Monday, June 13, 2011
A Two-for-One: What do we think now?
On Saturday afternoon I read an article on Grantland that said some things about Chris Bosh. It inspired me to write a) about Bill Simmons’ new website and b) Chris Bosh. I was ready to let loose on how the Heat’s starting velociraptor was a huge punk because when he does something good or noteworthy, he makes sure to let you know about it, but that the hard façade is thinner than an M&M’s. He’ll hit the ground, flail his arm and scream his dino-call at the slightest bit of facial contact (or not), and for that I want to give his a noogie and a wedgie and Charlie horse all at the same time. Unfortunately, I got a little distracted in the middle of writing this post, had a cocktail or three and lost my train of thought. So before I go any further, here’s what I had going a couple days ago....
You may have noticed an addition to the sports media world this past week: The Sports Guy got his own website called Grantland. The anticipation has been building for months now and, given the staff that Simmons picked up for this new endeavor, there is little doubt that the output will be mostly good and at times terrific. But it all seems eerily similar to the day my older brother got his own phone line when he hit middle school (we had a phone that was better suited for a doctor’s office for some reason). There was no doubt Charlie’s output would be prolific and the seeming privacy of line 6 was more liberating than anything his 13-year-old mind could comprehend. But there was an undeniable presence looming above, ready to shut it down the second he crossed the line – Ma and Pa. With Grantland, the great concern is Bristol the Almighty, a force that could spoil even the most ideal sports haven.
Still, I look forward to much of the material that comes from this new project – I’ve loved Chuck Klosterman for a long time and Simmons poached some really great writers from all over the map, including something called Carles. I had never heard of this writer until yesterday, and was not terribly surprised to find out that, with a handle like that, he runs a site called HipsterRunoff.com. Still, I must give it (that’s about as androgynous a name as there is, right?) some props for identifying the singular quality in Chris Bosh that makes me want to kick him in the shins over and over and over. From Carles at Grantland:
It’s so humanizing when a role player get [sic] a post-game interview, and admits that he knows he is not the reason people are filling the seats. That’s why Chris Bosh kills so many vibes. His personal brand doesn’t connect with our perception of him as a role player. Role players are usually the self-aware foundation of the NBA, providing insight into the A-list stars and the emotional state of the locker room.
Now, the premise of Chris Bosh as a role player will rub some people (my brother) the wrong way, but it appears pretty clear to me that Chris Bosh’s primary asset at this point is his ability to destroy defenses that have allocated too much attention and personnel to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The Miami Heat offense is dictated by the decisions of these two players and Bosh is particularly suited to capitalize on the opposing team’s inability to handle either or both of them. To me, that makes Chris Bosh the epitome of a role player. He is James Worthy on a team with Magic and Kareem, which is to say he’s potential Hall of Famer who feasts off the leftovers of two all-time greats.
But as it is with everything involving this Heat team, scrutiny is directed less at their on-court performance than their off-court persona. I’ve called Bosh soft and fugazi and dinosauric, and it all stems from the war cry he let out during the Big 3 introduction last summer. His bullshit superstar act has only accelerated this season to the point that I am vehemently rooting against the funny 7-footer that once made a hilarious commercial for his all-star campaign. I am ready to admit that that dude can play at an astoundingly high level, but he is a far cry from Mr. Wade, let alone LeBron.....
I’m not sure where I was going to go from there, which is probably why I gave into the rum bottle staring at me from across the room, but I stopped mostly because I don’t really care enough about Chris Bosh to write any more. As I thought about finishing that story today, I came across another Grantland article by a guy named Jay Caspian Kang (I know I’m not really one to talk, but where did Simmons find names like these?) and finally admitted that it’s still all about LeBron. The message was similar to those echoed by a couple other great writers today: that LeBron’s performance in games 2-6 was not appalling or disappointing as much as it was oddly familiar and sadly normal. From Mr. Caspian Kang:
He is quickly becoming the problem nobody cares enough to solve, the bully whom you endure, not because you feel threatened, but because you've long since given up trying to reason with him. For the most part, the response to the coughing video wasn't outrage or even confusion, but rather a collective rolling of the eyes and a deeply felt, deeply annoyed sigh. That, more than anything else, was just LeBron being LeBron.
BOOM! LeBron being LeBron is not a pretty sight, and I fear its only going to get worse. At some point during the last year, everyone began to accept the idea that LeBron was embracing this “evil” role, that he was going to thrive under this new Dark Knight veil. But that ain’t him. Did you see him host Saturday Night Live three years ago? Tell me that guy wants to spend the rest of his career feeding off hate. He doesn’t. And neither does Dwyane Wade. Both of them are jovial characters woefully unaware of the depth of their self-induced Catch-22. Well, maybe it’s not a real Catch-22 because there is a way out: recognize your mortality and take a slice of humble pie. True, James and Wade both gave credit to a superior Mavs team after the game last night, but LeBron also told his haters to essentially go back to their shitty lives while he settles into his mansion.
Yes, basketball fans across the country have spewed venom all over LeBron James and the Heat all season. I would say most of that stems from his stunningly brazen Decision, but it was seasoned with a heavy dose of racism. Still, LeBron willingly made that choice, in some ways accepted the “bad guy” role, then mocked Dirk Nowitzki’s cough as the 7’0” German took a dump all over his team – and yes it is his team because he is the best player in the world – fact. And LeBron played some of the worst basketball of his career in the process. I am trying to wrap my head around this guy and what will come of him – three days ago I was arguing with friends that in 10 years there will be no question as to who the best basketball player ever was: LeBron James. And who knows, maybe this loss will catapult him into a championship-winning machine. But the 2011 Finals will be known as much for his failures as Dirk’s brilliance (remember, those three games in a row decided by three points or fewer – this series easily could have been Miami in 5 or 6). David Thorpe called his play “atrocious,” and I’m not ready to go that far. But boy, he was a lot worse than he could have been, and Chris Bosh was just about right.