Game 1 of the NBA Finals drew the highest rating ABC has
seen in the 21st century. Although Oklahoma City is not a
power market and even though New York, Chicago and LA are
pressing their metaphorical noses to the bakery window,
craving a Finals game as if it were a fresh peanut-stick,
Game 1 was an indicator to what this country craves:
And that’s why these numbers are not much of a surprise.
Oklahoma City boasts a young, talented, exciting team with
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden; and
Miami marches out the usual suspects of greatness in
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. All are stars in
their own right to one degree or the other. Many experts
feel this series boasts the most star power the Finals
have ever seen.
But that’s not why I’m watching. I am focused on watching
two players battle it out for a kingdom and the title,
Lord of the Ring.
King James was the heir apparent to the title of best
basketball player in the world. Most NBA analysts believed
Kobe Bryant was in the process of passing the torch to
LeBron and then something weird happened: last year’s NBA
Finals. LeBron James and the Miami Heat were beaten by
Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron seemingly
disappeared when his team needed him to rule. Although
LeBron’s talent will never be questioned, his tenacity and
toughness and desire to win a championship will be after
what we saw in last year’s Finals.
Kevin Durant has grown up and matured before our eyes, and
a grateful nation is waiting to embrace the humble,
honorable hero of everything that isn’t South Beach.
Durant seems to be crashing King James’ coronation.
And this is what has me glued to the television. Could
there be anything more uncomfortable than being invited by
a would-be king to his coronation only to have that
procession disrupted by the unexpected? Suddenly you’re no
longer a guest but a witness to mayhem, chaos and
Insert uncomfortable silence here…
But it seems only fitting that Kevin Durant disrupt these
proceedings. It feels right, doesn’t it?
Watching Durant play reminds me of Michael Jordan. Jordan
was ridiculously athletic, unquestionably confident and
excelled in all areas of the game. And Jordan had a quiet
confidence and affable demeanor that belied the depth of
his intensity but made him the best pitchman this country
has ever seen. Most of all, Michael Jordan was fearless.
And so is Kevin Durant.
KD scored 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter of
Game 1. He was 12-of-20 from the floor for the game. Ten
those attempts came in the last 12 minutes of the game; he
six of them. Make or miss, Durant wanted the ball and knew
he had to do.
I’m not so sure LeBron James feels the same way. LeBron
loves to laugh, joke and have fun when he plays and
competes; he cares about his teammates and wants them to
join in and have fun with him while winning a
King James seems to be hesitant to accept the Michael
Jordan torch from Kobe. He has been criticized for
deferring too much to his teammates and not taking over
games as he should. He doesn’t seem to like the
responsibility that comes with being a king.
He doesn’t seem to like being a ruler.
George Bernard Shaw was a great literary critic and
essayist in the 20th century. Mr. Shaw once said, “Forget
about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just
do what must be done. This may not be happiness but it is
Fair or not, LeBron has not had the success in the fourth
quarter of Finals games that a king demands. But Kevin
And that’s why I’m watching. And it is uncomfortable,