LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Go ahead and pick the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the 2012 NBA title. University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino does. So do I.
Kick LeBron James for the way he broke up with Cleveland Cavaliers two years ago, treating them like they were a summer romance. Pitino was not a fan of how James left his hometown area for Miami either. But all James really did was change jobs – like a couple of sports writers I know.
Howl at James for the pretentious way he announced his decision, and was then celebrated like he was Magic Johnson when he arrived in Miami. Pitino gets that. Me, too.
"All he had to do was say it was the most difficult decision in his life, strictly a basketball decision," Pitino said.
"He didn't have to do the show (on ESPN). He didn't have to talk about taking his talents to South Beach. He didn't have to talk about winning one, two, three, however many titles he said. It really rubbed people the wrong way. Until that point, he was a very popular young man. You saw him on TV every two minutes with all the commercials."
Are you finished giving LeBron the piñata treatment? Good.
Because whether you want LeBron to get blasted four straight or finally wrap his arms around the O'Brien Trophy, these NBA Finals, the ones that began with Oklahoma City's 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat Tuesday, are all about James.
Not Kevin Durant, no matter how many fourth-quarter points he scores from incredible distances and angles.
Not Dwyane Wade, no matter how high he soars or how injured he appears. Not about any Thunder or Heat player.
It's all LeBron Raymone James.
If Miami wins, James gets his Get Out of Public Relations Jail card. He'll have his first ring and be positioned to pursue more. We'll have to find a new punching bag to outfit with the Darth Vader mask.
Then everybody can take a cleansing breath and realize the only thing James really did was the same thing that Pitino, John Calipari, Tom Crean and even a few newspaper guys have tried – a new job, a fresh challenge.
Taunt James as long and as loudly as you like. Doesn't matter. Without hesitation, Pitino said LeBron is the best player in the NBA. I agree. And, yes, I saw all those shots Durant made while outscoring James, 36-30, Tuesday. Without LeBron, the Heat are gone after the first round.
And if Miami loses …
People will talk about him as if James crashed the housing market and added $5 to the price of gas. We'll transition directly from the Kobe Bryant Era to the Kevin Durant Era.
Twitter was a gold mine for LeBron-Crushing Tuesday:
Why is it a bad idea to ask LeBron to change a dollar bill? He'll never give you the fourth quarter.
I'm looking for a LeBron-type of relationship – no ring and I disappear when you really need me.
How do you know when you've found LeBron's cell phone? It vibrates but never rings.
I'm sure you can top that. Send me your suggestions at email@example.com. I'll credit you and share the best answers in a future column.
Just make certain you remember this: LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. His performance in the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics – 33.6 points, 53 percent shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals while playing nearly 46 minutes – had Pitino comparing him to Michael Jordan.
"When he's shooting the ball the way he's been shooting it during the playoffs, body to body, LeBron is unguardable," Pitino said. "Add that low post drop step and the way he can just go by you off the bounce and he's delivered a Michael Jordan-type performance in these playoffs."
Now LeBron has to do that four more times without losing three more times over the next two weeks. If he does, the LeBron Crushing ends. If he doesn't, I don't think James will recover.
That's why these NBA Finals are all about one man: LeBron Raymone James.