The league is filled with some of the best players in the world and every team has their hometown superstars that they revolve around. But when asked about THE MAN in the NBA, 2 names pop in most heads – Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.
These two headliners are the face of the league. One has been the head honcho of the league for almost a decade, while the other has already put the league on his back for the future. Aside from the big picture, they’re the leaders of their own respective teams and have led each to victory numerous times throughout the season and now during the playoffs. They’ve hustled, grinded it out, and took over games when their team needed that extra boost for a win. What got me thinking though is the increasing pressure from two different sides.
They know when they have to take over games and understand that they’re going to be called upon when the game is on the line. No matter how exhausted they’ve been at times during this postseason, they know and expect to take that last shot. They’ve both had their hands full with Orlando and Denver, and many times have had to throw the entire team on their back with the sole focus of winning that game; where they’ve succeeded, but also fallen short. Though in their minds, they understand their role as team leaders and know that they have the ability and skill to take over any game at any time.
But let’s tie that with another, more global side…
Aside from the team, the coaches, and their own expectations – it’s what the fans, the media, and advertisers are expecting and hoping for – a Lebron vs. Kobe NBA Finals matchup. Undoubtedly, they were the 2 best teams in the league during the regular season, but the playoffs are a different beast and it shows. Lebron’s Cavs are struggling to stay alive in the series against Orlando, while the Lakers have their own battle with Denver. We all wish for that dream matchup, I know I do. But how much pressure are we willing to put on the already enormous backs of these two superstars?
The media and advertisers have been chomping at the bit (while some are scared) at the thought of two MVPs going at it in the Finals. Nike has seemingly blown the roof off this hopeful matchup with their series of Kobe/Lebron puppet commercials. I love the commercials – they’re witty, funny, but also, instills that thought into our heads. Kobe vs. Lebron; Lebron vs. Kobe. Nike wants it; the NBA (whether they admit it or not) wants it. I’m sure even Lebron and Kobe want it. On the flip, there are many who are tired of hearing about and don’t want it to happen. They’re pulling for the supposed underdogs to win both series, as I’m sure Orlando and Denver are sick of hearing about it as well. I know Dwight Howard is.
Now tie these two sides together and look at the bigger picture. They’re leaders because of their skill and ability, and they wholeheartedly accept that role. That’s definitely not at question. What I question is the additional expectations from fans, media, advertisers, etc. I realize that the league and advertisers would benefit from this possible matchup, but when do we ask ourselves, are we asking for too much?
Are these expectations right to their opponents? To the league? More importantly, is it right to Lebron and Kobe, two players that already have immense pressure to lead their teams. Let me hear from you.