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“Good Thunder vs. Evil Heat?” It’s more complicated than that.

Jun 12, 2012, 8:01 AM EDT

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven Getty Images

I did a national sports talk radio interview the other day and the first question asked was “is this really the good vs. evil finals?” It caught me a little off guard.

But they were not the first to ask it — it’s been a national story line for a while. The themes are simplistic and easy to grasp.

The Thunder are good because they built their team through the draft and picked up some smart free-agent role players. The Thunder are good because they are humble and Kevin Durant announced he was staying with the team on Twitter with no fanfare.

The Heat are evil because they “copped out” by joining forces as free agents to chase a title. The Heat are evil because LeBron James had an hour-long special on ESPN to announce his intentions, then they threw a huge pep rally in Miami for fans where LeBron said he was coming to town to win “not one, not two, not three…” all the way up to not seven championships.

That’s simplistic. And wrong. It’s a partial picture.

Why don’t we ask the people of Seattle how pure the Oklahoma City Thunder are. Others have said this more forcefully than I. Durant was drafted a Seattle SuperSonic, but thanks to inept politicians and an new owner in Clay Bennett who had no intention of keeping the team in Seattle, that fan base got screwed over. They lost their team.

What was Seattle’s big sin? The population refused to tax themselves to subsidize a billionaire with millions more for a new arena. The people of Oklahoma City — who have been a rabid and loyal fan base, one of the best in the league — voted to tax themselves to upgrade their arena to NBA levels for a team and to revitalize downtown. People tried to tell me on Twitter how this was just capitalism at work. No it’s not — public subsidies for an arena are the antithesis of capitalism — the private sector isn’t picking up the tab. You can decide for yourself if that tax money might have had a better use.

I think the people of Seattle did the noble and right thing and thought their tax dollars had higher uses. But sure, it’s the Heat who are evil.

If you’re going to argue that knowing how to play the system like OKC did to get a team is acceptable, then how is playing the system like Pat Riley did to build the Heat roster not acceptable? He took the huge risk to strip the roster down so he had cap room, he convinced three big stars all to take less money to play together and win — and isn’t that what we ask our stars to do? Don’t we want them to win more than get the largest paycheck? LeBron would be richer in Cleveland, but he wanted a ring more.

And spare me the “those three getting together is the easy way out” crap. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy — Kareem forced Milwaukee to trade him and the Lakers got the rights to draft Worthy in a deal so lopsided the league banned future ones like it. Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen and some other quality players around him. Bill Russell had more Hall of Famers than you can count. Super teams are what win, and the NBA has always had them.

Meanwhile, the public hatred of LeBron James has become overblown. What was his big sin? Hubris. He (and his advisors) handled his exit from Cleveland and choice of a new home base poorly. The Heat’s pep rally for fans was a public relations mistake. That none of LeBron’s advisors saw what this was doing to his reputation speaks poorly of them.

But of all the problems we have with professional athletes, is having a really big ego the biggest one? One that deserves this level of backlash?

Baseball and football have guys on HGH and steroids. The NFL has a concussion issue, as does the NHL. There are guys in every major sport getting arrested for ugly crimes, blowing through their money living a rock star lifestyle that fans don’t relate to.

LeBron’s done none of that. He’s still with his high school girl, is by all accounts a good father, never been arrested or ended up the focus of a TMZ scandal. He’s not perfect, but his sins are not so severe as to warrant the backlash that has come his way.

And remember, with his first contract after his rookie deal, LeBron did what Durant did — he stayed in Cleveland. He left after that deal ended when he wanted the chance to win more than a bigger paycheck.

By the way, Durant and LeBron get along really well. They worked out together during the lockout. They will team up this summer to represent the USA in the London Olympics.

You don’t have to hate the Thunder. You certainly don’t have to love LeBron and the Heat. Root for the Thunder, hope the Heat fail. Pull for where your heart lies.

But you need to do better than the simplistic “good vs. evil” storyline. Because it just doesn’t work. It’s more complicated than that.

  1. meroyero - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    This is about the players, who the hell cares about the front office? No one is calling it good vs. evil because of what went on behind the scenes, most people don’t even know or care about it. It’s about Durant vs. Lebron, and what people see as loyalty and humbleness vs. greed and arrogance. For you to even write this article that has no relevance at all just shows how pathetic you are in trying defend the Heat. The good vs. evil story appeals to the majority and what they see, so just let it be.

  2. mervsvikes - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    I am not a big basketball fan but I have 2 things to say:

    1) Are Heat fans always like this? I’d find them to be very annoying

    2) Why am I supposed to be impressed that this team has made it to 2 straight finals? LeBron went deep in the playoffs all alone on a regular basis. Wade was half of a duo that carried his team to a championship. Bosh was touted as one I the best 15 players in basketball. Why am I impressed that they made it to the finals twice. It’s basketball, all you need is one star and a support guy and you can do that. Win one title and you have started the process of vindication. If this group only ever wins one title though it is still a failure.

