LeBron James started this join up with your buddies to create a superteam fad, and it’s only just the fad consumed him, four games to none, leaving even him, the world’s supreme player, dejected and devastated Friday night as he marched off his home floor.
Where is The King’s next home floor? This is a vital question for the health of the NBA. This long-running Warriors-LeBron battle was interesting, kind of, but the game requires a new storyline. Even Superman has no chance against the might of the assembled Avengers.
If LeBron again takes the easy route, the one he walked in 2010 when he abandoned the Cavs for the Heat and an ultra-smooth ride to titles with Dwyane Wade, fans all over America will lose heart and lose interest in the NBA. Many of the first fans looking for something else to do on NBA nights reside here in Colorado, where long-suffering basketball lovers have waited, in vain, since 1976 for the Nuggets to travel to the NBA Finals.
The NBA is still reeling from Kevin Durant’s 2016 decision to take the easiest path possible to world supremacy. The Warriors, fresh off winning 73 games, signed Durant and squashed genuine drama and thrills from the NBA for the next two seasons.
I remember not so long ago when the NBA offered more possibility, and fun. On May 19, 2009, the Nuggets led the Lakers by three points heading into the fourth quarter of Game One of the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets already had trashed the Chris Paul and the Hornets and Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs in the playoffs. The NBA Finals, at long last, were within sight.
Carmelo Anthony played the finest big game in Nuggets history, scoring 39 points on only 20 shots, but his teammates, led by Kenyon Martin, somehow found a way to lose. The Lakers accepted a gift in Game One and roared to yet another title.
Still, the Nuggets' future looked wonderful. Carmelo was only 24, and he was blessed with a hungry, quality supporting cast.
Then . . .
Fourteen months later, LeBron delivered his infamous and highly dangerous (to the health of the NBA) proclamation. “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach,” he said as the NBA as we knew it began to crumble.
Soon, Carmelo was taking his skills to Manhattan. The fad was fully on, and the NBA was diminished, especially in Colorado, the destination we care about most.
Listen, I understand NBA stars have the right to do what’s best for them. Chasing your dreams without hindrance is a precious slice of America. I get it.
We worship winning. During last season’s Finals, the NBA ran a commercial that showed Dr. J, Julius Erving, getting dressed. The viewer, at first, wondered what she/he was doing with a once-sensational basketball player in his hotel room.
Then, as he slipped a big ring on his finger, the Doctor clarified what was going on:
“The Finals. We’re talking about the ultimate stage. You will see men of remarkable presence. They will test your belief and put time and gravity on hold. But all that elegance. All that style. None of it really matters if you don’t win, because when it’s over: you either have a ring or you don’t.”
None of it really matters? Thanks, Doc. What an enticing NBA sales pitch for fans in Colorado and Memphis and Minneapolis, where rings have never been seen and, perhaps, never will be seen.
Players absolutely have the right to keep joining up to form superteams. Hey, maybe the Warriors will find a way to sign LeBron and go 82-0 next season.
But fans, in Colorado and elsewhere, absolutely have the right to watch something else.
LeBron looked miserable Friday night as he trudged off the court, destination unknown, following one of the NBA’s worst – and maybe the worst – Finals.
He wasn’t the only one suffering after a dull and all-too-predictable show.