Remember when this post made sense? Because it doesn't anymore.Heel Face Turn
(heel fas' turn) noun.
When a formerly (and widely recognized) "bad guy" becomes a "good guy."Usage example: Zach Randolph pulled a heel face turn this season
In Professional Wrestling, an evil wrestler (known as a "heel") sometimes has a change of heart and becomes good, transforming into a "babyface." The term for this is "Heel Face Turn."
The Heel Face Turn, or the concept at least, didn't originate in Professional Wrestling. It's actually a pretty common literary device. One of the most well-known Heel Face Turns occurs when Ebenezer Scrooge goes from being an evil old miser to a loving bastion of generosity in Charles Dickens' 1843 novel A Christmas Carol
. A similar metamorphosis happened to the Grinch in Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Don't get me wrong. The Heel Face Turn isn't limited to Christmas stories. For example, take Dolokhov in War and Peace
, Edmund in King Lear
, or Inspector Javert in Les Misérables
. They all did Heel Face Turns.
Of course, the Heel Face Turn happens in movies all the time. A classic example was when Arnie's T-800 was sent back in time to save
John Connor in Terminator 2
. But the best film example -- and maybe the most well-recognized modern example -- was when Darth Vader turned on Emperor Palpatine to save his son in Return of the Jedi
The Heel Face Turn happens in real life, too. Take the story of Johann Blumenbach, the man who helped popularize the concept of "scientific" racism, known as eugenics. Blumenbach went on to fall in love with a black woman and spent much of the rest of his career trying to undo his mistakes.
In the realm of real life, though, Heel Face Turns happen most often in sports. Take the (relatively recent) story of Brett Favre, who went from a tormenter of the Vikings to a hero that nearly led them to a Super Bowl (and then, of course, blew his hero status to hell by playing like feces the next season).
This happens periodically in the NBA as well. Just this season, Zach Randolph went from heel to babyface right before our eyes. There wasn't a large deviation in his stats, which remained similar to his career numbers
, but he seemingly became more interested in contributing to a winning situation than "getting his."
For most of his career, Z-Bo had annoyed and/or astounded his coaches and teammates by displaying a shockingly low basketball IQ. I mean, here was a guy who was unstoppable in the paint, but who would jack up three-pointers in critical situations. Nobody knew quite what to expect from Zach...other than that he would make the worst conceivable decision and the worst possible time.
Until this season. Remember, prior to the 2010-11 campaign, Randolph was widely considered a loafer at best and a head case at worst. In essence, he was seen as a better (and let fat) version of Eddy Curry.
Randolph's Heel Face Turn happened slowly over the course of the season, but his clutch dismantling of the Spurs in the first round of the 2011 Western Conference Playoffs was "The Moment" when his transformation became complete. The change didn't only change the public perception. It seems (unless I'm way off here) to have changed Randolph's perception of himself. Take the Grizzlies' second round series against the Thunder. If you watched it, you know Oklahoma City's anti-Randolph strategy was to play Z-Bo as physically as possible. They grabbed him, held him, sometimes arm-locked him and often delivered "harder than strictly necessary" fouls.
The old Zach, I'm convinced, would have eventually lost his shit and thrown a punch
. Or at least flipped somebody off
. I mean, we're talking about a guy who once face-punched a teammate in practice
. And there were times I think he really wanted to do that to somebody on the Thunder. But when those situations presented themselves, he could be seen visibly calming himself and then patting his defender(s) on the back and saying something like, "Good foul, man."
It wasn't just a career transformation. It was a life transformation.
Other notable Heel Face Turns include:
Wilt Chamberlain, who became a hero in the later stages of his career, if only because NBA fans had become threatened by the emergence (and political/religious leanings of) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kareem also did a Heel Face Turn during the second half of his stint with the Lakers. He went from being a cold, angry black man who aroused fear and resentment to a wise elder statesman and a winner. (It helped that he was paired with the irresistibly charismatic Magic Johnson. In point of fact, Magic's demeanor may have done more to change perception about Kareem than anything Abdul-Jabbar did himself.)
Dennis Rodman experienced a lesser version of the Heel Face Turn when he -- a former Bad Boy Piston and certified villain in Chicago -- joined forces with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls.
Shaq, who for years had been seen as a fearsome (and, at times, spiteful) goliath who used his mammoth strength (and uncalled offensive fouls) rather than skill to power his way to the basket, became a sympathetic figure when the Lakers seemingly took sides in the big man's feud with teammate Kobe Bryant, shipping O'Neal to the Miami Heat and rebuilding around Bryant despite the fact that Shaq had been the foundation of their three most recent NBA titles.
Kobe himself went from a near pariah -- thanks largely to accusations of rape, allegations that he threw Shaq under the bus during those rape accusations by telling police that O'Neal paid his lovers off to ensure their silence, for allegedly demanding the Lakers ship Shaq out of town, and, of course, his on court selfishness -- to redeemed MVP and "The Man" on back-to-back championship teams. However, this wasn't a true Heel Face Turn, given that a very large segment of the NBA fandom still despises Bryant.
