NBA

From My Blog: June 12, 2010 LeBron vs. Durant

A year ago today, I was seeing stars:

At many points in this series the following young men will all be on the court simultaneously: LeBron, Kevin, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. This is a series that any sports fan can get excited about. It’s a series that we should have at least 2 or 3 more chances to see over the next few years. A rivalry to compare to Magic & Bird (hopefully).

A year later, Harden is a star in Houston, Westbrook got injured and KD couldn't do it alone. Now, three games into a Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs, LeBron may have to try doing it alone as well. I don't like his chances much more than I liked Durant's.

I still say that the Spurs don't shoot that well again. I say LeBron isn't hushed offensively for another game. Not one more. I say that Wade and Bosh find their mojo again. And while the Spurs still may win, I'll take the Heat. In 6. And like my chances.

As to last year's finals. I still believe that we'll see at least two more Durant vs. LeBron series, but I'm not nearly as certain they will be Thunder vs. Heat series.

A Little Rogue's Dreams: Why Heat vs Spurs Makes Me Feel Like a Kid Again

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Tonight, the NBA Finals begin. The San Antonio Spurs seek their 5th Championship under the historic reign of Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan. They face the defending champions, the Miami Heat, Led by reigning NBA MVP, LeBron James. In 2007, James led the Cleveland Cavaliers against this a San Antonio team comprised of the same three leaders (Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli) and coach (Popovich). James said yesterday and interviews that he was humbled in that finals appearance. A feeling that he'll never forget.

It's a series I'll never forget it either. I've always been a basketball fan, as long as I can remember. Jordan, of course, was my first idol. Nike's commercial series was nothing if not effective in planting (in perhaps every child in the Western Hemisphere's mind) that they wanted to be "like Mike". God I did. I still do.

This past Monday night, as Honeybun and I watched LeBron and the Heat win their third consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, I told her that even now, I'd give up almost anything to have the physical abilities and size to play professional basketball. It's silly but it is my dream.

That dream started with Michael breaking free from gravity and defying his opponents to win again and again and again. It didn't take long to realize that a dream was all it would ever be, while there have been small players throughout the history of the league and desire and hard work can achieve a lot, the tallest anyone has ever been able to credibly described me as is "around 5 foot 9" and that was being generous.

I'd never play at the highest level (honestly, I never played at many of the lower levels), but I've always followed the sport and I always intend to. LeBron James came back into the league I was reborn anew as a fan. I literally made a T-shirt. During his first year in the playoffs the popular "Witness" T-shirts were ever-present in the city of Cleveland, and I'm sure in other major cities around the countr,y but in my neck of the woods there were none to be had. So I bought a black T-shirt, and I printed out an iron-on transfer and I made my own shirt. I was a fanboy there's no doubt about it.

I haven't made a shirt since then, but my love for LeBron has not faded. I understood when he made, "The Decision" but was worried that he'd never find the greatness that I once imagined he would achieve. I don't know exactly what it was that flipped the switch for LeBron, writers better than I have speculated on it already and someday I'm sure a great book will be written about it. But he's made it to the top of his powers and mental abilities seemingly earlier in his physical prime than almost any other player in NBA history. He does this all while having an unbelievable understanding of and appreciation for the history of the game. He respects and loves the NBA and basketball in general at least as much as any active player. It turns out LeBron's a fan just like us. Well, not just like us.

I'll stop my little love note to LeBron here with this:

That series against the Spurs during his Cleveland days was as much a heartbreak to me as the fans there in Cleveland. While I can't know exactly what it is to stand at the top of my profession and then be humbled on a public, international stage. But I do know what it is like to see a seemingly unbeatable hero bruised and broken.

When I was a kid I read comic books, and just as I was reaching adolescents DC Comics decided to kill Superman. Of course they brought him back, but that storyline changed something to me at least. The status quo could be broken, icons could fall, heroes could die.

When the Spurs beat LeBron up in 2007 was a little bit like reading that "Death of Superman" comic book. It took quite a while but just like in the comic books where Superman was reborn and finally got a rematch with Doomsday, LeBron has got a chance to exorcise some old demons and make sure that the heroes come out on top again. Maybe it's time to go get another iron-on.

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From My Blog May 4, 2006: We Are All Witnesses

8 years ago today, I was amazed by LeBron James:

LeBron has shown an ability to grow as a player and a leader that leaves me no doubt, that he will become one of the greatest players ever. And I get to watch. I get to watch his whole career, understanding the importance of every record he shatters. I get to appreciate his awareness of and admiration for those that came before him. I get to tell my kids about how I watched King James drop a triple double his first night in the postseason. I am a Witness. And damn, am I proud.

