NBA Finals: Conflicting Feelings Surround LeBron’s Latest Coronation

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fan base over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was himself traded within the division was traded to the Jets of all teams after reaching near deity-status as a Cheesehead, his association with the team being the only one that could rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

As the final buzzer hummed and a celebration a full calendar year in the making ensued, confetti rained down upon LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates as swiftly as their onslaught on the Miami Heat Sunday in the last game of the NBA’s unprecedented bubble setting.

The buzzer was appreciated, it signaled the merciful end to a lopsided Game 6 that the new champions had no problem in. Meanwhile, the confetti and the other merriment were a bit more conflicting, signaling the conclusion of what had become an overall compelling NBA Finals. 

In the middle of it all, the basketball player I’ve enjoyed most outside of the standard-bearer to whom he’s most often compared, had just procured his fourth overall NBA Championship and with his third team. Seeing James pose with the Larry O’Brien Trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy for the fourth time was supposed to be captivating, or so I anticipated it being.

It wasn’t, though.

I’ve unapologetically supported James throughout his pro career — from his debut in Sacramento’s ARCO Arena to “The Decision” to his Tinseltown takeover, even giving him credit for every potential game-winning shot along the way that he readily conceded to a teammate. 

So, to feel detachment in this moment where so many others were reveling in their King James standom was…strange. 

Had I fallen that head-over-glass-slipper heeled for the Heat? I dare anyone to deny their heart grew softer over time while watching this team built in the image of its anti-superstar, Jimmy Butler, slug its way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. (Anyone who rooted for Indiana, Milwaukee and Boston need not reply. Sorry.)

Was my sudden indifference a result of the anticlimactic season finale along with angst over the uncertain start of the next? Miami seemed to be onto something after losing two of its best three players along with the first pair of games in this series. Whether a result of fatigue or Los Angeles’ decision to stop playing with its food, Sunday’s woefully forgettable affair is the last NBA action we’ll see until at least January or perhaps even (gasp) March. 

Could it be that with his 10th Finals appearance, James had occupied the championship stage enough times to become an arbitrary villain? James’ opponents were favored in seven of those instances. This wasn’t one of them. The odds were more heavily stacked in James’ favor this time than with any other Finals opponent in his career, according to OddsShark.

Admittedly, it was more enjoyable to cheer for James as he hunted his first championship, fended off the shrewdly-seasoned San Antonio Spurs and fought to the death against modern basketball’s darlings, the Golden State Warriors. 

Was the inevitable — and indomitable — juxtaposition of James and Michael Jordan to blame? Intentionally or not, James has been chasing Jordan’s ghost since he formally introduced himself to the world 17 years ago, that much is inarguable and it’ll continue to be a main storyline of James’ career until it concludes.

The fact is even with James’ brilliance, there still remains an entire hall-of-fame career — two NBA championships, two Finals MVP awards, one Defensive Player of the Year and regular season MVP award, four All-Defensive First-Team awards, and nine scoring titles — existing between the two generational phenomenons. But, how you prefer your G.O.A.T. is really none of my business.

Further exploration caused me to attribute my lack of enthusiasm to a unique combination of all of the above factors. One thing that can’t be given credit to is any credence to the belief that this bizarre season deserved to be branded with a scarlet asterisk.

Between two stoppages in play, the consolidated wearing of time in isolation and reaction to social activism outside the bubble, as well as the absence of tangible fan reaction, this campaign was peppered with unprecedented challenges. Even the Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, two teams thought to be on a collision course at the end of the season before its start, stumbled. To that end, this season was no less meaningful than any other, it will likely live on as more memorable, if not meaningful.

James finally tied a bow around the 2019-2020 season nearly a full calendar year after it began and not just the NBA season, for this was really the first season where this league that so often stands on its own, converged with the momentum and ideals and timing of the WNBA, NHL, NFL, MLS, and MLB.

The tap that we were thirsting for at the coming of summer is now dry and needs refilling. Maybe that better explains my reaction.

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