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We crave a Kobe-LeBron playoff clash
No offense to the season-ticket holders of the Milwaukee Bucks, for example, but many of us casual NBA observers need a LeBron-Kobe Finals. Forgive us. But we need a reason to be excited about pro basketball, after a season in which one of the dominant storylines has been Clearing Cap Space.
LeBron and Kobe won't have a true rivalry unless they meet in the playoffs.Andrew D. Bernstein
Look, give us something, after so many of the moves this season were made not for the postseason, but for the coming offseason. After it seemed like most every team was out of it almost as soon as the season started.
If all year it was going to be Lakers-Cavs at the end, the only bright spot is at the end we’d get to see Lakers-Cavs.
Yes, if this year promised anything, it was the hope of seeing a new rivalry, of watching two greats at their heights, old style, Magic-Bird. And this is their moment. If they want to take their rivalry beyond foam and 30-second spots, this is their shot. Maybe their last shot.
If not now, when?
This is the moment. Kobe is still Kobe. He’s still a cold-hearted competitor. He’s a must-see highlight every night.
But let’s face it, it’s been a long, long time since he took Brandy to the prom. He’s got about 100,000 miles on him. There’s no telling the moment when Kobe turns into Old Kobe. There’s no telling the moment it’ll never be the same.
This is the moment when their greatnesses intersect.
LeBron. He’s just now becoming LeBron. Isn’t he? Well, we hope this postseason is the dawn of the LeBron era, its epoch. (Yes, I had to look up the difference between era and epoch.) But you have to wonder if it all hinges on the way 2010 ends.
An NBA title now opens the floodgates. Doesn’t it? A ring now and he’s unstoppable. A ring now and he reels them off. A ring and we’re all just covered in glorious chalk dust.
But anything less, and LeBron may be starting over no matter where he ends up. The Cleveland Cavaliers are built to win now. (Make that NOW.) If you don’t win a championship this season, do you come back with the same roster, the same coach? Can you?
Windows open briefly and slam quickly. Windows aren’t fair, not even for all-time greats.
I love Shaq. I loved him when he bent backboards. Loved his sense of humor, and the way he went to Miami and won a ring. And let’s face it, he had me forever when I covered Lakers training camp in Honolulu and saw Shaq give an L.A. writer the wink and the gun. (Shaq was giving his approval to the guy’s take on Kobe’s absence from said training camp due to, um, legal troubles.)
You haven’t lived till you’ve seen Shaq give the wink and the gun.
But at this point, 38, injured, on his fifth team, the Big Sheriff may be closer to being an actual highway patrolman than to being Jon to LeBron’s Ponch. (Or is it Ponch to LeBron’s Jon?)
This is it. Now or never. The Big Fill in the Blank might have one more great postseason in him at age 38. Here’s hoping he does. But I don’t think he’s having one at 39.
(My rule on never betting against Shaquille O’Neal is tempered by my rule that says never bet on a professional athlete the same age as me.)
This is the roster built to put LeBron over the top, now. Anything less and he’s starting over.
Can he leave Cleveland without winning a title? Could he stay?
Moments of opportunity. Windows. LeBron James could be Jordan. Or he could be Wilt.
Kobe. He may never have another chance at LeBron, at beating a guy this great at the moment their greatnesses intersect.
There’s no telling the moment he’ll never be the same.
I don’t know if these guys feel any desperation, but I do. We need this. We need some greatness. This season has to mean more than just the upcoming offseason.
Ever sit through a movie that seemed like a two- or three-hour setup for the next installment of the series, for the sequel? (George Lucas and Peter Jackson, I’m looking at you.)
We need this. They need this. It’ll be a shame if the closest we get is talking foam.