    • ceschatz - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      Name a team that only had one star and won a title

      • gpatrick15 - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:14 AM

        The 2004 Pistons had virtually no stars and won. Dallas won just last year with only one true star in Drik. But I do agree with what you’re saying for the most part. When the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Thunder, and Heat can throw their own variations of Big 3’s at you, that does give one star teams a slight disadvantage.

      • greenfissures - Jun 17, 2012 at 5:12 PM

        and the 94 Rockets behind an unstoppable Hakeem.

    • BrownsTown (the 1st one, not the new guy using my name) - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      “Are Heat fans always like this?”

      Yeah, humility isn’t their strong suit. Neither is articulating a point beyond callling everybody losers and using several variations of “hate” in every post. It’s great theater though.

    • southbeachtalent - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:20 PM

      Like what merv? Defending our team and our home town?

      Yes just like every other fan base in the world. If you haven’t noticed Heat articles receive much more comments than any other article, the majority are nay sayers and those whose heart LeBron has crushed.

      Rarely do you see a Heat fan in any other team’s articles bashing them. It sounds like you’ve joined the I hate anything Heat club. Welcome!

      And as to your last statement, I believe any team that doesn’t win a championship should consider their season a failure. Not just the Heat. Unless we are held to a different standard?

      • scalfor3 - Jun 12, 2012 at 5:59 PM

        “Rarely do you see a Heat fan in any other team’s articles bashing them.”

        you clearly haven’t read any celtics articles recently. kg, rondo and pierce all suck. the series wasn’t close even though it went to seven games.

  3. mungman69 - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    I’m ready to watch one heck of a series. I’ll take Miami +5 tonight.

  4. truthhurtstoo - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    mervscikes- last I checked the thunder has no rings, correct? The Heat and Wade have both rings and the MVP. Good thing you’re not a big basketball fan… it shows from your comments.

  5. dysraw1 - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    i don’t hate Lebron for signing with the Heat ,its just the less than manly way he went about it. and i do fault Cleveland for not stepping to him before the trade deadline. but the 1 thing i remember most is that every interview he kept saying his home town had the best shot at signing him, when he knew that wasn’t the case. as far as the pep rally i could less arrogant sure but who cares. and there is no doubt in my mind that there was something conspired with those three signing with the Heat. being a life long Knick fan i have always hated the Heat. but its funny because in 2006 when they won it all i was kinda rooting for them because they were the little guy. i picked OKC at start of the season as team to walk away with rings so thats who im rolling with. like i said in earlier post its hard to wash the stink of being a sellout.

    • southbeachtalent - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:27 PM

      “but the 1 thing i remember most is that every interview he kept saying his home town had the best shot at signing him, when he knew that wasn’t the case.”

      Wow that’s amazing…

      I thought Nostradamus was dead….

      • dysraw1 - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM

        you don’t have be Einstein to know you got screwed

  6. berbes - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    it’s good to see kurt has escaped his captors, gotten rid of the imposter, and has returned to being promo tool for the heat!

    • greenfissures - Jun 12, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      Why are they trying to tell us what to think? Why do they try so hard to sell the idea of Lebron on us? We’ll decide what this series means, not the mass media. We can smell it. And it stinks as much as “the decision.” Thunder in 6.

  7. mervsvikes - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Dirk did it as the only star just last year. And don’t try to sell me on terry, Haywood, or an ancient Kidd. There is a difference between guys that are really good role players and real stars. What about Detroit? Hamilton is good, not a superstar. Wallace? Role player. Teyshaun Prince? Role player. Before last year I looked at NBA player rankings and if I remember correctly LBJ was 1, Wade was 5, and Bosh was 12. Those are 3 players who should be the focal point of a single championship team all united. That is Jordan, bird, and Hakeem all on the same team. Saying that making it to two straight title games is a success is a big cop out and if you don’t think so you are selling your 3 stars way short.

    • angulocarlos1 - Jun 12, 2012 at 2:52 PM

      You my friend are an idiot, terry was a major reason why they won the finals

    • caseybojangles - Jun 12, 2012 at 6:25 PM

      hey…good idea picking a couple exceptions and thinking its voids the rule. even taking in to account your generous definition of “star”, only 3 teams won the NBA title since 1980 with only 1 “star”.

      clearly the RULE is that winning an nba title requires 2-3 star/exceptional players playing together.

  8. pastortodd78 - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Kurt did you research the tax in OKC at all? Because the information in your article shows you did not. It was a sales tax that was voted in in the late 80’s under the vision and leadership by former mayor Ron Norrick. It was to revitalize a dilapidated downtown area. This tax has been extended twice and has provided not only the Ford Center, but several parks, infrastructure projects, our riverwalk area, countless new schools and a new downtown library which is in the works. The tax is also not a compulsory tax. So yes it is capitalism. If you do not want to contribute to the project then you have had the right to shop outside the taxed area. It is that simple. Do some research on the issues please.

