Game 1 of the NBA Finals drew the highest rating ABC has seen in the 21st century. Although Oklahoma City is not a power market and even though New York, Chicago and LA are pressing their metaphorical noses to the bakery window, craving a Finals game as if it were a fresh peanut-stick, Game 1 was an indicator to what this country craves: star power.
And that's why these numbers are not much of a surprise. Oklahoma City boasts a young, talented, exciting team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden; and Miami marches out the usual suspects of greatness in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. All are stars in their own right to one degree or the other. Many experts feel this series boasts the most star power the Finals have ever seen.
But that's not why I'm watching. I am focused on watching two players battle it out for a kingdom and the title, Lord of the Ring.
King James was the heir apparent to the title of best basketball player in the world. Most NBA analysts believed Kobe Bryant was in the process of passing the torch to LeBron and then something weird happened: last year's NBA Finals. LeBron James and the Miami Heat were beaten by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron seemingly disappeared when his team needed him to rule. Although LeBron's talent will never be questioned, his tenacity and toughness and desire to win a championship will be after what we saw in last year's Finals.
Kevin Durant has grown up and matured before our eyes, and a grateful nation is waiting to embrace the humble, honorable hero of everything that isn't South Beach. Durant seems to be crashing King James' coronation.
And this is what has me glued to the television. Could there be anything more uncomfortable than being invited by a would-be king to his coronation only to have that procession disrupted by the unexpected? Suddenly you're no longer a guest but a witness to mayhem, chaos and humiliation.
Insert uncomfortable silence here…
But it seems only fitting that Kevin Durant disrupt these proceedings. It feels right, doesn't it?
Watching Durant play reminds me of Michael Jordan. Jordan was ridiculously athletic, unquestionably confident and excelled in all areas of the game. And Jordan had a quiet confidence and affable demeanor that belied the depth of his intensity but made him the best pitchman this country has ever seen. Most of all, Michael Jordan was fearless.
And so is Kevin Durant.
KD scored 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1. He was 12-of-20 from the floor for the game. Ten of those attempts came in the last 12 minutes of the game; he made six of them. Make or miss, Durant wanted the ball and knew what he had to do.
I'm not so sure LeBron James feels the same way. LeBron loves to laugh, joke and have fun when he plays and competes; he cares about his teammates and wants them to join in and have fun with him while winning a championship.
King James seems to be hesitant to accept the Michael Jordan torch from Kobe. He has been criticized for deferring too much to his teammates and not taking over games as he should. He doesn't seem to like the responsibility that comes with being a king.
He doesn't seem to like being a ruler.
George Bernard Shaw was a great literary critic and essayist in the 20th century. Mr. Shaw once said, "Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness but it is greatness."
Fair or not, LeBron has not had the success in the fourth quarter of Finals games that a king demands. But Kevin Durant has…
And that's why I'm watching. And it is uncomfortable, isn't it?