Don’t Let Fandom Get In The Way Of The 2012 NBA Finals

Courtesy: Dustin Watson

Wanting something as a sports fan is strikingly similar to wanting a toy as a young child. We can ask the what if this happens question, just like a little kid asks may I please have this 10 times before you leave the toy section. We pray that something so memorable happens that it leaves an imprint on our brains for the rest of our life, just like how a child that is now grown up looks at the toy and remembers all of the good times they had while playing with.

As sports fans we want to be spoiled just like a little kid. Before a season in any sport starts the same question is asked, “Who do you think will be in the finals?” The most popular answer always has teams that feature the most idolized players in the league. This is due to the fact that we live in a sports society that is infested with the idea of having a matchup that can read like a billboard.

Manning Vs. Brady (any top 5 QB matchup would have the same effect)

Yankees vs. Dodgers

Pacquiao vs. Mayweather (Or Austin vs. The Rock, same thing)

Lebron vs. Durant

We’re about to be spoiled. If you’re even a casual fan of the NBA, chances are that you’ve got the dates of the finals memorized by this point because you’ve realized that by missing a game of this series you’re not only missing a part of modern history, but you’ll be out of the loop. This is going to be the highest rated finals since the Jordan era.

Maybe it’s not ironic then that this final series of the 2011-12 NBA season is going to feature the two players that every single fan in the entire Milky Way galaxy so anxiously wants to be the next MJ.

At some point they have to realize that no one else is going to be the next Jordan right? I mean his doppelganger already resides in the city of angles, but people seem to over look that fact because of the hype that Lebron has carried into the league since 2003. Immediately LBJ gave us a first sip that left us begging for more (he averaged 20.0/5.5/5.9 in his rookie season joining a rookie club that only MJ and Oscar Robertson previously occupied, Tyreke Evans has since joined the club). As the years progressed, our expectations grew and grew to a tipping point.

That’s why The Decision stung so badly. Our expectations of Lebron had evolved off of the wooden floor where he dazzles us on a nightly basis. He had reached a point where he was expected to do no wrong (a la Tiger Woods) and in one fell swoop he ignited a simultaneous fire inside the sports media, public, Cleveland and on his own jerseys. No longer was James viewed as the successor to Michael, instead he became the most scrutinized athlete in the history of sports.

Coming into this season Lebron wanted to turn around the “villain” persona that plagued him last season, but there was one huge problem. The world wasn’t, isn’t, and maybe never will be ready to let Don Johnson’s advice come to fruition:

I find it astonishing how people are able to watch him play and not think to themselves “I’m watching the best player in the world right now” and instead they’ll find something to nitpick at. After a Wilt like performance in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Skip Bayless felt the need to tweet that the game did not prove that Lebron was clutch.

No Skip, game 6 proved that Lebron wasn’t ready to give you material to fill for the next three months, while you wait to stroke Tim Tebow’s biceps (that’s directed at First Take Skip, I’ve heard that he is a completely different person off of the camera).

For God sakes he had a performance that hasn’t been done since the most stat obsessed player in the history of the league put up those numbers 42 years ago and yet people still don’t seem to get it. LBJ is way more of a Magic Johnson type player than Michael, just like Durant is more of a George Gervin clone (with a 3 point shot in his arsenal), but our society has become such an ADD culture that we forget to consider the fact that we may never see another Michael come along, just like we may never see another Lebron, just like we may never see another Durant.

That’s what pisses me off the most when I hear someone say something so idiotic about Lebron, I so badly want to yell out “Do you have any appreciation for the game!? Yes I understand ESPN is shoving the Heat down our throats on an hourly basis, but you have to look past that!”

If someone counter argues with “Lebron is the most frustrating player in the league to watch” then we’ll be in business for a discussion because at times he is exactly that. The first half of game 7 of the ECF was a perfect example of why that argument has legs.

As I took notes during the game I kept writing things like, where is Lebron, when is he going to stop standing around and go into the Resident Evil killer dog mode. Slowly but surely he morphed into the damn you I’m going to play hard but not kill myself, so I still need you D Wade mode, which is a third cousin of the fuck you we’re winning this game mode that we saw in game 6. It wasn’t the dominant type of performance that would leave the critics with little to say, but it was good enough to get the job done.

***

Kevin Durant is beloved for all of the reasons that Lebron is hated. I’ll  list all of them for you:

Durant:

– Cherished by the most passionate fan base in the entire league. Goosebumps occur every time I rewatch the last 30 seconds of game 6. I think maybe three fans that attended a game throughout the postseason in OKC didn’t wear the blue or white shirts that were given out, that says something.

– Ends games with a cold blooded like stare that makes you believe he’s wired differently. This is why Jordan comparisons will inevitably grow between the two, especially if he knocks down one of these in the Finals:

– In a sports society that loves offense, Durant is the posterchild for this movement. Charles Barkley has stated that he believes that we have never seen a player in the history of the league with the type of offensive ability that KD has.

– A spokesman for Doo Doo Jump.

– The leader of the most fun team to root for in the league. I haven’t seen one person come across the realm of social media saying anything negative about Durant. People want to see him win, not one.. not two.. you know where I’m going with this.

Lebron:

– Plastically beloved by one of the worst fan bases in the league. I’m trying to keep this objective, but it’s really hard when massive amounts of “fans” are filing out in a close game, with less than three minutes to go, in what could be the last home game of the season.

– Makes what he believes is the smart play in the end of a game scenario, usually this means passing the ball to an open teammate, which is the correct play. Or he’ll stand in the corner in order to let Wade take the last shot. Avoiding this late game situation has only made the public perception of him worse.

– The best two way player in the league possibly ever after everything is said in done. It’s a shame that his defensive ability is overlooked by the massive amount of “haters” that are out there.

– Starred in the most popular viral sports video of last year, which doubled as a video promo that made Vince McMahon jealous. It only took a minute and a half for Lebron to get over as a bad guy, it took Vince 4 months of getting stunnered to get himself over.

– The assistant captain of the most fun team to root against in the league.

As I stated above it’s impossible to not root for the Thunder and specifically for Durant (unless you live in the Seattle area in which case you have a legitimate reason). In his first five seasons he’s done everything correctly in terms of public perception. He comes off as the type of person that you want to see succeed for a long time. I ask how could you not smile when he lost track of time in game 6 and went over to hug his mother. You can’t! We can all relate to that. We can picture ourselves doing the same exact thing if the opportunity presented itself. If Lebron did that his mom would be ridiculed for the color of her nails, or someone would make a comment about where he gets his hairline from. Twitter can be brutal.

I’m sure as a kid Durant dreamed of playing in the NBA finals; everyone who has ever picked up a piece of sporting equipment and played by themselves simulates the final sequence of a championship game. I’ve made the putt to win The Masters 100 times by the time I was 13. Durant now finally has the chance to play for his first professional title.

The eyes of every basketball fan in the world will be on this series with the overwhelming majority rooting for Durant to send the villain and his squad of bandits back home.

I just hope that we as a sporting community realize that we have been spoiled by this matchup. The stars had to align perfectly in order for this to happen. I know this request is impossible to adhere to, but can we just tone down the fandom and watch the series for what it will be, a matchup of the two future best players of our generation.

It might only happen once, let’s not ruin it.

Follow me on twitter @scottdargis.

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