, though Hooters is a result of the somewhat revealing outfits, whereas for the Mavericks, it’s their outspoken owner, Mark Cuban who tends to draw the improper, slightly trashy label.


First and foremost, P.F. Chang’s’ food quality and the Spurs’ quality of basketball are both top notch. All it takes is a quick comparison of the two and you’ll see them oozing with similarities. For example, one serves fine wines while the other has guys ageing like fine wines. One specializes in American Chinese cuisine in various countries, while the other specializes in American and foreign athletes joining forces to play beautiful team basketball. One is the largest full service Chinese restaurant in the United States, the other is the best franchise in literally all of sports. That’s no exaggeration – the Spurs are actually the top franchise, not just in the NBA, but in all of sports, which should actually make them comparable to the number one chain food establishment of ‘em all. Unfortunately, that organization is McDonald’s. McDonald’s and the Spurs have managed to maintain statistic greatness and undeniable relevance for an extended period of time, and if you can look past the fact that McDonald’s food is garbage and Spurs basketball is beautifully immaculate poetry in motion, there are actually some undeniable similarities between two establishments:

1. Both made adjustments last year to remain top performers. After a drop in profits, McDonalds rejuvenated business by beginning to serve breakfast all-day, leading to a huge jump in sales. After losing in the first round in 2015, the Spurs went out and signed LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, leading to a huge jump in wins, from 55-27 to 67-15 – the best in franchise history.

2. Both lack an abundance of social media appreciation. McDonalds food isn’t fancy schmancy enough for most folks to take pictures of and share on Instagram, just as Spurs basketball doesn’t get a ton of love on Vine are Twitter, due to lack of flashiness.

3. Both seem to age absurdly slow, if at all. Someone bought a McDonalds burger and left it out and it looked pretty much the same after like 14 years. Everyone knows the Spurs are older in basketball terms, and their anchor, Tim Duncan has been a force since 1997.

It’s cohesive, y’all, but because McDonalds serves crusty, artery clogging mystery meat sludge, so the Spurs must be officially linked to a restaurant of higher quality, and that’s P.F. Chang’s.


The current Grizzlies roster is like a sad bucket of soggy chicken. They’ve got parts from all over, playing guys who might otherwise be free agents in significant minutes. They almost remind me of a Kentacohut. What’s Kentacohut? You know, one of those cobranded hybrid combos that put a KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut under the same roof. That’s what the depleted Memphis Grizzlies are at this point. Bitten repeatedly by the injury bug, they’ve been forced to do what Kentacohuts do, which is conjoin multiple not-very-great things to make one functioning thing. Just take a gander at the Grizzlies roster and you’ll see an assortment of players that go together as well as fast food chicken, chalupas, and pepperoni pizzas.



Red Lobster is amongst the more expensive tier of chain restaurants, but they’re not like a full-blown five star establishment. The same can be said about the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re formidable opponents for other top teams, but they’ve yet to become champions, making them the somewhat fancy place that’s decent for a first date. They both have a starring attraction – Cleveland’s being LeBron James, obviously, and Red Lobster’s is the Cheddar Bay Biscuit. Not to mention, Beyonce is fond of both LeBron and Red Lobster.


Have you ever seen a Denny’s menu? It offers a variety of reasonably priced options and you’re like, hey, this might make me feel like garbage after eating it, but it’ll taste pretty not bad and my bank account won’t suffer, so why not? This year’s Pistons squad resembles a Denny’s menu. You’ve got the appealing, reliable breakfasts in Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson. You’ve got the solid burger options in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris. Then there’s the hit-or-miss skillets, in Stanley Johnson and Jodie Meeks, who may or may not play significant minutes in the playoffs, after missing much of the regular season.

Also, this Pistons team is gritty, as are Denny’s restrooms.


Have you ever walked inside of a Boston Market and been overwhelmed by the glorious assortment of side dishes? Mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, corn, garlic potatoes, steamed veggies, creamed spinach – sweet potato casserole. Those options are so great in fact that, together they’re the highlight of the meal, leaving no clear choice of meat for the entrée. The Boston Celtics are similar, in that they’re a collection of spectacular role players, without one, clear superstar. Sure, Boston Market’s rotisserie chicken is probably the most common choice over meatloaf or ribs, just as all-star Isaiah Thomas is the Celtics’ obvious choice in most scenarios, but they require a team effort and contributions from all of their side dishes.


