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Friday (LeBron, Durant and like vs. respect) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Wolves news Updated: June 22, 2012 - 9:29 AM

The sequence when it became clear we would, for the long haul, be part of Team Durant instead of Team LeBron came a little more than two years ago. On July 7, 2010, Durant quietly announced on Twitter that he was signing a five-year extension with the small-market Thunder. One night later, LeBron sat underneat the bright lights on a manufactured TV special and announced he was breaking Ohio's heart by "taking his talents to South Beach."

We could have guessed, though we couldn't have known, that the two great players would lead their teams to the brink of a championship just two years later.

The Heat were nearly unanimous villains in the battle, particularly among Minnesotans who detest even more than others -- having suffered through the small-to-mid-market label -- the notion of a championship fueled by purchase and/or collusion. The Thunder had done it the right way, an intangible concept that we still believe in, by taking their lumps as they grew their team from draft on up -- led, of course, by their biggest star, Durant. If you can look beyond the theft from Seattle -- which our friends from the Pacific Northwest understandably cannot -- one might even call the Thunder, with their homegrown talent and frenzied fans, a model franchise.

There was a time when we genuinely liked LeBron -- when we thought he was funny and engaging. There was a time when we respected LeBron as a human, before The Decision. All that remains now is to respect him as a basketball player, the best on the planet, and one who delivered in a big way while hurting in Game 4 and again with a triple-double in Thursday's clincher. But that is all. Irrational or not, we can't respect the way he got his ring. He's no more than an exceedingly talented mercenary, and that is really a shame.

LeBron has his title, and he is entitled to celebrate. It surely feels good, though we imagine not as good as if it had come with Cleveland. You argue that he fought the good fight for seven years? Michael Jordan waited almost that long with the Bulls before winning his first title, but ne never turned and ran from it.

That's the feeling for which Durant -- a player who makes you genuinely like and respect him -- is striving. And when it comes, he will feel the full weight of the ring, with nothing hollow inside.


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