Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weight of the World: Who Will Take LeBron's Spot As The Great One Without A Ring

Sports today are very fickle.  We expect a lot out of our athletes, which is why they make the money they do.  Our stars, however, we expect perfection out of them.  Every good home run hitter will gain the moniker "the next Babe Ruth" and well see how he lives up to it.  Every great goalie in hockey will get the next "Patrick Roy", in basketball the next "Jordan", and so on and so forth.  Is it fair?  Yes and no.  Athletes know what they are getting into when they sign up for the gig, which is why the LeBron James saga was so interesting.  We wanted him to bring Cleveland back to life, and when he left to take his talents to South Beach, we as fans back lashed against him.  He tried to embrace it as marketability, it came off awkward and cocky.  He tried to do what he thought we wanted him to do, but we would criticize his every decision.  He tried to play Robin to Wade's Superman, but he is obviously the superior player and the team suffered because of it.  In retrospect, we loved to hate LeBron.  Now with the Miami Heat as the reigning champions and LeBron the rightful regular season and Finals MVP winner, our age old call to "he isn't clutch" and "he doesn't have a ring" is now null and void.

So the question is, who do we hate now?  Who has the attitude without the rings?  Who will be the poster child for NBA hate in 2012-13?  Plenty of contenders, but I think you'll agree that these five stand out above the rest.

5) Steve Nash- Los Angeles Lakers
Steve Nash is one of the most liked players in the league.  He never rubs people the wrong way.  Never seems like a cancer on his respective team.  Always trying to make his teams better.  So why would he get on this list?  Because he went to one of the most loved/hated franchise in today's NBA, the LA Lakers.  The two time league MVP is 38 years old, and is still missing that precious championship.  He has never been hated by anyone, but that could change.  He was offered a ridiculous contract to come home to Canada and be the poster boy for the Raptors, something they desperate need since Vince Carter left.  He decided against that even though they were offering by far more money (similarly to the Lebron Cleveland situation).  Nash's home nation may be a little ticked that he spurned them the way he did.  Also, the Knicks fans thought it was a done deal at one point that Nash would be donning the blue and orange in MSG.  Now New York got a decent consolation prize in Jason Kidd, but we will not be cheering Nash every time he comes to the Garden, that's for sure.  Then there are the Phoenix fans.  There face of the franchise not only left, but went to their biggest rival.  The guys they couldn't get past when they were at their best.  Suns fans may have seen this coming, but going to the Lakers definitely put a bitter taste into their mouths.  Nash isn't topping this list, but after this off season he definitely deserves to be on it.  If the Nash experiment fails in LA this has a good chance of changing the legacy of his career.  This needs to work or Nash will fall into Barkley, Malone, and Stockton lore. 

4) Chris Paul- Los Angeles Clippers
I love the way this guy plays.  Hard to the basket every single possession, running through guys twice his size with reckless abandon.  Unfortunately he is here because he talks way too much.  Word is all around that Chris Paul is still open to the idea of going to the Knicks.  Problem is the Clippers just spent a king's ransom to bring him to LA, the big market that we all thought Paul was looking for.  He is on a great team with young talent, and he still can't get those MSG lights out of his mind.  You have one of the best young forwards in the league to throw the ball too, yet you are still not happy where you are?  As a professional athlete you need to show loyalty to the name on the front of the jersey, or the fans will backlash against you quicker than you can say trade me.  On top of it all, Paul has never been out of the second round of the playoffs.  Sure, he was once with a dreadful Hornets team, but now he's on a star studded roster.  He is in a city that was always the little brother to the Lakers.  If he talks about leaving he will quickly go from savior to pariah within days.  Paul may be the best point guard in the league, but he is still lacking in certain areas.  He will get better on the court, but will that change his perception off of it?

3) Kevin Durant- Oklahoma City Thunder
How quickly things can turn for an athlete.  One day you're arguably the best in the game, the next day you are a NBA Finals loser.  It is unfortunate because it wasn't his fault that James Harden disappeared the entire series, or that the Heat were in a zone of being untouchable completely.  As the shortsighted fans that we are, all we see is the old best-guy-in-the-world-without-a-title just beat the new best-guy-in-the-world-without-a-title and people will make their assumptions from that.  Facts are facts, Durant is the best player  without a championship.  Ask any Seattle patron how they feel about Durant and the Sonics.  Their franchise was stolen from them just as thing were starting to look up finally.  Although I know most people don't want to hate Durant, everyone can be hated.  When you're the best guy on a great team in the media era and you don't have that precious ring, people are going to get impatient and start to call you "choker", "not clutch", and "best when it doesn't matter".  Trust me, you can ask the guy wearing number six on Team USA. 

2) Carmelo Anthony- New York Knicks
There are so many comparisons one can make between Lebron and Carmelo.  They both seem to love the celebrity status that comes with being an NBA player.  They both left teams to join up with other superstars (Carmelo may have been a little more demanding).  They were taken in the same draft two picks from each other.  For a long time they were both know as great talents without a ring.  The biggest difference is Carmelo before last year seemed clutch, making the most game winning shots since he came into the league.  Then he started to look like a team cancer.  The Nuggets were forced to deal him at the deadline, they got better without him, and the run and gun Knicks seemed to get worse.  Carmelo is an isolation player in a pick and roll offense.  Maybe it was the system.  Then this year he gets hurt, and they get a dose of Linsanity and won seven straight games sans Anthony.  The talk of the town was Jeremy Lin.  Unfortunately, when Carmelo was coming back the talk wasn't "how great with it be to have these two together," it was "uh oh selfish Carmelo is going to come in and ruin Linsanity."  It doesn't help that he lost to Lebron's team in the playoffs in less than stellar fashion.  What is the only thing that will cure Carmelo of this stigma?  Will it be a good team that works together?  Maybe.  Maybe a large amount of community service to give back to the community? Yeah, he does plenty of that already.  The one thing that will sure fire get the monkey off his back is to stand next to Bill Russell while he is handing him that glorious trophy and to be able to be called a champion. 

1) Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic?/Brooklyn Nets?/Lakers?/Rockets?/Globetrotters?
Were here again to Carmelo 2012.  Star player hates his coach.  He signs for another year and his coach and GM get fired.  He gets back surgery right before the playoffs start so he can't help his team (side note he will miss the Olympics so this may not have been a spite move).  He demands a trade to literally one team to kill any chance of leverage new Magic GM Hennigan.  He may have single handily brought the Magic past Lebron and into the Finals back in 2009, but people have very short memories.  The recent images we have of Dwight are the awkward moment of him hugging Stan Van Gundy immediately after he said he wanted him gone, the image of him laying on the court smiling while the Knicks are blowing them out, and the photo shopped pictures of him in a Nets jersey.  When you are a cancer to your team you need to be traded.  Dwight, however, is somehow making sure that Orlando can't get a competitive team in return.  Back surgery, only one team allowed to bid, continuously talking to the media about it, making sure you are always the storyline, etc.  These things aren't exactly attractive for whoever is bidding.  The least he could have done is made it known to ONLY the Magic GM that he would only resign with the Nets, so at least he could have used the Lakers and Rockets deal to leverage a better deal from the Nets.  Now, we may be hearing about the Dwight saga for another year.  I don't know about you, but I am already sick of him.  Congratulations Lebron, I have a new player to hate.

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