Look, both organizations are pretty good, but we don’t really expect an NBA championship from these Hawks just like we don’t expect T.G.I. Friday’s to serve anything other than decent eats. I mean, their appetizer sampler is delightful, and the Hawks’ starters provide somewhat of a basketball skill sampler in itself, featuring Millsap, Horford, Teague, Korver and Bazemore in a lineup that can post you up, slash to the basket, and shoot both mid-range and three-pointers. T.G.I.’s also has an emphasis on their booze options, and the Hawks do the same with their defensive efforts. Both organizations also have interesting histories promotion wise. T.G.I. Friday’s used to features ladies night, and was much more of a singles social spot than the family restaurant it is today, and the Atlanta Hawks have tried to make love connections as well, running Tinder-themed nights the past two seasons.


In recent years, the Miami Heat and Olive Garden both went from thriving, to struggling, to sustaining what seems like a safe, above average state. The Italian cuisine chain’s numbers were ailing, but instead of completely dwindling into obscurity, they managed a surprising improvement, and saw their stock rise by 4%. The Heat obviously lost LeBron James who returned to Red Lobster—erm, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and many believed the Heat could fall off and fail to recover. Instead, Miami posted a 48-34 record, good for the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s also rather amusing that Olive Garden and Red Lobster are sister restaurants, and Dwyane Wade and LeBron are ‘brothers,’ so the link between the two organizations checks out in this analogy.

I’d imagine that as long as Olive Garden keeps providing those beloved breadsticks for free, they’ll continue reeling in enough customers to uphold a decent performance. Same goes for what Dwyane Wade brings to the table in Miami. That’s right, Wade is the equivalent of Olive Garden’s illustrious, cherished breadsticks, which I suppose makes Joe Johnson the side salad.


Fun fact about Buffalo Wild Wings – they used to be called Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck, but they changed their name. Y’know who else changed their name? The Hornets. What’s interesting about B-Dubs’ is that they’ve been doing well for a casual dining establishment, seeing growth at a time when many opponents are struggling. Similarly, the Hornets have seen improvement at a time when some Eastern Conference opponents are dropping off like flies – the Bulls, Wizards, Nets and Bucks, for example.

The defensive-minded Hornets are facing a playoff battle more fiery hot than Buffalo Wild Wings’ “Blazin” Wing Challenge, as they’ve matched up against the Miami Heat, whose wings are capable of scorching anyone. While they may run into a roadblock this postseason, there are many optimists for how Buffalo Wild Wings’ stock will perform in the future, and the potential of this young, talented bunch.


The thing that the Toronto Raptors and Applebee’s have most in common is that I want both of them to be better than they probably ever will be. Applebee’s is home of the bargain 2 for $20 meal that features two entrees and an appetizer, and the Raptors feature a 2 for $22,000,000 deal of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They’re just so dang likeable that it’s been rough to see them lose in recent years, just like it’s rough to see Applebee’s’s half-off appetizers and meal specials lose to choosing to eat microwaves food at home, for cheaper. Yes, their food is shamefully enjoyable, but it’s like 90% microwaved and an increase in prices seems like a risk that could lead to losing a chunk of their mostly middle class customers. The Raptors might be fearing a loss as well if they see themselves eliminated early, as rumors of DeRozan leaving them next season have been swirling around.


Wingstop has a lot of flavors – so many, in fact, that you probably don’t know all of them, because the top ones are all that matters. That’s not unlike the Indiana Pacers roster, which features many players whom you probably aren’t super familiar with, because they dropped off a bit over the past couple seasons. We all know lemon pepper is the most popular flavor, and Paul George is the equivalent of that, leading this Pacers team by taking on the heaviest workload and doing a little bit (or lotta bit) of everything.

Sure, there’s also George Hill (Louisiana Rub) and Monta Ellis (Original Hot), but the big scorer/big seller remains Paul George/lemon pepper. Both organizations are steadily looking to make additions and improve as well, with the Pacers rookie Myles Turner shining like the newly introduced Wingstop flavor, Smoke 9 – a flavorful mesquite dry rub. Mmm, does anyone else just want wings now? Get them ASAP, because deep down we all know Wingstop isn’t going to win the Eastern Conference.