    • caseybojangles - Jun 12, 2012 at 6:36 PM

      taxes are not capitalism. taxes are the very defintion of socialism…the pooling of private money for the common good…for which we all accept to some degree or another (eg. police, schools, parks, etc.). taxes may be also democratically voted for which it seems it was in OKC so not a problem there but that’s not capitalism. capitalism is the owner paying for his own business expenses and thus making (or losing) money based on his own business decisions.

      just call a spade a spade…OKC was desparate for a big league sports team and you guys essentially bribed your way to it. you weren’t the first and you won’t be the last and who can blame the Supersonics owner for moving? it was a great business decision on his part.

      And by the way, without knowing the specifics of the OKC tax, my guess would be that the BUSINESSES located in that economic zone could not opt out if they wanted to. i’m in a similar situation in my current downtown where a redevelopment tax was imposed on all the businesses in a particular zone. no opting out of it. that makes us uncompetitive with businesses outside the zone.

  9. mervsvikes - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    The Heat should absolutely be held to a different standard. They took 60 percent of the starting USA Olympic squad and put them on one team when they were all in their mid 20s. Should team USA basketball be held to a different standard than team France basketball? Should the Philadelphia Phillies be held to a different standard than the Kansas City Royals? Heck yes. If you go out and sign two of the top 12 players in the NBA including the best player in the NBA to join your already top 5 player (who has proven he can carry a team to a championship) while they are all in their prime then you are automatically held to a different standard. You can’t fight that. That’s not brining in an above average center in gasol and a 17 year old hopeful big man in Bynum to help Kobe. This isn’t bringing in old castoff role player ray Allen and star Garnett to help out your top 15 pseudo-star in Pierce. This isn’t bringing in role player Kendrick Perkins to hopefully still be good if/when Westbrook and Durant prove they are stars. This is completely different. 3 young proven studs joining to do what most people see as taking the easy way out. This isn’t hate, this is realistic expectations. Being happy with finals appearances is not the attitude of a winner.

  10. emeraldcityfan - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    The City of Seattle is with you Miami. Just the thought of that carpet-bagger Bennett hoisting the championship trophy is enough for me to jump on your bandwagon. Win it for us suffering Sonics fans.

  11. trimaster1 - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Many are critical of him because they say he hasn’t won anything yet. It took Jordan 6-7 years to win his first. It doesn’t happen overnight. Anyway, he will still get hate no matter how many championships he wins. People just want to hate him.

    I believe when it’s all said and done, Lebron will win a minimum of 2 championships. His talent is undeniable, like him or not. Winning 7-8 isn’t realistic IMO.

    But I wonder how many people would hate him if he was traded to their team?

    And does this hate for Miami and buying a champioship translate to other sports? The Yankees have been buying championships for years…

  12. coyoteptm - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    I thought the whole point of sports was, “my team good, your team bad”. Ya, just like a caveman would say it.

  13. jnichols1210 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Obviously Kurt has no idea what the hell he is talking about, The Lakers of the 80’s , Celtics, Pistons, OKC all DRAFTED there talent, Miami did not!! LeBron bailed on Cleveland because he knew he could not win one without multiple STARS on his team. Yeah LeBron is a good player, but not championship material.

  14. mervsvikes - Jun 12, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Oh. Ok. So Jason Terry is on the same level in terms of supporting cast as Dwayne Wade. Terry is a great role player and he played great but if you put his talent on the same level as d-wade then I’m not the idiot. Is this how you Miami fans sleep at night? You just tell yourselves that LeBron, d-wade, and bosh are all just average guys trying to make it in a big mean world?

  15. abasketballthing - Jun 12, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    All of OKC’s perceived evils come from owners and politicians. Those are the people least associated with the team, and if they win, they won’t deserve nearly as much credit as the players, the coaches and the GM and his staff. Owners’ victories are measured in money, not rings. Most of them don’t care that much about winning, and Bennet certainly doesn’t. That’s why, if you’re not a former Sonics fan, it doesn’t make much sense to root against OKC, because the “evil” people have relatively little to do with the team’s victories and defeats. The Heat’s evil, on the other hand, is all about the players and the guy who brough those players in. They, along with Spoelstra, are the main reason why the team will win or lose. The ARE the Miami Heat. Clay Bennet is not an important part of the Thunder. You can hate him and his people all you want, but OKC losing won’t hurt him nearly as much as the Heat losing would hurt the big 3 and Pat Riley.

  16. farvite - Jun 12, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Howard Schultz can lick my……..

  17. ezwriter69 - Jun 12, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    So much for objectivity in reporting… what a crock, though hardly a surprise.
    They don’t have to be “evil” for me to root against them.
    You can’t be a King without a crown… even if you name yourself that, and answer the phone
    “This is The King”; without a crown, you’re a joke. And that’s why I root against him.
    You can’t be a King without a crown, and that’s why I will root against you, with more passion than I’ve had for years about basketball.
    Petty had seven crowns, Arnold Palmer had seven. They were The King of their sports.
    LeBron has: Not seven, not six, not five, not four, not three, not two, not even one, he has zero. No crown.
    Without a crown, you’re not a King. You’re NOT evil, but you’re anything BUT a King.

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