The flip side to the Heel Face Turn is the Face Heel Turn, in which a good guy becomes a bad guy. Real life Face Heel Turn examples include Marcus Brutus and Benedict Arnold. Or, using a previous example, Brett Favre. After all, Favre became a Heel in the eyes of Green Bay fans (and many other NFL fans as well) when he retired from the Packers, unretired, joined the Jets, re-retired, unretired again, joined the Vikings, re-re-retired, unretired yet again, rejoined the Vikings, re-re-re-retired, etc.
In the NBA, LeBron James did what may be the biggest Face Heel Turn in the history of sports Face Heel Turns. After years of leading his "hometown" Cavaliers -- and, in fact, promising not to stop until he led Cleveland to a championship -- he spurned the city and team that loved him with manic desperation to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. As we all know, it wasn't so much that
he did it as how
he did it, in a public TV spectacle that was aired on ESPN to feed his titanic ego...as if he could possibly have needed any ego-stroking. This, of course, came on the heels of several years worth of rabid speculation
that has turned Cavs fansa and management into a bunch of paranoid basket cases.
In many ways, LeBron's Face Heel Turn mirrors my personal all-time favorite Face Heel Turn...by Hulk Hogan at WCW's Bash at the Beach in 1996
And here's a funtastic extra: In this thread
transcribes Hogan's words from the bash, as if it was what LeBron really said during The Decision. In this case, Dwayne Wade would be Scott Hall and Chris Bosh would be Kevin Nash.
Michael Wilbon: LeBron James, excuse me. Excuse me. What in the world are you thinking?Usage note:
LeBron James: Wilbon, the first thing you gotta do is to tell these people to shut up if they want to hear what I've gotta say.
Michael Wilbon: I have been covering you for so many years...for you to join up with the likes of these two men absoulutely makes me SICK to my stomach! And I think that these people here and this circus? The whole basketball world have had just about enough of this man and this man and you want to put yourself in this group? You've gotta be...kidding me!
LeBron James: Well the first thing you've gotta realize brother -- is that this right here is the future of basketball. You can call this the New World Order of basketball, brother. These two men were tired of losing and everybody was wondering about who the third man was. Well, who knows more about losing in the playoffs than me, brother?
Michael Wilbon: I've covered lots of great athletes and seen how built their legacy with their original team. You have made the wrong decision in my opinion.
LeBron James: Well let me tell you something, I made the Cleveland Cavaliers, brother! I made the people rich up there. I made the people that ran that organization rich up there. And when it all came to pass, the name LeBron James, the man LeBron James got bigger than the entire organization, brother! And then James Dolan amigo, he wanted to talk turkey with LeBron James. Well, James Dolan promised me endorsements brother. James Dolan promised me a trillion dollars. And James Dolan promised me world-class teammates. Amar'e Stoudemire??? So as far as James Dolan, Dan Gilbert and the rest of the NBA goes, I'm bored brother. That's why I want these two guys here, these so called All-Stars, these are the men I want as my friends. They are the new blood of professional basketball and not only are we going to take over the whole NBA, with LeBron James, the new blood and these monsters with me. We will destroy everything in our path Wilbon.
Michael Wilbon: [referring to the garbage being thrown in their direction] Look at all of this crap at your feet! This is what's in the future for you if you want to hang around the likes of this man Wade, and this man Bosh.
LeBron James: As far as I'm concerned, all of this crap represents the fans out there. For seven years brother! For seven years, I held my head high. I did everything for the charities. I did everything for the kids. And the reception I got when I announced my decision? You Cavalier fans can stick it, brother! Because if it wasn't for LeBron James, you people wouldn't be here. If it wasn't for LeBron James, Mike Brown would be selling meat from a truck in Indianapolis. And if it wasn't for LeBron James, all of these "Johnny come-lately bandwagon fans" that you see out here - basketball wouldn't exist in Cleveland! I was selling the world out brother as an 18-year old while they were waiting tables to get through college. So the way it is now brother, with LeBron James and the New World Order of basketball brother, me and the new blood by my side. Whatcha gonna do when the New World Order runs wild on you? Whatcha gonna do?
LeBron James: [Grabs Wilbon] What are you gonna do?
Michael Wilbon: Hey, don't touch me! Don't touch me, I'm going to see the lawyers! Stu, Jim, Chris, Dammit let's get back to you!
Stuart Scott: All right. We have seen the end of LeBronamania. For Chris Broussard, for Jim Gray, For Michael Wilbon, I don't know...I'm Stuart Scott. LeBron James, you can go to hell! We're outta here. Straight to hell.
Stuart Scott: Boo-yah!
Many times, you'll see Heel Face Turn shortened to simply "Face Turn" and Face Heel Turn" truncated to "Heel Turn." That's how I typically do it, anyway.Contribute!
Can you remember an NBA-related Heel Face Turn or Face Heel Turn I didn't mention? Leave it in the comments. The best submissions will be added to this post.References: Television Tropes and Idioms
; Wikipedia Glossary of Professional Wrestling Terms
Labels: Face Heel Turn, Heel Face Turn, Hulk Hogan, Lebron James, Word of the Day, Zach Randolph