Editors note: In the wake of the Celtics’ epic dismissal of the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, please enjoy this guest post by good friend and long-time Seattle SuperSonics devotee, Ryan Robidoux, who knows more about basketball than I could ever hope to forget.
I’ve always had two favorite NBA players, a Celtic and a non-Celtic, and, like every other NBA fan in the 80s and 90s, they were Danny Ainge and Michael Jordan, respectively. No? You liked Larry Bird, you say? Well, you’re a weirdo. Moving on. Typically, its uncouth for a hardcore fan to admit their favorite player is the NBA’s biggest attraction, unless he plays for your home team. But it was the 80s, the NBA’s glory days, and cocaine was the only thing cooler than being a Michael Jordan fan. I could inundate you with statistics (for instance, 2.3 steals/game, 3rd all-time … career low was 1.5, when he was 40), but my fanaticism needs no further explanation. He was the greatest basketball player of all-time, period. Possibly, even the greatest athlete to play his respective sport (Gretzky and the Splendid Splinter also being in the conversation). So on January 13, 1999, I was left to be half of a fan … Jordan was gone forever. Yes, you heard correctly, forever. Even though during those two seasons you just brought up, he put up better numbers at forward than James Worthy ever did (21.5 ppg/5.0 rpg/5.9 apg).
Initially, I put all my stock into Vince Carter. A high-flyer out of MJ’s alma-mater, he was (and still is) the best dunker I’ve ever seen [insert youtube clip]. Throw in the fact that he led a ragtag team of old fogey’s and whippersnappers to within inches of beating Allen Iverson and the “6 or 7 Other Guys That Didn’t Matter”-ers in the 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, and it was a wise choice. However, a mass exodus over the next few seasons, highlighted by Tracy McGrady’s defection to Orlando, left Toronto young and in Vince’s hands. Alas, in 2004, Carter felt those hands didn’t have enough money in them, and he sulked his way to the New Jersey Nets, crossing his name off my list forever, and beginning the downfall of the Jugger-Aught Nets (2000 – 2007).
At this point, I was transitioning from Dana Barros to Tony Allen, via Waaaawlta McCarty, on the Celtic front. But I was becoming very interested in this “King James” fellow, though leery of, yet again, being a fan of the NBA’s big to-do. It was 2005, the NBA glory days were long gone, and hardcore NBA fans needed to root for players like Michael Finley (a one-time candidate), since the day they were drafted out of Wisconsin University by the Phoenix Suns in 1995. I needed overwhelming proof that LeBron James would be someone I could fanatically follow. His stats, over these last five years, have increasingly proven worthy, almost too crazy to believe at times. But it wasn’t until this season that I had gained enough proof to think about taking out that $20 bill and buy a non-Celtic t-shirt. “If he has another phenomenal year, and stays with the Cavs, then I will anoint him to my non-Celtic throne,” I told myself back in November.
He was so close.
After Tuesday night’s embarrassment in Game 5 against the Celtics, of all teams, I have crossed LeBron James off my list of candidates. I can get past his emotional “What? I didn’t foul him, when I punched him in the gut!” face, and his Penny Hardaway-esque puppet commercials. But I refuse to root for a player who isn’t man enough to tell a city that he’s either going to leave them (which he is clearly doing…enjoy your new right hand man, Bill Walker!) or put a ring on it [whoa oh oh, oh oh oh]. Nor will I root for a player who gives up on his team in arguably the biggest game of his career, by pulling his best Kobe Bryant, circa 2006 (see “Suns Series, Game 7”), and then has the balls to say the following:
“I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have a bad game here or there, you’ve had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it’s easy to point that out.”
Karl Malone says that. Peyton Manning says that. Susan Lucci says that. Michael Jordan and Rajon Rondo (favorite Celtic since 2007) don’t say that. They shut up, watch video, and go out the next game with vengeance dripping from their pores. Michael Jordan once waited a whole season to torch the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves, in Minnesota, just because a fan called in a prank about Jordan’s family. After the Celtics’ depressing loss last Friday in Game 3, Rajon Rondo took it upon himself to win Game 4 by putting up one of, if not the greatest, Celtic playoff performance ever (28/18/13).
LeBron James, you are a disappointment. You got what you deserved last night, when Rondo and Kevin Garnett sent you on you way to … um, I don’t know, let’s just say Notclevelandsburg. While some say your play “redeemed” yourself, I disagree. You’re 27/19/10 was misleading, Mr. James, because you shot 8-21 with 9 turnovers, which negates 9 of those assists, leaving you with a 27/19/1 line. Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone used to be very proud of numbers like that.
I hope you enjoy your new company.