Saturday, June 2, 2007

Notes, or Lebron James: Nike logo designer


Well, to lead off, I may have been a little bit right in asking people to back off the Lebron critcism a bit.

Unfortunately, my point is lost though. I wanted people to be patient, to give Lebron some time before we pass judgment. But Lebron went out and did what he did, and rendered my point completely moot.

I was asking his critics to shut up. Lebron made them shut up.

And I hope that not only did they shut up, but ate their words as well. I hope that every columnist, every blogger, every bar patron who said, "This kid just don't got it," I hope they all had to go back, tail between their legs, and say, "Boy, was I way wrong on this guy."

But I know that most of them didn't. Instead, they came out and said, "See, this is what I've been waiting for."

Oh, no no no, my friend. You don't wait for something like Lebron's Game 5. You don't ask someone to do that. How do you request something you've never seen before?

Now, I'm not going to do much Game 5 analysis. That's mostly because there have been a ton of words written about that game, and none of them do it justice. No hyperbole is too much.

I'm not going to break down Lebron's late efforts, mostly because they were new to me. You just don't see clutch dunks and game-winning layups. It's hard to analyze.

It's like when "The Wizard of Oz" hit theaters. If you had never seen a color movie before, and someone asked you to describe what it was like when they showed the scenes in Oz, what would you say?

Well I think for a lot of people, this was like that. Game 5 was our trip to Oz.

By the way, last year, everybody killed the Wizards for letting Lebron go baseline for a layup to win. First of all, Lebron caught an inbound pass, changed directions, tight-roped the out of bounds and got to the rim. There aren't three teams in the league who could've stopped that move.

And besides, here he was against the rough-and-tough Pistons, watching the same thing happen to them. So enough with the "You gotta' get a body on him," "You gotta' stay in front of him." Really? What do you think they were saying in the Pistons' huddle: "Watch Varejao?"

Look, they wanted to get a body on him. They wanted to foul. "No layups." Whatever. Sometimes you just can't do what you want to do.

When Ladanian Tomlinson is torching some NFL team, the coach is on the sideline saying, "Wrap him up! Put him on his ass!" Oh, really coach? We'll try that next time out. If it was that easy, if you could just decide to do something and then do it, we'd all go pro.

Now, my other quick insight, and this one has nothing to do with "scoring the basketball," as several jackass analysts would refer to it.

Late in the first overtime, Varejao fouled Rasheed Wallace on a shot with 30 seconds left with the Cavs up 100-96. It was a disaster of a foul, as it meant Detroit could get another possession and tie the game. (They did, and they did.)

But after Varejao's foul, Lebron didn't frown. He didn't put his palms up and go, "Why'd you foul?" And he didn't even slap Varejao's ass and go, "It's okay."

Lebron James, the coolest cat on the floor, walked over and hugged him. I don't know what he said during that embrace. But I would imagine it meant a lot to the frizzy Brazilian.
You want to talk about on-court awareness? This was more than basketball. This was psychology: Lebron knowing what this particular player, from this region of the world, making this giant mistake - he knew exactly what that guy needed. And Lebron knew that he would need this guy later, and would need him to be going full-bore.

And maybe - and this is what I hope - maybe it wasn't even psychology. It may have been out-and-out friendship.

But either way, it worked. Because, although the ESPN play-by-play didn't show it, I thought - and had it confirmed by others who watched the game - that Varejao got a finger on Billups' last-second shot. Just enough to kill the spin, and make it bounce off instead of in.

Now I don't know, nor will I ever, whether Varejao makes that play if Lebron doesn't hug him and say what he said. But I do know that these are two guys who like each other, and that they want to play together for a long time, and that Varejao likes Lebron for more than just his quick first step.

I think it's only a smart and caring player who hugs Varejao in that moment. Definitely Magic and Nash, maybe Bird... but this guy? Probably not.

One last thought. Although I've proven I can't take an action shot to save my life, I know a good photo when I see one. And when Lebron drove and jumped and brought the ball between his knees, I instantly knew that it would become an iconic image. A defender on each side of him, and two more behind him. And the good folks at Deadspin were smart enough to blow it up the next day.

Now, if I may make a bold prediction. We all know the Nike Jumpman logo.

I think you see where I'm going. If I had any ambition, I'd photoshop the Lebron picture, call Nike, and sell the image for $50 million. But instead I'll be lazy and just suggest it: trace Lebron in that picture, make him grey, make the rest of it black, and put it on some shoes and T-shirts.

More to come, perhaps even tonight...

Until then.

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