It has been a mixed bag in terms of heroes and zeroes in the world of sport this past week. Whilst there were some good moments, there were no seismic shifts of the type that produce a single, indisputable hero on the sporting landscape. On the other hand, the week has produced arguably the biggest sporting zero of all time, his exploits providing a talking point for people from all walks of life and not just sport fans.
Sporting Heroes of the Week:
NBA Basketball: Kevin Durant and LeBron James
The NBA has been blessed with phenomenal rivalries over the years with legendary players tending to come in two’s. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in the 60’s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 80’s and now LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Although it might be premature to elevate their rivalry into such distinguished company, (the duo have only met in one NBA final’s series so far), it is clear the pair are the NBA’s premier talents. The fact both of them managed to reach career milestones in the same week means it is only right that they should share the title of sporting heroes of the week.
Thursday night saw twitter erupt, the trending topic? #LeBron20k. The reigning Most Valuable Player, (MVP), drained a jumpshot with 2:45 seconds remaining in the second quarter of the Miami Heat’s game against the Golden State Warriors to pass the milestone of 20,000 career points. At the age of 28, LeBron James or “King James” as he is rightfully dubbed became the youngest man to pass the milestone. He has also been the consensus choice for the best basketball player on the planet for a number of years now and it is important to note the effect he has on a basketball game extends well beyond scoring. LeBron is one of the most well-rounded athletes ever to grace the basketball court, just the 13th player ever to amass 5,000 career assists as well as 20,000 points. The King’s march towards history continues as steadily as his hairline recedes!
Our second hero is Kevin Durant, leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that owns the NBA’s best win loss record. Not to be outdone by his Team USA team mate, Durant exploded for a career high 52 points on Friday, sending his OKC team to an 117-114 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Not only did he put in the only 50+ point performance of the 2012-13 NBA season so far (even the on fire Kobe Bryant hasn’t achieved this), he did it without missing a free throw, downing a whopping 21/21 at the charity stripe, the second most ever in a single game without a single miss. During the overtime period he took over the game nailing some clutch shots to will his team to victory. Although not as historically significant as James’ achievements the night before, KD proved once again that despite his shy and retiring character off court, on court he is the undisputed leader of arguably the NBA’s greatest team.
Sporting Zero Of The Week:
Cycling: Lance Armstrong
Where to begin with this man? What hasn’t been said already? Zero of the week seems inadequate to describe the fallen hero – more like Zero of the century. I didn’t know much about road cycling growing up, but I did know that the most prestigious bike race in the world was dominated by a true sporting legend, one Lance Armstrong. This cycling demi-God survived cancer and won the Tour De France an astounding 7 times before literally riding off into the the sun set and retiring in 2005. In 2011 when the USADA accused Armstrong of blood doping as well as trafficking the bubble burst. His use of banned substances including EPO, Testorone, Steroids and The Human Growth Hormone as well as his trail of lies and bullying tactics had finally caught up with him. By the time he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network to confirm what the world already knew his reputation was in tatters .The two part interview saw Winfrey allow far more sympathy than the 41 year old deserved but it was nice to see a man who had lived a lie come to terms with it all, right in front of our eyes. The teary eyes and confessions did stir up some empathy but it wasn’t for the man who sat in the chair. It was for those who were affected by his reckless pursuit of victory at all costs like his wife, children, team mates and sponsors, and of course those fellow competitors he might have robbed of their place in history. The Tour de France record books now have a gaping blank space against the winner’s entry for all the 7 years previously devoted to Lance Armstrong. Oprah closed the interview with the widely used cliche “the truth will set you free;” not quite. The truth will set others around Armstrong free whilst leaving him wrapped in the shackles of condemnation forever.