What most basketball fans seem to be hoping for is that tonight begins a critical new chapter in NBA history: KD vs. LBJ.
In 2012, LeBron still has ‘the conn’. He’s the best player, 3x MVP, Olympic Gold Medalist, one of the 20 greatest ever[i]… while Durant has visions of those achievements he’s still clearly in 2nd place right now. That’s as it should be though, both in the sense of a natural progression and in terms of building interest.
The best outcome for the development of this rivalry is the one I anticipate happening. LeBron wins. (Yes, of course, that means Miami wins but in the world of NBA marketing, it’s LeBron.) If LeBron wins, he’ll be elevated out of the circle of Greatest Non-Champions[ii]. However, if he loses, he’ll be 0-3 in the Finals. That would be an extraordinary weight to bear.
If Durant wins, he’ll be considered among the most precocious champions ever but he still won’t be in the inner circle of that group[iii]. If Durant loses, that’ll be seen as perfectly fine! OKC is so young that reaching the Finals is a tremendous accomplishment in itself and the battle to climb the last peak will be a dominant storyline next season.
One juicy subplot that’s not received much attention yet is highly intriguing to me. This summer, Durant and James are both on the US Men’s Olympic team. They’re both incredibly well equipped for the international game and likely to share minutes, leadership and practice time. How different will London be if James’ Heat are champions or if Durant’s Thunder have the rings?
KD vs. LBJ. Sounds great to me.
[i] Please don’t try to find 20 better players. You can’t.
[ii] Guys like Elgin Baylor, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, Stockton-to-Malone… Very good company.
[iii] Kareem, Bird, Magic… AMAZING company!