Jun 12, 2012, 8:01 AM EDT
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.
May 25, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
After the Pacers took Game 2 from the Heat by defending well enough to get LeBron James to turn the ball over on consecutive possessions with the game on the line, Gorge Hill was asked if there was any player in the world more dangerous with the ball in that situation. “Yeah, it’s only like…
May 25, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT
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May 25, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
LeBron James won Game 1 against the Pacers in the final moments, with two drives to the basket for scores in the final 10 seconds of overtime. To say he lost Game 2 in a similar manner would be overstating things a bit, but James did commit two turnovers on consecutive possessions with under a…
May 25, 2013, 1:49 AM EDT
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May 25, 2013, 12:45 AM EDT
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May 25, 2013, 12:06 AM EDT
As the final seconds of the third quarter wound down, Paul George dribbled at the top and sized up LeBron James, arguably the NBA’s best wing defender. Without the benefit of LeBron overplaying him or the absence of a rim protector, George drove left past LeBron and ferociously dunked over Chris Andersen as a foul…
May 24, 2013, 11:11 PM EDT
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May 24, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT
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May 24, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
First Jim Boeheim has Carmelo Anthony’s back, now it’s time for another coach to get a former star’s back. Kentucky coach John Calipari was on the Adam “the Bull” & Dustin Fox show on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, and when asked about Derrick Rose and his injury — and the heat he took in…
May 24, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
In Hollywood, they call that chewing up the scenery. Memphis guard Tony Allen has been fined $5,000 by the league for his overacting — technically violating the league’s anti-flopping policy — on that play. Make no mistake, Manu Ginobili fouled Allen hard on this crucial late-game play — the Grizzlies were down four with :26…
May 24, 2013, 3:29 PM EDT
Early in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Pacers, Ian Mahinmi grabbed LeBron James by the arm as he went up for the shot, causing James to fall a bit awkwardly as he crashed to the floor. It was ruled as a common foul at the time, but has since…
May 24, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
The Clippers’ head coaching job is undoubtedly the most intriguing out of all of the ones that are currently open for next season. Assuming Chris Paul re-signs with the team in free agency, L.A. will return the core of a team that was talented enough to win 56 regular season games and two in the…
May 24, 2013, 2:34 PM EDT
To answer your first question, that is Todd MacCulloch getting dunked on. He played for the Nets in 2002. That was one of those years when the real NBA finals was the Lakers vs. Kings in the Western Conference Finals — whichever team got through that war was going to steamroll New Jersey. Which is…
May 24, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT
George Hill had a rough Game 1 for the Pacers — 2-of-9 shooting for five points with three turnovers. Plus, he sprained his big toe. I’m serious, he’s getting treatment and everything. The news comes from the twitter account of Mark Montieth of Pacers.com. George Hill has sprained left big toe, from Game 1. Had…
May 24, 2013, 1:22 PM EDT
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May 24, 2013, 1:19 PM EDT
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May 24, 2013, 1:12 PM EDT
In their Thursday press availabilities, the tones between the Heat and Pacers were different. Indiana may have lost Game 1 but there was an optimistic “we can beat these guys” vibe around the team. Miami may be up 1-0 but there was more of a “that was not us, we can play a lot better”…
May 24, 2013, 12:51 PM EDT
The Raptors’ pursuit of Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri is kicking into high gear. Toronto received permission to speak with Ujiri, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke is aggressively pursuing Ujiri to become the Raptors’ general manager and plans to present an offer that will pay…
May 24, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT
If I’d had a vote, Greivis Vasquez would have gotten mine for Most Improved Player award — the third-year guard averaged 13.9 points and 9 assists per game for the then Hornets (now Pelicans) this past season, playing smart basketball along the way for a team that was grooming Anthony Davis and waiting for Eric…
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