Sunday night in Chicago, Derrick Rose dominated scored 28 points and dished out six assists as the Bulls topped LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Suddenly, Rose's Bulls look like a decent bet to make their first NBA Finals in the post-Jordan era.
A few hours earlier, Kevin Durant was murderous for the Thunder vs. the Grizzlies, dropping 39 points on the way to a blowout victory in Game 7. And if Durant plays like that four more times vs. the Mavericks, chances are Oklahoma City's headed to their first NBA Finals in franchise history.
Here's where we remind that both Durant and D-Rose are only 22 years old.
They were born five days apart, actually. KD on September 29th, and D-Rose on October 4th. But astrology aside (Libras unite!), they're intertwined today because each guy is kicking ass a lot sooner than anyone could have expected, and if we're talking about the future of the NBA, then that conversation begins and ends with these two. Matter of fact, if we're talking about the NBA Finals in two weeks, there's a good chance that conversation could begin and end with these two.
So, if these guys are the future (and present) of the league, then we should probably take a closer look at who, exactly, we're passing the torch to.
SBN's Mike Prada had a nice look Rose this past weekend, and as Bethlehem Shoals pointed out, his descriptions for Rose just as easily could have applied to Durant. Like this, for instance: "what makes Rose successful is that while all of us are furiously trying to figure him out, he's in a gym somewhere working on his game." It's the exact same thing that makes Durant successful.
And from a broader perspective, it bodes well for where the NBA's headed. Everything gets framed in an anti-LeBron narrative these days, but with these two guys, it's impossible not to. LeBron James has talked openly of wanting to use basketball to become a "global icon."
With Durant and Rose, the ends are more basic. It's basketball for basketball's sake, because that single pursuit consumes them and doesn't leave room for much else. People wonder whether they have a personality, or at least enough of a personality for marketers to work with.
But what the skeptics forget is that someone like Michael Jordan never had much of a personality. Marketers created a persona for him, but the more years pass, the more we realize how much of an act that was. But we bought it, because you know what sells more than anything?
Winning. And on that front, both Rose and Durant are on a track that we haven't seen from a 22 year-old in NBA history. So enjoy this, because in ten years, there's a decent chance we'll look back and think of 2011 as the year that the NBA hierarchy changed forever.
With that in mind, let's begin Talking Points with more on Rose and Durant...
Understanding KD And D-Rose. If you want a glimpse into what makes Derrick Rose tick, then you're not going to do much better than Lee Jenkins' piece in Sports Illustrated earlier this year.
Here are some of my favorite details:
Players new to Chicago accuse Rose of false modesty. Then they get to know him. "There's no one in the league like this," says [Joakim] Noah. Rose lives with his roommates in a three-bedroom town house north of Chicago. He drives his pickup. He hates to spend. He likes to have money around for friends in need. This season he released his first signature shoe, but not before he gave instructions to Adidas's vice president of global basketball, Lawrence Norman: The shoe had to be versatile enough to wear with pants as well as shorts, so people wouldn't have to buy a second pair.
Again, these are facts, not some phony narrative created by Adrian Wojnarowski. Fact: LeBron James hired a marketing firm to put together a power point presentation for companies looking to sponsor his birthday party in South Beach (only $10,000!). Fact: Derrick Rose drives a pickup truck and lives in a three-bedroom townhouse outside Chicago. Q.E.D.
As for his doppleganger out in OKC? ESPN's Tom Friend looks closer, and it's a great window into KD's life as a superstar, and how he got there. My favorite KD anecdote comes from further back, though, in an ESPN Magazine piece about his hometown outside D.C, PG County. It ends on this note:
Not so many years later, Durant and Beasley are the gods every baller in PG aspires to be. As they played in that August charity game in the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, the overflow crowd of kids just wanted to be near them.
After the game, the younger generation followed the stars into the parking lot for a touch or a final hug. Before long, Durant disappeared as quietly as he had arrived. Beasley, though, milked his exit from the driver’s seat of his new Bentley. Finally, he pulled off down the street, bass thumping.