It took him a long time to finally grab the crown and the ring that comes with it, but now as he continues his first title defense, I'm convinced that barring injury, LeBron James will be widely recognized as the greatest basketball player of all time when he retires.

This season has been amazing, both for the records he and his team have broken and for the work-man-like way they've gone about it. It has been easy to overlook them this year, to forget how impressive the streak was or how accurate LeBron has become from the floor. But don't forget. Savor it. You're watching a Master at work, at the height of his abilities. Basketball fan or no, LeBron fan or no, Greatness is always worth watching and appreciating.

8 years later, I'm still appreciative. I'm still a Witness.

To compensate for Durant’s lack of bulk and defensive savvy, Harden, a 6-foot-5 guard, is taking on Baby Mailman. It’s not fair. It’s foolish. Brooks is going to have to leave Thabo Sefolosha on the court for 36 minutes and let the Swiss swingman deal with James and hope Harden can find his shot in Game 5.Jason Whitlock, explaining the only option the OKC Thunder have now for Game 5.

As well as I thought James played in Game 3, his Game 4 was legendary. It was a complete game. He took the Thunder apart even when they were having one of their best shooting nights of the series. I cannot get enough of this series! 

Game 2

James had his fifth straight 30-point game, breaking Wade’s franchise playoff record, and added eight rebounds. He defended Durant early in Game 1 and helped put the league’s scoring champion in early foul trouble, just one of the problems the Thunder had early.

Looking at Game 2 this morning. In the “LeBron vs. Durant” record books, this one goes down slightly in LeBron’s favor. But it’s close. Much closer than I thought it was. The foul trouble cannot be overstated. LeBron worked Durant hard early in the game and it broke up his rhythm. The refs no-called Kevin’s 6th foul and then made it up with swallowing the whistle on LeBron’s block. But the Thunder almost came back again. They’re dangerous. I still think the Heat win this series, but it’s not just a matter of the Big 3 gelling anymore.

To beat this Thunder team next year and in the years to come, the Miami Heat need more than they have right now. Another big man, a real point guard that doesn’t have to get verbally abused to play properly, maybe a younger Battier. But the window in which the Heat’s experience and savvy can overcome the Thunder’s athleticism is closing swiftly.

These guys (Durant first and foremost) are ready now.

LeBron vs. Durant

I woke up this morning (in a house without power) and thought to myself, I’m going to see Game 1 of LeBron James and the Miami Heat vs. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the NBA Championship.

At many points in this series the following young men will all be on the court simultaneously: LeBron, Kevin, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. This is a series that any sports fan can get excited about. It’s a series that we should have at least 2 or 3 more chances to see over the next few years. A rivalry to compare to Magic & Bird (hopefully).

For a guy like me that’s loved the NBA since he can remember, that’s loved LeBron James since he first appeared on ESPN, that’s loved Kevin Durant since Greg Oden got drafted above him, this is Christmas and birthdays and “sorry your puppy died, here’s some ice cream” all rolled into one. This series should be epic. Get your popcorn.

LeBron vs. Durant

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nbaoffseason:

This marks the 25th time that LeBron James has played a game against these Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs, and what with the looming breakup of Boston’s original “Big 3” it is probably the last time.

The score? 12 wins for Boston; 12 wins for LeBron.

Game 7 is not just the tie-breaker in this series. It is THE tie-breaker. All the marbles.

(stat courtesy Brian Windhorst)

Had no idea about this stat. What a great chapter this series will make in the Book of Basketball.

This was LeBron James’s entire career being put on trial … and it only took an hour for him to tell the jury, “Go home. I’m one of the best players ever. Stop picking me apart. Stop talking about the things I can’t do. Stop holding me to standards that have never been applied to any other NBA player. Stop blaming me for an admittedly dumb decision I never should have made. Stop saying I’m weak. Stop saying that I don’t want to win. Stop. Just … stop.Bill Simmons. Being brilliant as usual.

We all felt it on the bench. It seemed like that 3 minutes lasted forever. It was special. I’ll talk about that forever, just knowing being down 20 and these people are still standing up, cheering us on, because they know we just have to win one game.

Ray Allen on fans chanting “Let’s go Celtics” in the waning moments of Game 6, setting up some interesting side theater heading into an already epic Game 7. (via nbaoffseason)

Of course, then the Boston fans ruined all the goodwill I was feeling for them by throwing beer in LeBron on his way outbox the arena. Classy.