NBA Finals Game 1: Kevin Durant Great, LeBron was Fine

Right now you are one of 50 other people reading this story. A hundred if I’m lucky; 200 if it’s one of my more popular articles.

In the online world, this is nothing. Say I write one article a day for a year, each notching 100 reads apiece. That’s 36,500 for the year. Not bad until you consider if I titled my blog post: Nude Photos of Kim Kardashian! I’d hit 40,000 reads in a matter of minutes. I’m probably getting extra views right now for having those italicized words above.

As a writer, or really any type of artist, there are two distinct ends of the production spectrum. On one end is the, “Nobody gets me” style. This is the person who seems to produce weird stuff just for the sake of being weird. If the audience walks out on them or bashes their piece, well, you know what, they just don’t get it. They don’t understand!

The opposite end of the spectrum is the, “Everyone’s Gonna Love it!” angle. You determine what everyone likes, maybe do some research, see what’s worked in the past and go from there. This is why most of the Super Bowl commercials center around either cars, girls in bikinis, beer, or some combination of the three.

As consumers, we digest material from all over this spectrum. Wes Anderson, Reggie Watts, trendy things like grass fed cow burgers or composting in our backyard all lean toward the “Nobody gets me” side. Michael Bay movies, romantic comedies, romance novels, and McDonalds lean “Everyone’s Gonna Love It.”

One is far more profitable than the other, but neither one is necessarily better. Sometimes you want to ego-trip with an obscure Lars Von Trier film, other times you want to turn off your brain altogether and enjoy the new Adam Sandler movie, which, by the way, I think That’s My Boy looks hilarious.

The challenge arises when it becomes a business. If writing for this blog were my full-time job, I would have to figure out a way to milk some real dollars out of it. Make people pay to read? Yeah right, it would quickly go from 50 reads apiece to 15, to 10, then eventually only my parents and brother forking over the five bucks or whatever the price would be on a regular basis.

Advertisements? You have to. It’s the only way to keep the content free for the viewer yet profitable to the writer.

Transition this idea to sports. Let’s say, in some magical alternative universe, Pizza Hut and Long John Silvers were paying me $100,000 in ads, on this page, as long as I hit a certain view count for articles related to the NBA Finals. Let’s say that number per article is 50,000 reads. Considering all this, which Game 1 article should I write?

Video Breakdown of Thabo Sefolosha’s Defense in Fourth Quarter Suffocates Otherwise Dominate LeBron James

Or

Kevin Durant Shines as LeBron James Chokes Again in NBA Finals 

Option A I might land me Thabo’s family and friends, whereas Option B I stir up the hornet’s nest and get in return: Durant fans, LeBron haters, and LeBron fans who want to tell me why my claims are bogus.

Option A I get a phone call from Pizza Hut and Long John’s telling me they can’t keep paying if only five people are going to see the ads.

Option B results in thousands of Durant fans/LeBron hater/LeBron fans having different reactions but ultimately all ending up ordering an any pizza, any size, $10 or the new lobster bite platter.

By making bold, often outrageous statements, you attract both sides, those who love LeBron and those who hate him. In the words of Katala from the 1958 movie The Vikings: 

Love and hate are two horns on the same goat

Does this mean sportswriters can’t be popular without being outlandish? No, but what it does mean is for every J.A. Adande that a sports company hires, they need a Skip Bayless to secure their ratings.

If you hire too many Skip Baylesses, you create a massive boy-who-cries-wolf experience that eventually fizzles out. Think about the Kim Kardashian example above. If someone clicks on: Nude Kim Kardashian but instead gets here they’ll leave angry and never come back.

On the flip side, too many J.A. Adandes and where’s the excitement? There’s nothing to argue about. Everything makes sense. Sports radio dies.

This is why I was intrigued after Game 1. I wanted to see how the media handled Durant blowing up in the fourth quarter and LeBron, well, having a perfectly fine final 12 minutes.

LeBron scored seven fourth quarter points. Think about it, scoring 30 points in a basketball game means you score about 7.5 a quarter, aka eight one quarter, seven the next since half baskets are non-existent. The only way LeBron’s fourth quarter was a failure is if 30-point games are now considered average. I’ve always argued that this is actually what makes LeBron so special: he has us expecting 30 a night.

If you watched the game you saw numerous times when LeBron powered to the rim, Durant stepped out of the way, and LeBron finished strong. He went to the foul line nine times, hit seven, and always seemed to get those and-one layups at points in the game when it looked like the Thunder were going to pull away. 

LeBron had 16 of his team’s 40 second half points (40 percent of team output). Kevin Durant had 23 of his team’s 58 (39.6 percent of team output). But that stat is too boring, involves math and is just complicated, doesn’t fit into a nice easy to digest graphic. Look seven is so much less than 23!

Before Game 1 even started, the most profitable angles for the series had already been determined:

LeBron James coming up short again.

LeBron James finally overcoming his critics and winning a ring.

Kevin Durant the new best player in the world.

These bring in viewers. Game 1 set ratings history. Viewers bring in ad money. Don’t like it? Eh, at least we get to watch for free.

What I will say is Miami has two problems. One short term, one long term.

Short term. Shane Battier scored 17 and they still lost by 11. I think those 11 can easily be made up for between LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, but it’s hard for me to believe Battier will do this every night. How do they account for those extra baskets?

Second concern is long term Wade and LeBron as the team. I think LeBron needs to have a supporting cast where he gets out and runs with three shooters and a bruiser down low. The ideal shooting guard next to LeBron is more Ray Allen than Dwyane Wade. For some reason this has never really happened in LeBron’s career.

LeBron’s game is different than Durant’s. Durant is the pure shooter with the extra height to get his shot over anyone. LeBron doesn’t have the same efficiency outside (although he is improving, bank shots included) but his advantage is attacking the rim with a level of force Durant will never have.

If LeBron had shooters around him, then it’s not just him who’s un-guardable, it’s the whole team. Leave the lane open, LeBron’s driving in for a dunk. Clog up the lane and LeBron’s hitting one of his snipers behind the arc. This is why those nights when Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, James Jones are all hitting, LeBron gets one of his 35 points, 12 assists, 10 rebound games, you watch and think that’s the best team I’ve ever seen. We’re usually guaranteed to see that team at least once every seven game series.

The Wade-LeBron combo isn’t broken (two finals in two years), but I don’t think it’s the best fit for either of them. Before it’s too late, aka when Wade is 33/34 (sooner than you think) and doesn’t have the same trade value he would have now, I think the Heat should turn Wade into a couple high level shooters. I think this would result in five years of dominance and less of these moments for Pat Riley:

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14 thoughts on “NBA Finals Game 1: Kevin Durant Great, LeBron was Fine

  1. First time reader, I’ll be coming back. Nice article… it’s refreshing to read something not written by a Yahoo blogger that contains spelling and/or grammatical errors littered with pop culture references that contribute nothing to the content of the piece. btw, i liked the 40% of 2nd half team production stat from KD and LBJ, pretty interesting

    • Thank you for the comment Joe and I’m really happy you stopped by the blog. My view on pop culture references is use them only if it makes sense to an overall point or side of the argument. As for the 40% stat, I was surprised when I looked it up and did the math. LeBron just can’t catch a break lol!

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