But again, this is not about being anti-LeBron.
We’re over The Decision, and it’s time for rest of the nation to do the same (except Cleveland, which is allowed to keep fuming).
This is about being pro-Durant.
“He’s a superstar player who’s as likable off the court as he is effective on it,” said another player-turned-NBA TV analyst, Greg Anthony. “That bodes well for the game.”
The NBA finals, which begin Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, are certainly being viewed by many as good vs. evil, a story line that is largely rooted in James‘ 2010 decision to leave Cleveland and his lifelong roots in northern Ohio to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on a South Beach super team. The move represented all that’s wrong about the NBA: a superstar turning his back on a worshipping city, three guys gaming the system to get on the same team, a glitzy franchise trying to ensure itself of a championship simply by pulling out its checkbook.
Never mind that these sort of tactics have gone on for years in all professional sports. James certainly deserved criticism for the way he announced he was dumping the Cavaliers in favor of the Heat, and the over-the-top ceremony that welcomed the Big Three to Miami justifiably left the rest of the league seething.
But it’s time to get past it and recognize James for what he is: the No. 1 player in the game and certain to go down as one of the greatest of all time. His performance in the playoffs _ especially after Bosh went down with an injury _ was beyond spectacular. Anyone who doubted the heart and willpower of this guy was apparently not watching games 6 and 7 against the Celtics.
James, a three-time league MVP, stared down Beantown and took the Heat on his back, single-handedly carrying them to the finals for the second year in a row.
He is worthy of your admiration, if not your adulation.
“This guy is a great player who plays very hard, very unselfishly,” said former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, who will serve as ABC’s analyst in the series. “If the biggest mistake he’s made in his life is how he announced that he was exercising his free agency decision and, then, the celebration that ensued because of it, I really don’t get (why) for casual NBA fans or fans in other NBA cities, it provokes bitterness and animosity that’s lasted this long.
“The way he goes about his business and the way he plays the game,” Van Gundy went on, “are models for the way you should play the game.”
But Durant is just so darn likable.
Sorry, LeBron, but it’s hard to root against him.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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