We live in hope, when we're too dumb to know better. And maybe, when this NBA Finals is over, we will graduate to the next step in basketball analysis, namely this: Figuring out the best team, as opposed to focusing on the best player.
LeBron James is the best player, and as a result has been nailed to the same board that Wilt Chamberlain endured for most of his career, namely as the best player who always got his hat blocked by Bill Russell. When in fact, and this is an insufficiently-cited fact, it wasn't Chamberlain who failed or Russell who succeeded, but the 76ers who failed and the Celtics who succeeded.
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This seems obvious, but as the game was defined more as a matter of individual personalities and skills, we seemed to have lost the element of macro-analysis, while finding new ways to quantify what we see. And the central truth is this: The team that has at least one player who can excel at every aspect of the game wins.
Some players excel at several; some specialists, at only one. But the team with one, two or three superb players doesn't win unless they get more from the role players than their opposite numbers. Heat-Thunder, or Thunder-Heat depending on the location of your heart, has shown us that finding the one player and making it a one-on-one matter is missing the point entirely.
In other words, this isn't about LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, and it doesn't have to be. True, this flies in the face of the army of media yappy dogs who need it to be a passion play of one man's struggle against his inner demons, or whatever other brain-damaged construct appeals to their bosses.
But it is the fact. Even hockey, which loves to blurt out the "your best players have to be your best players" cliché every day between mid-April and mid-June, are missing the point. There is a reason why there are 12 players on a basketball team, or 20 on a hockey team. Depth matters. Depth of skill matters. Depth of healthy players matters.
A team's best players have a better chance of being the best players when they don't have to do four things really well every time down the floor. That's just logic.
But the beauty of this series is that people may finally be wearying of the James-is-a-choker shrieks. They are repetitive, they are tiresome, and they miss a greater point.
Even if he is the modern-day Chamberlain (and we assert that he is, at least in terms of having the hard-to-recreate skill set viz. his peers), he cannot win a Finals by himself, and he cannot lose it by himself.
Maybe this revelation has come to us because we are punched out on the James-bashing. It's been said so long, so often and so loudly that it has lost its meaning. But maybe it's also lost its meaning because it never had much meaning.
Maybe it was just a lot of noise to keep the chat wheels spinning. Maybe it was always a TV/radio/Internet construct -- you know, kind of like this little dodge. So maybe we have to reinvent the way we watch the game.
More and more people are figuring out that we've been blowing a lot of air on this stars-are-the-games already, so maybe it's a trend that's growing for the betterment of society. Oh, what in God's name are we saying? We'll never give up the easy thing to do the nuanced thing. You can't shout out a nuance, and we'd rather have the shouting. Good for us.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.