The match-up between LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard is awesome for so many reasons. I don't even know how to start talking about it. It's on as I'm typing, and my brain is sputtering. The beauty of it is how unforced or manufactured their budding rivalry is. They're not from the same draft class. An ad campaign never approached one of them with the other in mind. The conflict is not about MVP votes. Everything about the two of them playing comes down to what happens in a space of 94 feet by 50 feet. They bump. They jab. They grab. They make fantastic plays. It's as Dick Vitale would say, awesome!
Furthermore, the two are natural foils for one another. LeBron grew up without a real father figure. The game of basketball is where he found himself as a man. Kawhi was tragically robbed of a father when his was murdered and so the game of basketball for him, too, seems to be a place where one either fills or empties himself. Perhaps these binaries are one and the same. Moreover, Kawhi is shy to the point of silence, while LeBron's physical prowess has made silence impossible. The Decision was a surprise, and yet nothing about LeBron is a surprise. His career has largely been exactly what everyone thought it would be. On the other hand, Kawhi is like some dawdling pauper. He's the meek, youthful Arthur apprenticing Merlin. And, then, when he drives around a pick for a one-handed slam or muscles up to LeBron, we see that Excalibur flash of athleticism. He can leap like . . . He can move like . . . He can appear to do anything like . . . well . . . like LeBron. And then we see something from LeBron that's so very rare: frustration caused not by his own mistakes or an off night but by a real genuine opponent who is not afraid.
Early in his career Carmelo was thought to be LeBron's potential rival, but New York ruined him. Kobe and Wade were both too old, Plus, LeBron slayed Wade when he went to South Beach. KD seems adequate, but he has a Westbrook with which to deal. And then there's Paul George, but I don't think LeBron ever took him or the Pacers seriously. And that leaves Kawhi as the only player on the planet who time and time again goes at LeBron as if LeBron weren't the King. This is strange. This is fun. And, hopefully, we haven't seen the last of it.
|"In my head, every character was named Kawhi."|
|"Have you Forrest Gump, Shady?" "Um, yeah." "Then you know what to do."|
Bryan Harvey can be followed @LawnChairBoys.