The NBA has a long history of villains. Some find themselves in that role by circumstance and never fully embrace it — those are the least fun kind. Then there are the ones who live for being hated, fully playing up their heel status, becoming beloved to their fan base and loathed by the rest.
The Bad Boy Pistons did this better than anyone, and when they won, everyone outside of Detroit hated it. Reggie Miller was as good at it as any individual player, and had the game and big moments to back up all of his antics and trash talk. The NBA currently has few genuine superstars who take on that villain role and embrace it, which is why the Hawks-Knicks series has been so exciting. It has been the breakout performance for Trae Young: Supervillain.
Young fully embraced the hatred from the Knicks crowd, basking in “F*ck Trae Young” chants in Game 1 to deliver a cold-blooded dagger at the end, shushing the crowd in defiance as he pranced around the court. In Game 5, Young and the Hawks didn’t need heroics to beat a defeated Knicks team, but Young posted 36 points as Atlanta overwhelmed the Knicks at MSG to end the series in five games. To close things out, Young hit one last dagger from the logo and, with Reggie Miller on the call and in the building, gave a Reggie-esque bow to the crowd.
Trae took a bow after this dagger at MSG pic.twitter.com/rZyFJ3hvTj
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 3, 2021
After the game, Trae was asked about the bow and had a sensational quote about putting on a show in a city that knows a great show when they see it, and those performances always end with a bow.
“I know where we are. I know there's a bunch of shows around this city. And I know what they do when the show is over.”
— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) June 3, 2021
Young plays a grating style of basketball, frustrating opponents and their fans with his ability to draw fouls and get to the line, but he also has an insane skillset beyond the grifting that allows him to do things like this to really twist the knife in the opposition. Up until this series, Trae has been more about letting his game do the talking and plays the humble card in postgame interviews, but this is a thrilling development in his growth as a villain, talking the talk as he walks the walk.
We need more of this from Young. He’s soon going to get a whole new stage and a whole new city of rabid fans he hopes to quiet in the next round against the Sixers, as the show must go on.