I come to you today with a question, the same one that serves as the article's headline: Is anyone else concerned about all of this LeBron/Kobe hype? Because I sure am.
I get it. The the best player on the planet title has been (or is about to be) handed over to LeBron from Kobe, like it was from Magic to Jordan. But something really bothers me about it, namely, the teams aren't slated to play each other yet.
Sure, it seems that in all likelihood they could be playing, but lest we forget, two upcoming superstars (Howard, 'Melo) and two very good supporting casts (Billups/Nene/Smith and (Hedo/Lewis/Alston) are still playing.
Moreover, both the Nuggets and the Magic seem more than capable of beating their respective opponents, given how the first two game one's have gone.
And here's where it gets messy: The NBA and its affiliates and sponsors seem to have a vested interest in having Kobe and LeBron play.
Take a look at this screenshot I got from ESPN.com the other day. Kind of scary, right?
I took this Monday night, before either series has been kicked off, and it's pretty apparent who advertisers want to see in the finals. Let's see, vitamin water probably dropped a couple of million on that full-front-page spread.
ESPN pays the NBA close to $400 million to broadcast the slate of games throughout the regular and postseason. For a league desperately trying to prove that it's legitimate again, this is something they don't need.
It's bad enough that shaky calls were made last year to ensure a Lakers-Celtics Finals (see Lakers-Spurs game four), but now the league seems to be going out of its way to promote a matchup that hasn't and may not happen.
Look, I'm a capitalist, and despite what the current administration is trying to do, we're a capitalist nation (oooooooooh, edgy political commentary). I know sites need advertisements to run, and I know companies need advertisements to spread the good word.
But wait until the Finals start, if that happens to be the matchup. Or wait until next season. Or do it for the last half of the season. Just don't do it at a time when league decisions and officiating are under the heat they are, because it just fuels the fire.
Speaking of fueling the fires, let's take a look at the first two game one's.
Both excellent games, decided by a total of three points.
But one game was given to the Kobe team, and one game was almost given to the LeBron team by the officials.
Lakers game first. The last five minutes were punctuated by ticky-tack fouls of the annoying kind all in favor of the Lakers, especially on Kobe.
People will point out the free throw margin that is in the Nuggets favor, but if you watched the game, you would know that the Nuggets just plain attacked more, while the Lakers settled for jumpers, led by Kobe's example.
Sure, the Nuggets missed enough free throws the make the difference, and you can't lay the blame on the refs, but it's just another in the increasing pile of examples that something fishy is going on.
That charge called on 'Melo was just the icing on the cake. Sure, we're all used to Gasol and co. flopping, but to call it in the closing minutes of a Western Conference Finals game is ridiculous.
Now let's go to the Magic game.
The Magic clawed their way back in it, only to be undone by the most ridiculous of "superstar calls."
LeBron James drove to the cup (who can blame him with the calls he gets), and Dwight Howard clearly went straight up and made minimal contact. And of course the foul is called, Howard's sixth.
Looking back at the highlights from the game on ESPN.com, even Mo Williams' miracle shot at halftime was a LeBron piece. They showed one replay of Williams' shot, then showed LeBron making a long shot in practice, then showed Williams' shot again, with LeBron's (not Williams') reaction.
All fine and dandy, until you watch the rest of the highlights, which feature a few ferocious slam dunks from LeBron in the second half, but they don't even show Rashard Lewis' game winning shot! Unbelievable.
I think as a whole, most of this comes back to the LeBron James hype machine. We all know he's a once in a generation talent, but seriously, enough already. Let him do it on the court.
How many times did LeBron James have a halftime conversation with Magic or someone else. How many "Fave Five's" did we get from LeBron James in games he wasn't even playing? A lot.
Last night, SportsCenter ran three separate stories about LeBron, before discussing the winning team.
The summary of the game on the homepage of ESPN read, "could the Cavs be in for a series?"
That implies that the Cavs will win, and the only remaining question is, can the Magic make it interesting?
Uh, I'd say they can make it interesting, and I'd say they can win. It is likely? Maybe. Probable? No. Possible? Absolutely.
But according to ESPN, the LeBron-Kobe Finals is inevitable, the only question is in how many games will the Lakers and Cavs win in.
The really irritating part? A Cavs-Lakers finals should be a great series. Besides the Kobe-LeBron-2009-Magic-Jordan-1991 vibe it gives off, the two teams are clearly the best two teams.
They both are flawed, but they are the best. The Mo Williams-Fisher/Farmar matchup is very interesting, as is the Gasol/Bynum/Ilgauskas/Varejao.
Quick side note: If Varejao and Gasol touch each other, will they both flop so hard in opposite directions that the very fabric of space-time will be compromised?
All of this hype has be rooting against this matchup, which is bad from a basketball standpoint. I will always root against the Lakers, but I never minded the Cavs.
But now, I am actively rooting against both teams, if just to keep the hype machine from going any further.
Think about all the hype LeBron has gotten in the last few years, and he hasn't won anything yet. If he wins, it will be insufferable.
It's bad enough that highlights from Cavs games are just LeBron, no matter what people like Mo Williams do.
It's bad enough that the amount of pixels devoted to where LeBron will go will continue to multiply at an exponential rate until July 2010.
It's bad enough that incessant coverage has made me sick of one of the most likable superstars on one of the most likable teams in decades.
But it might be nice to see a new team win for once, and that is the reason I will always root against the Lakers. If the Cavs, Magic or Nuggets win, it will be their first rings.
Another reason to root for the Magic? To see how many Magic-related puns ESPN and FoxSports can come up with to describe wins. Usually they're bailed out by the first round of the playoffs, but not this year.
Last night's gem? "Rashard Lewis pulled some Magic out of hit hat, hitting the game winner."
I can't get enough of these, but I think the well is just about tapped. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
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