With all apologies to Boston and San Antonio, this is what everyone wanted. The fans. The commissioner. The players themselves.
“It’s only right,” LeBron James said of the Heat and Thunder meeting in the NBA Finals. “It’s only right.”
James is the NBA MVP, a three-time league MVP actually. On the other side stands Kevin Durant, a three-time scoring champion. They might be the two best basketball players in the world.
“It’s not about Kevin and LeBron,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Individually, they’re the best players in the league. But it’s always about the Thunder against the Heat.”
Sorry, coach. Even if Durant and James don’t guard each other often, this series is still very much about Kevin and LeBron.
The two imagined this day in the offseason, when they competed against one another in a four-day series of workouts that they dubbed “Hell Week.” James and Durant walked away from that with a mutual respect. Now, they are set to meet again, on the biggest stage: the NBA Finals. Not even Martin Scorsese could have scripted this any better.
“I envisioned it every day we worked out,” James said. “I understood what his [Durant’s] passion was. I understood what his drive was.”
James is the man everyone loves to hate. With his perceived cockiness and bravado, he’ll be picked apart each time he disappears in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Durant enters as the fresh face, a player very much in tune with his surroundings. And representing a small market like Oklahoma City only adds to his likeability.
“The city is just so laid-back and quiet, and that’s the type of person I am and it fits me well,” Durant told reporters. “It’s just a perfect place to be.”
James and the Heat are invading that sleepy town tonight (9 p.m., ABC), in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. As the eyes and ears of the hoops world turn to Oklahoma City, expect a lot of things.
Just don’t expect it to be quiet.
‘Humbled’ to be back in NBA Finals
LeBron James admitted yesterday that he let his teammates down last year. He averaged just 17.6 points against Dallas in the NBA Finals.
“I’m happy and I’m humbled that I can actually be back in this position less than 12 months later and to do a better job of making more plays on a bigger stage,” James told reporters.