There's no better way to explain why certain stars max out their talent, and others don't. It's not part of some big media-driven narrative. It's just... Some guys love being famous and milk the attention for all it's worth, others would prefer to be invisible if they're not on the court. And Kevin Durant's firmly in the second group.
Maybe that's not the biggest reason he and Rose are in a class of their own right now, but if they keep taking over the league from guys like LeBron and Carmelo, it'll be a lot harder too ignore...
An NBA Executive Tells The World He's Gay. One day, this won't be news. It won't even matter if an NBA Executive like Rick Welts is a homosexual, because it really shouldn't matter. Being gay doesn't affect anyone's ability to do a job, so who really cares?
For now, though, it matters a lot. If only because stories like Welts' just don't get told very often, and an outsider could take an honest look up-and-down the league and walk away thinking that the NBA's off-limits for homosexuals. Stories like this can help can change that. In other words, it shouldn't be news, but only news like this can help get us there.
Also see: SBN's Brian Floyd and his excellent take on things here.
Speaking Of Coming Out Parties... ESPN's Dana O'Neil talks to former Villanova center Will Sheridan about his experience as a gay man playing division one college hoops. It's a great read, and a reminder of how unforgiving the world can be when confronted with homosexuality. Even parents:
Father and son didn't speak for almost a year.
"I come from a background of all solid men," Will Sr. said. "I'm a retired police officer. You have to understand, I didn't grow up around people like that. I didn't see them, didn't know them. Even as a police officer, I didn't have that much exposure. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't do it for almost a year."
But it has a happier ending. Father and son have begun piecing back together the relationship they almost lost, and Sheridan's moved on from Villanova to pursue a career in music that he loves. Check out the full story over at ESPN, because it's a worthy bookend to the Times' story above. As much as it feels like there's no progress, things are changing. Across generations, even.
From a 60-something NBA executive to a 20-something college basketball player, bit by bit, the stigma's disappearing. It's not to say the struggle's overwith, but we're moving in the right direction, and that's pretty cool. ... Cooler than Will Sheridan's ridiculous music video? Nahhhhh...
One More Thing About Masculinity, Etc. Here's Arian Foster's text message stylebook:
Can you be "socially enlightened" and still think that's hilarious and sorta perfect?
A Great Line For Conspiracy Theorists Everywhere. We mentioned the Facebook-Google feud late last week, and this weekend the Wall Street Journal had a great column on the situation (subscription only). It included this line, which is now a go-to talking point for all you conspiracy theorists whenever digital privacy comes up: "free services such as Facebook and Google come with a price. Consumers need to keep a truism in mind: If you're not paying for the product, then you're not the customer--you're the product being sold." [via Atlantic Wire]
Bridesmaids And The Foreign Concept Of Funny Women. This was awesome.
Speaking Of Funny Women, Long Live Alison Brie. This interview with the man behind NBC's Community was great, if only for this excerpt where he talks about filming scenes with Alison Brie:
As the writer and showrunner, I'm often in the edit room grousing about the lack of coverage required to tell a story or land a certain joke. I'm like, "We don't actually have the shot where the doctor puts the syringe in the diabetic?" "Nah, we didn't have time to get that." Then we get to the scene where it's Alison running, and I've got helicopter shots of her tits. Worm's-eye views, I've got. I've got cameras attached to baby elephants walking through the set, in case we want to know what it looks like to them. It was pretty amusing.
Finally, An Ode To SportsCenter. In honor of the creation story from earlier today--where a new book shows us how Keith Olbermann's bitterness toward his bosses gave birth to the most successful ad campaign in history--we may as well relive the most successful ad in history.
You can get lost on YouTube here, but a few of my favorite SportsCenter ads are below.
Keyshawn and Kobe learn how to talk to refs:
Manny being Manny:
Georges St. Pierre is terrifying:
And of course, who can forget Y2K?