Both Kevin Durant and LeBron James have a lot to fight for. Obviously, the truest burden of proof lies on the “King’s” shoulders.
Durant was not even supposed to be here. Sure, he and the Oklahoma City Thunder would push past the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban had made sure that the Mavericks were barely competitive enough to avoid a sweep. Wait a minute. Guess he didn’t.
The Miami Heat are waiting in the wing for Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals and their best player, the most chastised in the league, has the weight of the world on his shoulders and a menacing replay in his brain.
“Not 1. Not 2. Not 3. Not 4….”
There is a statute of limitations on stupidity, as Jeff Van Gundy so eloquently put it during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That only covers rousting hatred and anguish towards James. It does not mean the transgression has been forgotten.
For LBJ, the statement turned petty crime due to his inability to make good on his word and the public’s general distaste for what they have assumed him to be.
Public perception is that LeBron is soft. At least that’s what the conclusion was until he turned assassin in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics and let a 45-point game speak for itself. Not too many people can deny the magic he displayed that night and not many are even willing to.
Which player has the most pressure?
The eye of the storm still lies in wake. The pinnacle of all of LeBron’s troubles sits four victories away. A championship ring is so close, yet propelled so far away by a young man named Kevin Durant who lives, breathes and eats basketball.
Therefore, two titans collide on the national stage for all to over-analyze and criticize their shortcomings and fleeting successes. At the end of the day, Durant’s reputation can stand after a series loss. LeBron’s will crumble before our very eyes. He will still be great. But, the worst thing possible will happen to his career.
The expectations will go away.
The reason why LeBron is so heavily critiqued and berated is because those who openly express what he lacks, without mention of what he possesses, believe that he can be so much more.
These people believe in his potential whether or not it is admitted in a public forum. LeBron’s potential causes such a strong reaction in those both pro and anti-James.
Durant just sits back and receives praises for his humility and his steadily rising basketball IQ. His blossoming leadership qualities are only another tick in the column that places him ahead of LBJ in a lot of fans’ eyes, no matter how ill-advised that conclusion may be.
Durant represents a lot of what the perception negates in LeBron’s personality, primarily on the court.
Durant is the most “team” a player can get. Even though he racks up less assists than James, who certainly has less firepower backing him up.
Durant is a better basketball player than James. This seems to ring true even though he forcibly excels in scoring while LeBron is an offensive facilitator, supreme defender and not too bad of a scorer himself.
It doesn’t matter that it has become general consensus that Russell Westbrook is defiantly Thunder’s vocal leader and James is Miami’s clear-cut overlord.
Durant can do no wrong and all things about him are great.
If he were to lose, it would just be a growing pain. At 23 years of age, Durant has not even scraped his prime and being surrounded by All-Star caliber players, who seem to trail in his footsteps, only boosts him in the media.
As long as Durant puts his best foot forward, it becomes a series in which it was all we, as the public, could ask for. Good game, good effort, Durant. Better luck next year.
LeBron would be written out of contention for the duration of his career. According to a lot of people, as a dynasty appears to be emerging in the Western Conference, LeBron’s window of time for a ring is closing at a rapid rate. This is his last chance, when it really isn’t.
Majority rules. It’s do or die for LeBron James.
These two Goliaths will descend upon us on Tuesday in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals, both with something to prove.
One man will win. One man will fall.
Yet, the punishment for failure will be a nudge in the back for one and lock the other in a room of scavengers with no way out.
Follow Joye Pruitt @JoyetheWar