We Are Scared of Our Love
First off, some final VY words from the man who resurrected my post. He and I have been arguing about the "general" metaphor all morning, mostly because of the decreased responsibilities of the QB. In my defense, I think that Favre, Manning, and Vince Young are anachronistic in that they all in some ways run things. They harken back to how quarterbacks—and generals, actually—used to be. I would also like to wonder aloud if the NFL even wants the West Coast to watch football; I woke up at noon today and had already mostly missed one game. Imagine if I were a churchgoer, or a drunk who always slept in—pray tell, what would football's audience be without these two demographics.
Now, move the curtain aside and find basketball:
About a week ago, Truth in a Bullet Fedora threw up a detailful post about Durant's limitations. Henry linked to it, and I followed suite; last I check, my employer was promoting it like I'd written the actual article, which raises a host of questions that I'm too groggy to get into. What followed next was both flattering and illuminating: the author wrote me, concerned that he'd now forever be defined as Durant-doubter and soldier for evil. He politely demanded that I link to a second, more measured take on the same issue; I assured that him that, with a name like that, no one was ever going to mistake him for Charley Rosen.
Included in said email were these two sentences, which really tied together his whole project for me and got the think-trains running on overdrive:
I questioned Durant not for the reasons that crochety old haters like him doubt players (no outside shot, no defense, no left hand, bad attitude, tattoos, et al.), but for reasons that people like Dick Vitale steadfastly refuse to consider as they pimp Durant endlessly.
I know someone said the other day that imperfection is FreeDarko, and on a host of levels I can't really argue with that. But insofar as perfection is aesthetic dominance, and dominance is totally FreeDarko if it's done without flow charts and ratios, I have to admit a soft spot for the possibility of sui generis perfection. Kevin Durant is far from the perfect basketball player; even his staunchest fans have to admit that he's got miles to go before he's whole, and even then likely might not fill out in the shoulders and command the post. Yet one of the reasons he has struck such a cord across basketball's oft-divided citizenry is because of this prismatic appeal.
If you love basketball, you can find one, maybe many, reasons to gaze longingly at Kevin Durant. The denizens of this site likely regard him as a Garnett-esque stride across time's borders, a quick-fix cyclone that could clear out some of the league's disdainful clutter, or the embodiment of the assassin's brute, goal-oriented elegance. At the same time, as TIABF rightly claims, Durant's strong grasp of the game's mechanics, polite air, focus on winning, and clean-cut image make him the pin-up kid for those still looking for more Duncan. You could apply this same template to Oden: we looked at him and saw a personality-laden, freak athlete giant, while our foes curled their beards at the sight of the next super-stable big man. I was going to say "the next Bill Russell," but you get the same split-object there—and probably more often than you think throughout basketball history, which is both why the games has suffered and why it has survived.
This form of perfection is largely symbolic. I don't think anyone could clam that Durant is the ideal NBA player, and yet he somehow spans two distinct spheres of expectation. In this, he might be best thought of as a peacemaker, an olive branch-shaped olive branch disguised as a double-edged blade. LeBron James, on the other hand, is the closest we have to actual basketball completism. Durant eeks out a definition of the "perfect" based on what his time on the court the stands for; James, on the other hand, is still a marvel primarily for his a priori grandeur. LeBron's combination of size, skill, speed, strength, basketball IQ, court vision and instinct is almost inhuman. Certainly, it's part of what makes him dull to some, or makes others view him as a continual letdown.
LeBron's perfection is a curse; it will never be realized, in that he must constantly make decisions and go one way or the other. Granted, his current situation with the Cavs distorts his inclinations, or at very least makes him appear ragged and impetuous. But even if he were to achieve a Durant-ian balance of edge and wisdom, there would be those disappointed with the particulars: that he wasn't passing more, or posting up, or running the offense as is his birthright. Kevin Durant has given us a version of himself, and it has met with great acclaim. Whatever LeBron gives us is subject to criticism, since he could always do—or be—otherwise.
Ironically, there are no factions in this mob. LeBron unites us all in deifying his spirit at the same time as we shred his flesh.