If you were to draw a Venn Diagram for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, you’ll quickly see how the comparisons between the two are unmistakable and apparent – and how it will only be adding in the coming month.
They are both considered to be the two most marketable players and faces of the league. They are both high school prodigies-turned league MVPs, All-Star Game MVPs, scoring champions, Olympic Gold medalists, and year in and year out, All-Defensive and All-Offensive First Team players – you get the point.
They’ve both overcome troubles off the court. Bryant was once loathed for his extramarital affairs. James was, and still is, reviled for his “Decision” last summer.
Now, in two weeks, they will meet in the middle once again as James will add the one accolade that has eluded him thus far in his eight-year career: “NBA Champion.”
As everyone criticized the Miami Heat the entire season, I slowly jumped off their back. After all, when grown men cry, as they did after that March 6th beat down from the Bulls, you tend to offer sympathy and not beat them over the head with a Gatorade bottle.
I once wrote “The formation of LeBroshAde is like Hugh Hefner’s bedroom, a lot of wasted talent,” and although still very true, the Heat accomplished in their first year what many said could not be done, and that was by reaching the Finals.
Let me say what a humbled LeBron James will not say. “I am bringing the championship trophy to South Beach.” Isn’t that what major sports is all about these days? To get your first major contract out of the way, then piggy back with other stars to win a championship…? The Boston Celtics showed how it’s done. As have the Detroit Pistons and pre-LeBron Heat in recent years. The Lakers tried to do it in 2003 with Karl Malone and Gary Payton, but then their bodies remembered they were better suited for sitting in suits. So why are we blaming the Heatles?
Over the course of the last two months, I’ve grown to like the Erik Spoelstra-coached Miami Heat and their newly formed demeanor, none more so than James, who is re-inventing his image faster than one of his trademark, chase-down “Swat City” highlights. He has become a defensive stalwart for a team that is 12-3 in the playoffs. Last I checked, you don’t need to make a game-winning shot if you’re preventing points on the other end of the court. Just ask Derrick Rose, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Andre Iquadala – neither of which found any offensive rhythm this postseason.
The Celtics and Lakers were both convincingly trounced in the second round by this year’s respective Finals representatives – the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. That said, I have no opposition of the two teams playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy, starting tonight.
However, I am opposed to LeBron haters coming out in full force. Unless you live anywhere remotely close to Cleveland, you should be rooting for the Heat to win it all. At the very least, it is in the best interests of you, Lakers fans.
Narrow-minded basketball and Lakers fans forget that in 2007, another star and face of a franchise – Kobe Bryant – said that he would rather play on Pluto than remain with a cellar-dwelling, hapless franchise. His words: “I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there’s no other alternative, you know?”
This came one year after Bryant scored only one point and took just three shots in the second half of a 31-point loss in game 7 against the Phoenix Suns. When Kobe says such things, he’s proving a point to ownership that he needs help. With LeBron, he’s a quitter.
In Bryant’s unrestricted free agency year of 2004, he held the Lakers hostage by interviewing (and almost committing) with the Los Angeles Clippers and even speaking to representatives of the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, going as far as looking into schooling accommodations for his daughters in other states. This all happened after the Lakers had traded Shaquille O’Neal, the presumable problem and roadblock for Bryant signing on the dotted line.
With Kobe, he was just testing the market, as any deft businessman would look to protect the best interests for he and his family. On the flipside with LeBron, he’s considered a traitor. Heck, even Derek Fisher mulled over a “compelling” offer from Pat Riley.
So why is the public so hard on LeBron? Wasn’t he the lovable man-child with the charismatic personality who once drew comparisons to the palpable Magic Johnson – who himself had off the court issues as well?
James is the reason for the Riley-formed Heat’s turnaround, which began the season 217 days ago with an ugly loss in Boston. At one point, they sported a spotty record of 9-8, before wheeling off 12 wins in a row. The December 2, 2010 “Return of the King” game against the Cleveland Cavaliers will always be remembered as the game in which the Heat became as one – a team. From there on out, they finished the season with a 49-16 record, ending with a very formidable 58 wins, third best in the league. It was one win better than the Lakers, a team never off cruise-control who cared to play whenever they felt like it – which in all cases was not often enough.
This will be the first championship of the LeBron-promised “not one…not two….not three…not four…not five…not six…not seven…” championships.
And, keep in mind, a championship for LeBron this year is better than any reviving cortisone shot Bryant will ever receive for the rest of his career.
His personal ring battle being cut down to four will bring rejuvenation never before seen to his 33-year embattled body.
The chance of winning a championship with Mike Brown – the coach that couldn’t lead LeBron for his in Cleveland – will further his drive for number six.
With six, we’ll be then drawing a Venn Diagram between Bryant and Michael Jordan, and ponder, LeBron who?