Thanks to this year’s finals, the NBA could bring back their old slogan, “The NBA is Fantastic!” The plot reads like a script from a Hollywood film or at the very least a made for TV movie. Think about it… the villain Miami Heat led by the king villain LeBron James is taking on the young, dynamic, easy-to-love Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder’s leader, Kevin Durant, is also the NBA’s scoring leader.
And people just flat out like them.
These dynamics are not only great for fans, but for the NBA’s TV ratings. The 2012 NBA Finals is experiencing the highest ratings since 2004 when the Los Angeles Lakers played the Detroit Pistons. So yes, this high-stakes series is paying off for a lot of people.
Beyond the underlying drama, the action on the court has been riveting. So much so, that I think it’s time for people to put their animosity toward James to bed. He has apologized for "the decision" and he’s playing like a champion. Even though history tells us no team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in an NBA Finals we can’t count the Thunder out yet. Tuesday night’s 104-98 Heat win put James one step closer to his first NBA Championship.
Beyond the underlying drama, the action on the court has been riveting. So much so, that I think it’s time for people to put their animosity toward James to bed.
After putting up 26 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out 12 assists, James watched the final 58 seconds from the sideline suffering from leg cramps. It’s a good thing he hit a big three-point shot before he left the game or there would undoubtedly be chants that James again played the shrinking violet game a finals game. I can hear the naysayers now “he’s not mentally tough, he doesn’t have the ability to elevate his team to the next level, blah, blah, blah." Really people?
I remember covering the Houston Rockets two-championship titles. Let me first say it was quite a run. The first victory in 1994 over the New York Knicks was full of drama, including the O. J. Simpson slow speed chase.
In 1995, the Rockets swept Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. But critics said there should have been an asterisk along with those Rockets’ victories because they won them without facing Michael Jordan. Wow, all these years later and it still sounds ridiculous. In fact, there were even some who blamed Rocket’s Superstar Center, Hakeem Olajuwon for being "so good" that it made his teammates not step up enough.
OK, I’m paraphrasing here, but the context is the same. Sports journalists and fans alike can be so silly sometimes. So here we are in 2012 with James putting the Heat on his back and carrying them until his teammates could get it together.
Dwyane Wade was sleep at the wheel for much of the Indiana series. Shane Battier has only recently starting feeling his long-distance jumper and making the Thunder pay with his deadly threes. Of course different people have stepped up at different times, but make not mistake about it. Without James, the Heat is home like the rest of us watching the NBA Finals from the sidelines.
We can even take a little credit for some of his improvement. He turned to Olajuwon for a little on-the-court tutoring. You have to give him credit for that.
While it’s definitely too soon to crown James with any "best ever" or "greatest of all time" labels, he’s certainly worthy of little more credit. If you watched how he performed or fell short in last year’s championship loss to the Dallas Mavericks, you can clearly see the growth. He is a different player now.
It’s probably time to pull out words like "clutch" when you describe him. We can even take a little credit for some of his improvement. He turned to Olajuwon for a little on-the-court tutoring. You have to give him credit for that.
One of the great things about sports is it gives us villains and heroes. So while I understand the need to have a villain, I just think it’s time for James to shed that cape for one that garners more warm and fuzziness. OK, maybe fuzzy isn’t what we need, but give the guy a break. He’s clearly matured and growing into a leader on the court. I’m thinking it would be great to have a villain in Houston again. Maybe that’s what Daryl Morey needs to add to the Rockets roster . . . a bona fide villain.
Whatever the case, enjoy game five just in case we don’t get to seven in this high-drama series.
Kim Davis is a creative, clever communicator and storyteller with nearly two decades of experience in television, radio and print. She’s a talk show host, keynote speaker, media coach, entrepreneur and health and fitness enthusiast. If you have questions or comments for Kim or about “Chalk Talk," you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.