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The Wright Stuff Week 7: The cyclical nature of competition in Delon’s world

Still no time for Wright this week, but other Raptors are picking up the slack. There’s an important balance to strike here, as new and old meet again on and off the court.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.

ACT 1

There was a nice touch of synchronicity this week in Toronto as four different men who play (or played) point guard for the Raptors found themselves in the same building at the same time. There’s some nice history to remember there — but also, a hierarchy.

For today, Kyle Lowry remains as the alpha; Cory Joseph, now on the Pacers, hangs in as the steady backup; Delon Wright is still injured; and Fred VanVleet is currently playing the best basketball of his career. All in all, quite a testament to the Raptors’ depth at the position.

I bounced over it there, but with Wright injured, and VanVleet playing, yes, the best basketball of his career, it’s fair to ask: how will these players fit together once the Raptors are at full strength?

When asked about Joseph, VanVleet was effusive in his praise, while also acknowledging how cool it was for CoJo to be boosting him at all. Remember: both Delon and FVV represented direct challenges to Joseph’s hold on the backup guard position. If they succeeded, it would (and ultimately did) come at the expense of Joseph. Now Wright and FVV are in Toronto and playing well, and Joseph was sent off from his hometown to play in Indiana.

It takes a big person (and a professional) to not only accept that reality, but to actively conjure it into being.

ACT 2

For a long while — almost 50 years — the film with the most Academy Award nominations of all time was All About Eve. It garnered 14 in total, but this fact shouldn’t surprise — it’s a film about the theatre (but really, the entertainment industry), anchored by a brilliant turn from one of the most famous (and best) actresses of all time, Bette Davis. It’s easy for Hollywood to nominate movies that are about Hollywood, even in a roundabout way. We see it again and again.

So then, the story: Margot Channing (Davis) is the grand dame of the theatre, the star of Broadway, without a worry in the world — except one: time. An actress can only stay on top for so long, and as she gets older Margot begins to worry her time on stage is coming to an end. Nevertheless, she meets Eve Harrington, a young fan, and welcomes her into the theatre world as her assistant. Maybe Margot sees something of herself in this hopeful woman. Maybe, as Eve manages to wiggle her way into Margot’s life and seize at her own chance for stardom, she knew this was how things would eventually go.

What follows in the film is not overly surprising. There are various behind-the-scenes bits of machinations involving a theatre critic (wryly played by George Sanders), and Margot’s good friend Karen (Celeste Holm). As time passes, Margot grows increasingly wary of Eve, just as Eve’s ambition (and nerve) grow in equal measure. Margot becomes convinced Eve is trying to usurp her whole life. And we become uncertain as to just what exactly Eve will do to secure her own success as an actress, star, and celebrity.

Just as things reach a head however, just as we’re sure a grand confrontation between Margot and Eve, along with their friends and lovers, it blows off in a different direction. What gradually dawns on Margot is that she’s still a person, a woman. There are relationships that are important, and they go beyond the industry in which she works. Margot’s friends, her fiancee, these are the people who will be at hand when the next crop of young actresses (and the next) roll in, and the celebrity attention turns away. These are the people who will give her life worth on and on through the years.

After all, the career arc with all its attendant machinations, the aspirations, the hopes, they’re all impossible to predict, aren’t they? (Marilyn Monroe’s brief appearance in a couple of scenes in the film act as testament to that.) And more importantly — most importantly — no matter what, they all have to end sometime. It’s something we have to accept.

ACT 3

But wait, let’s not suggest anything so dramatic as that in the Raptors locker room. Spend just a minute in there and it’s obvious to see that these guys respect and care about each other. If there’s competition, it’s healthy — a mutual pushing, a desire for all to be their best selves in pursuit of a team goal. It’s nice to see.

Just don’t also discount the cyclical nature of the NBA team, which twins neatly with the youth-orientated culture of Hollywood too. The old are eventually shuttled off, the new are brought in. When Margot finally cedes the floor to the rapacious Eve, we see the fulfilment of a wish by the latter. She’s made it, is on her way to be coming a star. But is she necessarily happy? Will she learn the lesson Margot ultimately learns? Only time will tell.

On Tuesday night, point guard from the past Muggsy Bogues was at the ACC too, a fifth member of the Raptors point guard fraternity. He didn’t interact with any of those aforementioned guys (at least not for the camera), but there he was anyway, a remembrance of things past. Bogues surely had his own fights in the league, and his own moment of acceptance when it was clear his days in the NBA were done.

You can draw the line back almost two decades right up to the present day with Delon Wright, battling for his spot with the Raptors.

The last scene of All About Eve plays out in a similar way, the next generation preparing to try on the clothes of the previous; the desire for success, for stardom, is truly never-ending.

And wouldn’t you know it, the latest film to be nominated for 14 Oscars? Everyone’s favourite ode to classic Hollywood and chasing your dreams: La La Land. The story changes, the cycle continues, and there’s competition on and on into the future.