It’s not hard to get lost in the hype.
Let’s be honest: We all spent way too much time talking, texting and tweeting about LeBron’s homecoming dance at the Q last night. I could only liken his return to Cleveland to what it would be like if O.J. showed up at a Brown Holiday party wearing nothing but a smile and a pair of supermodel sidekicks.
We all pondered the same redundant questions: Will ‘Bron do the powder volcano, and if he does, will he survive his gunshot wounds? Does Mo Williams shank LeBron before, or after, pre-game introductions? Will there be a fan insane enough to wear a James Heat jersey to the game, and how long will it take for the Cops to notify that person’s family?
There was simply no way any of us could have predicted that the marshmallow-soft Cavaliers would skip the game all-together, or that Gibson and James would make out on the Cleveland bench. The Cavs owed it to their incensed and blindly loyal fans to at-least pretend like they didn’t like LeBron. Instead, they only reminded him exactly why he left Cleveland to begin with.
The problem with the first few paragraphs of this column is the same problem I am having with the NBA this season.
I’m completely distracted by all the subplots.
We have a top-10 player of all-time chasing the thought-to-be uncatchable M.J. in the ring department… A league overflowing with borderline superstars (too many to list) all trying to take that next step… A legitimately horrifying (and sometimes dysfunctional) super-team in South Beach… A white guy in Minnesota grabbing 73 boards per game (okay, it’s not that many, but it seems like it)… A rookie (Griffin) who’s averaging 2.7 posters per night… The re-emergence of one rival (Spurs), and the re-loading of another (Celtics)…
In a season brimming with potential and possibilities, there really are no certainties (except for Vince Carter having back spasms). With all the drama and excitement surrounding the NBA, what story will define this season when we look back on it in a decade or two? Let’s take a step back for a minute, eliminate our distractions and try to discover just what ‘10-11 is really all about.
Since Michael retired following the ’98 season (his days in Washington never happened), only five teams have won an NBA championship.
The Lakers did it largely behind Kobe, Phil, and now, Gasol. The Spurs did it with Duncan, Popovich and the cheating Frenchman (By the way, Tony cheating on Eva is like winning the lottery, then spending all your winnings on losing lottery tickets). The Heat did it with Riley (just wait) and D-Wade. The Celtics did it with Doc and the Big 3 + Rondo.
Do those cores look familiar?
Let’s go ahead and throw in Orlando (especially when they swap Vince’s expiring deal for Arenas), Chicago (with a healthy Boozer) and a dark-horse Oak City team, and we have seven legitimate championship contenders – three of which have proven cores that have already won title(s) together (not counting a super-team in Miami).
The Lakers should win another NBA championship in June. So should the Celtics, Heat and Spurs.
Name one season – in any sport – where you can honestly say there have been seven logical championship contenders? You can’t, and neither can I. From an entertainment standpoint, I’m not sure that even Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer could screw this season up.
So, what is our defining storyline?
The Lakers… and their quest to overcome a talent-filled league that has been built specifically to dethrone them.
Just about every distracting and fascinating subplot this season has the Lakers imprint all over it. The Summer of South Beach was about Riley, Wade and the Heat trying to build a team formidable enough to beat the Lakers. The Celtics going out and reeling in Shaq was their attempt to gain some sort of mental advantage against Kobe. The Jazz acquiring Al Jefferson was them defending against a fourth straight playoff loss to L.A.
The Heat certainly have the personnel and potential to take down the Champs. Shaq and the Celtics are bitterly motivated enough to do the same. The Spurs, Thunder, Mavs and Jazz are formidable roadblocks in the West. When you look at the talent landscape of the NBA, we can really only be sure of one thing this season: If the Lakers are to march down Figueroa in June, it will be their greatest achievement in a history of great achievements.
As the season progresses, let’s all enjoy the drama in South Beach, freak out when Blake Griffin humiliates another victim and curse at our TV’s every time we see KG pounding his chest. But, in the end, this season will be remembered primarily by what the Lakers do, or don’t do in June.
Everything else is, well… just an opening act.
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