*You can also vote for the LeBron James/Paul Pierce matchup. Voting closes on Tuesday at 11 A.M. EST.*
Either the Kevin Durant venom is more widespread than I thought or the love affair with Monta Ellis is more than a fling. Either way, Durant only skated by with a three-vote victory thanks to some last-second faithfuls. He may not be so lucky this week. Clearly length is hardly a deterrent for Wade, who bulldozed Joe Johnson and then kicked him in the teeth for good measure.
Part of my goodness will vanish when one of these guys is eliminated. But probably more so if it’s Dwyane Wade. Kevin Durant will always have the Thunder and the assurance that his dominance will reign supreme in Oklahoma city. But how often is a top five (top three, in some circles) NBA player’s legacy shaped by the trajectory of another? Miami, really, is riding the LeBron James rollercoaster. But we’ll always return to the ephemeral conviction that Miami is Dwyane’s team. It’s why he’ll always be introduced last, placed in the center of Big Three photographs and generally regarded in high esteem.
It all seems like a pitiful attempt to elude the hovering truth: Wade’s legacy is pretty much defined. Great scorer, clutch performer, unquestioned Hall of Famer. But he’ll never scratch the surface of the G.O.A.T. conversation and will ultimately rest somewhere near Clyde Drexler’s general vicinity. As an individual, he’s already eclipsed the HoF shooting guard threshold by miles. But his team accomplishments from here on out, well those will always live under the domain of the The King. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s fair or not. It doesn’t even matter if Wade outperforms LeBron in the future. Teams are always defined by their best player.
Defying the odds, taking down giants. That’s been Wade’s calling card his entire career. Even though Kevin Durant’s physical advantage is seemingly insurmountable, it’s never stopped The Flash before. But Durant is no Joe Johnson or Tyson Chandler. He’s in the middle of carving out his own legacy, building a path that has mirrored LeBron’s in every way. Savior of a desperate franchise, constructing a contender out of nowhere. Making names irrelevant like Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha relevant. At this same point in LeBron’s career, we couldn’t even conceive of his departure. Why would a star on the cusp of a championship with his own team ever depart? But LeBron’s heel turn forced us to latch onto someone else, even if it might have been a little quick. And that man is Kevin Durant. If he ends up finding greener pastures somewhere else, we just might throw him in jail for unspeakable blasphemy.
However meaningless this one-on-one tournament may seem, I’d expect Durant and Wade to take it more seriously than most. On the one hand, we’ll have a Miami star seeking individual accolades to match a backcourt mate that will always sit on a higher throne. And then we’ve got the young gun, the one looking to break away from the “we only love you because you represent everything that LeBron is not” branding. So expect a close game filled with heated exchanges and an unrelenting pursuit of unquestioned greatness.
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