It's a shame. It really is.
Unfortunately for NBA commish David Stern and his cronies, they aren't getting Christmas morning for the second straight year in the Finals.
2008 rang bells of Pau Gasol donning La La Land gold and a Boston trio that resurrected Red Auerbach's cigar ashes from oblivion.
2009 was supposed to be Kobe vs. LeBron. Black Mamba vs. The King.
That transparent hankering crashed and burned in Orlando. It's a shame. The ratings would've gone through the roof, as Ray Liotta, Luke Wilson, Kate Hudson, and the rest of the Hollywood stars that find an excuse to join reality would've came out in waves.
We may have even seen an Adam Lambert sighting too.
As Kobe and Co. closed out the cute-story Nuggets in six games, LeBron James, the reigning 2009 MVP and the owner of the best record in the league, saw a nightmare realized as his squad was bounced into afterthought thanks to the Herculean performances of Dwight Howard and a three-point shooting barrage.
This was supposed to be the matchup of the century, albeit it nine years young.
A Kobe-LeBron showdown would've been pure joy to watch. Kobe would've spun his seemingly impossible twirling fadeaway jumpers, while James would hit 0-to-60 on his archetypal fast breaks.
Bryant would've dazzled, James would've flown.
Key word: would've.
It's now SoCal vs. the Sunshine State—and most noticeably, no King.
Which brings us to the matter of comparison. Kobe v. LeBron. This whole season has been a broken record of collation. Kobe can do this, LeBron can do that.
We get it, we do. It's the two best players in the game right now. It's why we watch SportsCenter Top 10 plays every night. We want to see what trick shot Kobe mustered out of left field or how high James soared for a dunk as he exceeded the speed limit.
There is one minor discrepancy: You can't compare the two. It's not feasible.
You can judge them solely upon their individual performances or their stat sheets, but while the term superstar is the budding word intertwined with these cosmic players, it's not the matter at hand.
It's the supporting cast.
Just take a look at a Laker game. You don't see the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer; you don't even know his name. No one knew who Jonah Hill was until he started spurting off crass lyrics in Judd Apatow films.
The point being, while Kobe's "doin' work", so are his slew of stellar supporters. Gasol is the present-day prototype big man who works on the block better than anyone in the league at this present moment. Along with Gasol, there's Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, yadda yadda yadda. You catch the drift.
While Bryant and his team supposedly "underachieved" their way into this year's Finals, James' crew was on a different level.
The junior varsity one.
That's where the disparity speaks volumes.
Kobe's cast is vastly superior, talented, experienced, and versatile.
LeBron's posse? It's borderline C-.
Not even James, who showcased a ridiculous line of 38 points per game to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, could carry a group of players that seemed to play as if they were chickens that had just received the ol' chopping block.
It's asking too much, plain and simple. The guy's a King, yes, but he's not superhuman. Dwight Howard pummeled Anderson Varejao and roamed past the oafishness of Big Z, and that was that.
The MVP simply ran out of gas. Seemed fitting, too. He led this pack of underachievers to the best record in the league without a legitimate wingman running alongside.
The tank hit empty. Unfortunately for James, he doesn't have the luxury Kobe does to "get his teammates going" before he proceeds to rev up the engine.
As Cleveland tried that ploy, it found itself gasping for air.
The Lakers can win a Western Conference Final game with Kobe scoring 22 points.
If asked the same for the Cavs and James, one would rightly be delivered a backhand to the left cheek as a reminder of the obvious foolishness.
It would've been a showdown for this generation, but the Magic were able to exploit the impostors that were LeBron's supporting cast. Even if Cleveland had somehow pulled off three consecutive wins against Orlando, it's safe to assume it wouldn't have been because of Delonte West or Wally Szczerbiak.
After the Cavs were run out of Amway Arena by Howard and the Magic in Game Six, James' line read 25-7-7, 8-for-20 from the field, having played 45 of the possible 48 minutes.
You think after shouldering a franchise since his NBA inception and carrying the burden of the city of heartbreak that is Cleveland, Ohio, this King would've found a way to win, right?
The great ones do, but think about it. Jordan had Pippen. Magic had Showtime. Bird had McHale and Johnson. Hell, Kobe had Shaq.
LeBron's second in command? Mo Williams? Cough, cough.
It would've been an ideal coup for the league—the 2008 MVP matched up against the 2009 newbie. The two best players in the world head-to-head on national television. It's a shame, but there are some certainties that have been cemented.
One guy can't do it on his own, no matter what his name is.
Kobe will be doin' work in this, his sixth NBA Finals.
And The King, who has embraced the title of city savior, left Game Six so shaken and disconcerted that he, one of the most media-friendly voices in the professional sports, refused to talk to the press.
Sometimes, a guy needs a little help, even if he is royalty. Even if he is "The Chosen One."
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