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Even LeBron James needs help.
Look no further than Monday night’s overtime affair between the world champion Los Angeles Lakers and the world’s worst tankers Oklahoma City Thunder. Without Anthony Davis, the best player on the planet for 16 years running trailed by double digits to a team missing half of a roster which was already bottomed out in an attempt to lose games.
It may seem a distant memory now, but LeBron’s first season in LA resulted in James activating playoff mode and flushing their playoff hopes down the commode. As great as he is, the West is too tough a terrain to triumph without a Doc Holliday to a team’s Wyatt Earp.
Every NBA contender, the Wallace & Wallace Pistons notwithstanding, needs two or more stars to bring home a championship. Batman needed Robin.
Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen.
Kevin Durant needed Russell Westbrook. And Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and a burner account.
LeBron needed Davis. And Kyrie. And Wade… and Bosh. Oh, can’t forget Jesus Shuttlesworth.
And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs or Jonathan Kuminga.
The scary news: the scarcest commodity is an NBA superstar. Free agency? Good luck unless you root for a team with beaches or opera houses. Trades? Good luck finding a team willing to trade a superstar for anything less than 5 draft picks, 2 swaps, a young star and a former Armani model. The draft? Good luck deciding which 19 year old outside the top three picks has the right combination of talent, work ethic, smarts, athleticism and maturity to become the face of your franchise. But for a small market like OKC, the draft still represents the best opportunity to obtain, groom and keep a superstar long term.
The soothing news: the Thunder already have half the contention equation half a half season into their rebuild. The biggest question for the OKC Magic 8 Ball coming into 2021 was whether or not SGA could make a leap into stardom. After wiggling the first 23 games around, tipping them up and looking down, we have our answer: it is decidedly so.
From Kevin Durant to Damian Lillard to Paul George and now to LeBron James, Shai has shared the floor with and looked every bit the equal to the league’s biggest superstars all season long. He foreshadowed his ascent by firing off the season with a game winner. Against the world champs, he calmly drilled three straight free throws to send the game into overtime. Cold blooded ice filled veins in the clutch is superstar stuff.
The critical riddle remaining for SGA to answer: is he Batman or is he Robin? Tune in next season, same OKC Time, same OKC Channel, to find out.
But no matter what happens the rest of this season, the Thunder have already chalked it up as a smashing success because Sam Presti now knows 50% of the rebuild was already complete before it even began. Sam’s toughest 2021 task will be talking his team into tanking to a top five pick to give him a shot at taking a superstar talent. LeBron can help.
The Lakers and the Thunder tango again tonight. James will still be without his dance partner Davis. But OKC will be without their solo star SGA due to knee soreness.
Even LeBron James may not need help.