Miami Heat forward LeBron James. (Associated Press)
Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, June 10, 2012 8:07 PM
The King is still without a crown and now he will have to battle a young prince to finally get himself one.
LeBron James is the self-proclaimed king, yet it is Kevin Durant who is stealing the hearts of basketball fans.
Now they meet with the winner able to claim his first NBA championship.
ABC and the NBA got its wish. This is a Finals series that is once again worth watching. A league that has been built on individual rivalries has a classic one to tote starting Tuesday night.
In one corner there is James, a 27-year old veteran who turned the world against him last year by taking his talents to South Beach. James’ “decision” to move from Cleveland to Miami is one of the worst public relations disasters in sports history.
But it works out perfectly this week. It made James and the Heat the villains in this series.
And every villain needs a hero. Durant and the Thunder are those heroes.
While James was counting out the number of championships he would win while with the Heat during that strange welcome to Miami press conference/pep rally two years ago, Durant, just 23, was quietly working on his game.
He tops James by saying he loves playing in Oklahoma City and the small market, making him the anti-LeBron, who bolted Cleveland because he didn’t believe the town was either big enough or good enough to win it all.
While James left for bright lights and the big city, Durant stays put and seems more than satisfied with living the slower-paced life.
It does make for the perfect rivalry.
But there is more than just the bad boy thing working against James. He now must worry about time.
One title won’t be enough for James, who wants to be remembered as one of the best, if not the greatest, of all-time. For that he must win multiple titles.
But a loss in this series leaves him behind the fresh prince in rings and his window of opportunity will begin to close. The Thunder and not the Heat would become the NBA’s must-see TV.
And with a couple other young teams rising in the East — Chicago and Indiana — there is no guarantee Miami will be back. Age in the NBA equals injuries.
So the pressure is clearly on James, who has no one to blame for this but himself. He created his new image, now he has to live with it.
Of course, four more wins and James can finally replace that black hat he currently wears for the crown he covets.
Meanwhile, Durant will just go about his business, not ruffling any feathers and saying all the right things. It is just the way he plays the game.
While James has made himself the center of attention, folks will finally get a good look at Durant.
And in this showdown, it is winner-take-all.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org