This blog comes to you in a bleary-eyed and exhausted state of mind because the NBA playoffs see midnight more often than Paris Hilton. Who am I kidding. Ms. Hilton doesn’t even go out until after midnight. At any rate, staying up late, never felt so good if you like fantastic games, phenomenal athletes and solid broadcasters. The playoffs are down to the final four and you could not have better match-ups for superb competition. There have been so many “wow” factors in these conference championship games, it’s difficult to select just one or two.
Let’s start with the players. Lebron James is unlike any player we have seen in 40 years. He is unbelievable and he punctuated his ascent to greatness with his game winning shot in game two against the Orlando Magic. It will be a shot that will be replayed and remembered for decades. It falls into, dare I write it, the Jordan library of great playoff moments. It was a shot reminiscent of Michael Jordan over Craig Ello way back in 1989. How many times have we all seen that shot! How ironic that LeBron’s shot to beat the Magic occurs almost 20 years to the day that Jordan hit his shot. It was one of those seminal moments in sports that will live forever. James is just a flat out beast and his will to win is almost unmatched.
Someone who can match the intensity of LeBron, who is a playoff regular is Kobe Bryant. The stone cold killer with three NBA championships under his belt wants more and wants to prove he can do it without Shaquille O’Neal on his team. This just might be the year. Kobe is the guy you want to take the shot at the end of the game and watching this guy is almost as fun as soaking in King James. Throw in physical specimen Dwight Howard into the playoff mix and scoring machine and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony and these playoffs are just one big tasty basketball stew!
The coaching has been pretty darn good as well. In the Western conference what a coaching match-up. Phil Jackson and his nine championships going toe to toe with George Karl, who might just be the best coach in the league never to have won a title. Then there are the relative newcomers in the east with Stan Van Gundy leading Orlando against Mike Brown and LeBron’s Cavaliers. While these two don’t have nearly the coaching pedigree as the guys out west, they at least bring some personality to the table. Speaking of personalities, even the guys behind the microphones have increased the viewing pleasure of these playoffs. Marv Albert is da bomb and nobody exudes excitement like Kevin Nealon. Throw in crack-ups like Jeff Van Gundy and studio shows that feature Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and you have the perfect recipe of comedy and basketball knowledge in its purest form.
Broadcaster Bill Walton said it best this week. “This is just an absolutely golden age for the NBA right now,” Walton said, “driven by remarkable stars. Between LeBron and Kobe at the highest end, and then just a notch below with what we’re seeing with Dwight Howard and Carmelo . . . all four of those players easily playing the best ball of their careers. With exciting teams around them, it’s just been tantalizing.”
While Walton is unable to cover the playoffs this year because of health issues, the big redhead is not missing a single minute of action as he tunes into every game. You should too if you want to watch some of the greatest action in all of sports. Just remember to have a cup of coffee in the evening to insure you will still be up for the fantastic finishes. You can thank me later.