Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Search of Yang...or Yin: Part Six

The yin/yang intermission is over (O HELLZ YEZ - Warning: Ignorant and profanity-laced). If you feel you need a refresher, then go back and at least read Part (2 + 3) since this one will be the derivative of it. In the last post, I stated the semi-obvious: that His Airness is the perfect fusion of both forces; and that's why he never had the Bird to his Magic. Jordan's precise mixture of yin and yang—of form and function—gave hope, perhaps too much of it, to swingmen whose games were influenced by MJ. The result is Kobe: a flawless player with a flawed legacy, but the result is also Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter: flawed players due to being falsely placed on the flawless pedestal.

The general consensus is that what separates Jordan from the rest of Basketball are his work ethic and moxie, also known as that "Jordan swagger." For about five or six years post-Jordan, every player between 6'4" and 6'9" tried to be equally yin and yang in hopes of being exactly like Jordan. This was doomed to fail from the beginning, not because Jordan was so great at every facet of the game, but because of the fact that those players tried to follow his methods too closely. They tried to re-create Jordan in themselves instead of using him as a guide for their own inner formula. It sounds similar, but operative word being "own."

Let's return to Jordan's idea of moxie. It wasn't that he was pure by birthright. His will to win is driven by the fact that he was naturally deficient. He approached challenges as a way to push beyond his limitations and be supernaturally perfect. It's what we call, "putting on the superhero cape." Where Jordan was different is that his entire career was this way. As I said on the last post, he was the lone samurai: human but so extraordinary that he couldn't (wouldn't) associate with his peers, and wanted to best them with every fiber of his being. He would come back each season, as all elite players do, with a new wrinkle in his fabric; a new tool—more like a weapon—with which to continue his onslaught through the Association. His unyielding confidence created a mystique of invincibility, thus making any parts of his game he couldn't quite perfect perfect in the eyes of the opposition. He is every human "superhero" that we know: Batman, The Punisher, The Grey Ghost, etc. Human with the aura of a god. And yes, Kobe is the same way.

It may seem like a sudden twist, but this brings me to Kevin Durant. People have said that he's a taller George "Iceman" Gervin because of his slender build. However, I (better substantiated by Bethlehem Shoals at FreeDarko) feel that he has that Jordan-like reinforced steel nerve that will propel him into super-stardom—even if he's naturally not supposed to be there. He's supposed to be great, but not so great that he will be talked about for all eternity. But his mental fortitude is taking him above his destined heights. Most believe that he needs to become stronger in order to maximize his effectiveness; but this recent scoring stretch and general play this season is refuting that by the game. He's taking the constant chatter about his lankiness and is letting it be the accelerant for the dormant fire that lies within his calm exterior. The result is this season, highlighted by his 46-point outburst in the Rookie/Sophomore game. He even said that he, "approached it like a real game." Tell me that doesn't have a hint of Jordan in it. He's competitive even when it's not supposed to be real competition.

But it's his future that intrigues me. When he sneers after a monumental basket, I get the sense that I'm looking into future of an NBA world in which Durant is a silky-smooth silent assassin. As I said with Jordan and Kobe, Durant looks to punish the rest of the League because they know he is fallible. He wants to create an alter-ego that intimidates, but he doesn't appear to distance himself from his teammates like Jordan and Kobe. He looks to lead by actions with a firm and fair hand, and take his teammates along on his journey to the top. The one blemish on Jordan and Kobe to me is that they saw their teammates as pieces needed to attain self-actualization; whereas Lebron, Chris Paul, and Durant see them as companions needed for a team goal. I cite Kobe's reaction to Bynum's injury as proof of the first idea, and Paul's chemistry with Tyson Chandler as evidence of the second. Durant plays like a god because he doesn't want his team to lose rather than he doesn't want to be individually defeated.

So, if you did read the post about the Fear of Lebron, then you know that Future Kevin Durant is awe-inspiring to me. It's because he's a product of the new thinking among elite swingman prospects. Wade, 'Melo, Lebron, Durant, and even OJ Mayo to an extent, found the right blueprint to "be like Mike," which is: instead of copying his moves or mannerisms, find something to drive them and push them to a level no amount of practice could help attain.



xulferdica said...

Read this article after searching "kevin durant" on google and quickly read all the other yin-yang posts. Just want to let you know I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Till Show said...

Thanks. My question to you is how many results did you go through in the Google search to get to this post? I know whenever I look for mine on Google, I have to get way beyond specific.

With that said, I wasn't gonna write about Durant for awhile, but his sudden ascension forced me to do so.

xulferdica said...

I was pretty lucky to find this blog because it only showed up for me after I searched under the most recent entries in the last 24 hours. Had that search taken place some other time I would have probably never discovered it.

Don't know what it is about Durant but I've been trying to read more and more about him because (like you noted) he really has something special about him.

Regardless I look forward to reading more of your blog! :)