9.23.2007

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.

12 Comments:

At 9/23/2007 10:37 PM, Blogger Tim said...

What strikes me is that Krolik1157 is actually younger than Durant. In many ways he might be the Durant of basketball bloggers. Damn, that boy can write.

 
At 9/23/2007 11:22 PM, Blogger personalmathgenius said...

Thing is, if Vince really does pass because he has no other options (yes I know, those are Krolik's words, not yours), if he really does feel the sun of wins rising can only come from his pants (pun intent ambiguous), then his Darkonianity is purely a quixotic thing. It'll never last, and he will become even more of a reference for wasted potential than Vick.
I have played and watched both sports for years and feel fairly safe in saying that football is way different from basketball in the ability of one player to sway the flow and outcome of the game. He may remind us of hoops, but that analogy, or more importantly for this site's ideology's purposes, that STYLE, can only go so far. At that point, forget generals, he's just a kamikaze pilot, or a child soldier with an AK who thinks he's indestructible because some yahoo told him fucking a virgin made him bulletproof.
In football, doing it all yourowndamnself, is impossible physically, practically, and pragmatically. Eventually that isht will become stale to the owner, the coaches, the fans, and yes, even the players who previously thought he could fly around the world fast enough to reverse the flow of time.

In other words, you can't even sell DIVISION championships out the trunk of your car.

 
At 9/23/2007 11:24 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

Causal me a mope -- I want affirmation: was it brother Werner or Bellow's Epistle-for Hire that warrants mention on your Mission Statement?

 
At 9/24/2007 2:25 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

werner. at least for me.

 
At 9/24/2007 2:51 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Amazing analysis of LeBron, and all that in one-and-a-half paragraphs. I haven't really been able to describe why LeBron doesn't move me all that much with the exception of when he's in Magic Johnson mode, so this is maybe as close as it gets. I think LeBron as a scorer is a bit underwhelming to me because when he barrels through the lane he is reduced to pure physics. Something like mass x going to the basket at the high speed of y so that the defenders are bound to be thrown out of the way. But when he is (or, in my perception, was doing much more in his rookie season) throwing these amazing one-handed flips and passes through three defenders, that's when he impresses me the most.

To get back to Durant, great posts by TIABF, the case against KD was very well-formulated. So even if I disagree in some points, how anyone could ressort to insults after such a resourceful start to a discussion is beyond me.

I don't think Durant will have all that many problems in the low post. Of course he won't be like Tim Duncan, who's actually getting defenders out of his way to the basket quite a lot of times by using various bumps and pushes. Among other things, KD showed an amazing fade-away fake and step-through leaner in summer league, the kind of move that Garnett does on the right block and often finishes with a dunk.

But KG seems - for lack of a better term - quite mechanical at times in the way he frees himself of his defender. His success with the fade-away is not because he left the defender standing, but because a guy with such an incredible reach jumping backwards is just unblockable.

Maybe I'm way off with this, but in this regard Durant reminds me much more of Olajuwon. Not in the fluidity of their motions or moves (they are totally different types of player after all), but in the way they get their defenders off balance and then finish their moves in a place where the defender has no chance of recovering to. See the Dream Shake, where Olajuwon still relied heavily on his athleticism when jumping backwards, but the deciding few inches were gained by dipping that left shoulder towards the middle before the spin.

That is the impression I get when Durant is posting up. And he probably will be pushed out a few feet by the Wilcoxes and Boozers in his first season, but when KD is isolated against thes guys somewhere between the lane and the 3-point-line, that doesn't leave me too uncomfortable either.

 
At 9/24/2007 2:59 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

And great that I left a comment almost as long as the original post after applauding Shoals for boiling LeBron down to one-and-a-half paragraphs.

 
At 9/24/2007 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

L'affaire Durant, for advocates of Red Holtzman-style collectivist ball, is going to be over the second he puts up an inevitable week where he drops 40 in five straight games, the team goes 2-3, and he goes for maybe 2-3 assists over said stretch. This isn't to say he's a selfish player, but he's going to have to transcend the restrictions of playing on a bad team in a way that will irritate "team play" pencilnecks. And, when that happens, tear up his membership card in the Tim Duncan "good-guy" club.

 
At 9/24/2007 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But what if he starts bankin' 'em?

 
At 9/24/2007 9:57 PM, Anonymous 3 point ointment said...

Durant is gonna be a beast eventually but if we're talking about next season I completely agree with the writer who said KD will have probs. Who wouldn't on that seatle team, forget about an nba rookie doing anything signifiant on that team. 39% from the field, 20 ppg, 25 wins...
Durants seems to be a lot like shawn livingston in terms of his body, so I don't think he's going to be able to handle the nba game that well this year.

 
At 9/24/2007 11:57 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

The Curse of LeBron is, indeed, that no matter what he does, it won't be the Right Thing to someone. If he won a championship scoring, some (Simmons, maybe me) would long for The Point Guard Experiment. If he won passing, Barkley would say that he's a finisher and should be finishing. If he won by brilliantly and quietly doing a little of everything and deferring to others (like he did in the FIBA America Tournament) people would say that he'd failed to live up to the hype.

The Gift of LeBron is that it seems too easy to believe that in five years he could be more than the Next Big O: that he could not only average a triple double, but that he could lead the league in scoring (MJ), assists (Magic), and rebounds (Moses). And that in 15 or 20 years, he could be the first athlete billionaire and the Global Icon.

It might be unfair, but I don't want him to focus on one thing and do it well. I'd rather he try to do everything better than everyone who's preceded him--and fail--than that he limit himself and succeed.

 
At 9/25/2007 1:17 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I think LeBron showed off his optimal game this summer in the FIBA tournament. Everything he did essentially depended on the situation at hand, so it never looked like he was forcing one thing or neglecting another. Of course, he was only able to do that because the talent surrounding him freed him up. When/if he gets another legit talent next to him, I think we're going to see another example of something approaching Shoals's primary facilitator/secondary option theory from a few months back.

That's all kinda obvious, but I think it comes down to this for me: because the other Cavs are so terrible, it's hard for me to get mad at LeBron for whatever style he plays. That will change if he does similar things when there's a reason for him to play in a style different than throwing his talents out there and seeing what sticks on any particular night.

 
At 6/14/2013 6:42 PM, Blogger Jim Philips said...

It is a pity but flickr took down the pictures. So people don't use it anymore at Hostpph community for it.

 

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