So why is it that last night, during the Spurs vs. Thunder game, I jumped out of my seat and watched the majority of the fourth quarter standing up? Why is it that, as the Thunder seemed to give away the game, I found it hard to breathe?
It is because I am a fan of the underdog. I am a fan of seeing a young team play their hearts out and defeat what not only was once the undefeated Spurs, but what was beginning to look like the undefeatable Spurs.
But for a few moments in the fourth, I found it hard to breathe and hard to believe what I was seeing.
It was during Russell Westbrook's time in the fourth quarter. It was when he was dribbling about and not passing the ball. It was when he was giving turnovers and wasting precious time. It was when I thought he might lose the game (and, if so, the series) for the Thunder.
And I thought: if I feel like this as an onlooker, how do Thunder fans feel during these moments?
I want to be fair. This is not an attack on Russell Westbrook. He had his share of positive moments as well. He did big things in that game with his assists and the pull-up jumper in the fourth quarter. Still, had he missed the pull-up jumper and had the Thunder lost, it would be an entirely different conversation today.
What I would like to know from Thunder fans is how confident are you in Russell Westbrook going through what remains of the conference and possibly NBA finals? Do you get nervous when he takes over or is that fine with you? Do you think he is more likely to deliver you an NBA title or an exit from this huge opportunity?
One thing I know for sure—if I were a Thunder fan, I could live or die by Kevin Durant. The man has three consecutive scoring titles for a reason.
He was a monster in game four.
If it can’t be Kobe Bryant for me, it is certainly Kevin Durant.
It is arguable whether Kobe Bryant could have gone out and scored the points he needed to win a scoring title, and it is clear that he would never say a man has taken his mantle. But the truth is, with the four remaining teams, the man I’d want most when it matters is Kevin Durant.
And, it just sounds right. Rappers want to tout how clutch they are, and there will come a day that it is no longer relevant to say, as one of those Teach Me How to Dougie kids did, that he was "Kobe in the clutch." Notice how easily one can change it to "Kevin in the clutch."
There is no perfect-sounding ring for "Russell in the clutch," and there is a good reason for that.
His taking over in a big finals game is no smoother than his name in that phrase. It’s not his place or job to take over at the end.
Yes, it will take Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to win from here on out. But it will take each man in his right time and place and moment.
And if the Thunder were to self-destruct, I think it would be as simple as one man being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.
If you had to guess—which man might that be?