Jun 12, 2012, 8:01 AM EST
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.
Dec 10, 2013, 12:44 PM EST
This is as it should be. On Jan. 31 next year the Jazz are going to retire a number in honor of Jerry Sloan. For 23 years Sloan was the Utah Jazz — not the face of it (that would be John Stockton and Karl Malone) but the driving force behind a franchise that played…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Asked after the game Sunday night what he thought of his form in his return from an Achilles tendon rupture, Kobe Bryant said, ““Right now my form is a horse s— form” and gave himself an “F.” A day later, he softened his tone, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. “It wasn’t as…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that. Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:58 AM EST
Rudy Gay did not suit up for the Sacramento Kings Monday night. Not that they needed him, they got 32 from DeMarcus Cousins, 31 from Derrick Williams and 24 from Isaiah Thomas as they rolled to an impressive win over Dallas. However, when Gay (and Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray) walked into the building Monday…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:16 AM EST
Our own D.J. Foster asked this question in the Extra Pass this morning and he is not the only one: What is the point of the divisions in the NBA anymore? Teams don’t play the other teams in their division more than other teams now — the NBA has a “balanced schedule” where teams play…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:46 AM EST
Rudy who? The shorthanded Kings played well and put on a show in a win over Dallas Monday night. The highlight of that show? Isaiah Thomas on the fast break going off-the-backboard with the pass to Derrick Williams for the finish. Thomas had 24 points and 12 assists, Williams had a career-high 31 points in…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
Five ideas that could help make the NBA even greater: Offensive Goaltending: Let’s get rid of it. The “in the cylinder” call is routinely one of the toughest for refs to get right on the floor, and we know how the subsequent huddle and review process can suck the life out of a game. If it…
Dec 10, 2013, 3:14 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while glued to a toilet seat at Home Depot. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Note to Rudy Gay: Get this guy the ball. Not like you did with Jonas Valanciunas — actually get Cousins the rock. Cousins…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Not sure I have ever seen this before. Early in the Clippers eventual easy win over the Sixers Chris Paul puts up a shot and because DeAndre Jordan‘s man had rotated over to help on the drive it left Tony Wroten — all 6’5″, 205 five of him — trying to keep Jordan off the…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
Al Harrington, who at 33 has been battling knee issues since last season when he has an infection in there, issues that have kept him out since Nov. 12, is now going to be out a while longer. Harrington had knee surgery again on Monday and will be out at least a month, the Wizards…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:24 PM EST
Tyreke Evans drove to attack Kevin Durant off the dribble Friday night — Evans had been very aggressive all game, largely carrying the reserves in the first half — he went up for the shot and when he can down he sprained his ankle. That sprain is going to keep him out a week, maybe…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:20 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back with the Lakers and frankly that’s just good for the NBA — it’s a star driven league and it needs its elite players on the court. That said Kobe looked rusty and his teammates clearly were not used to playing with him in the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday. Kay…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:39 PM EST
The Milwaukee Bucks were already without Larry Sanders, who needed surgery to repair torn ligaments in his hand after a bar fight, and now this. Zaza Pachulia will be out at least four weeks with a broken bone in his foot, coach Larry Drew announced Monday. It is the calcaneus bone, what most of us…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:01 PM EST
As we told you earlier was likely to happen, Stephen Jackson has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Clippers. For one, Doc Rivers confirmed it to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Second, Jackson himself posted this on Instagram. The Clippers need some depth on the wing because J.J. Redick is out with…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:03 PM EST
“I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.” —Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, talking about the eight months he was forced out of action due to his ruptured Achilese. Bryant, as his his nature, had to work hard to get back on the court 240 days after…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:53 PM EST
The general rule of thumb is 20 games into the season you can start to really trust the stats and the trends — in which case it’s good to be a Portland Trail Blazers fan. They move into the top slot with their recent wins over Indiana and OKC. 1. Trail Blazers (17-4, Last Week…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:08 PM EST
Knicks fans could use a little good news, so we’re here to help out. Tyson Chandler’s return from a broken leg should be here in the next few weeks. Chandler returned to practice on Monday, in a limited role, then told reporters he thought he would be back before New Year’s Day, as tweeted by…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Minnesota’s Corey Brewer, you’re the next contestant on “pay some money to NBA Charities for flopping!” The league announced Monday that Brewer has been fined $5,000 for his second flopping offense of the season. His first came against the Knicks earlier in the year, this new one was against the Heat on Saturday, when he…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
Memphis extended the contract of Quincy Pondexter this summer thinking they had secured a solid outside shooter they desperately needed at a fair price. Now they may have lost him for the season. An MRI Monday revealed a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, the team announced. That’s a small bone near the…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:59 PM EST
Dwight Howard turned 28 on Sunday. (Maybe that’s why Kobe decided to not play Friday and wait until Sunday… nah.) Howard celebrated by dropping 20 points and grabbing 22 rebounds on his old Orlando Magic team (you knew he’d be up for that game) then the team went out bowling with his Rockets’ teammates —…
- A day later, Kobe didn’t think he played quite so bad 0
- Why question “When did basketball get so bad?” misses mark 2
- Adam Silver: NBA to consider doing away with divisions 11
- The Extra Pass: Five quick ways to improve the league; plus Monday’s Recaps 14
- Monday night NBA Grades: DeMarcus Cousins was in beast mode 3
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (65)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (54)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (47)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (43)
- Durant tells “60 Minutes Sports” he’s still tired of being No. 2 (35)