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Ted Green: NBA for dummies: Nirvana on hold

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It’s starting to look like those funny Nike puppet commercials featuring LeBron and Kobe may come with some real strings attached.

Such as, neither one, the real Kobe and LeBron, may reach the NBA Finals.

Call it Much Anticipated, Widely Assumed, Megastar Matchup Interrupted.

We are all witnesses: LeBron’s Cavs are already down a game to the Magic in the Eastern finals, having coughed up home court in Game 1. Cleveland is 1-3 against Orlando so far this season and doesn’t match up well with either Dwight Howard in the paint or with the Magic’s much bigger three-point shooters, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

Kobe’s Lakers ... it’s not effort or energy or arrogance or complacency or bipolarity or lack of killer instinct anymore. It’s the Denver Nuggets. They’re here and they’re legit. Chauncey Billups is killing the rapidly aging Derek Fisher, and Carmelo Anthony is matching Kobe hoop for hoop and point for point. Kobe calls ‘Melo ‘the bear.’ Fitting, since with the series tied at a game apiece going back to Denver, this could be a wrestling match the more finesse-oriented Lakers don’t win, having surrendered home court themselves in Game 2.

It’s still very early in the conference finals and much can change. But while an Orlando-Denver finals would be unthinkably bad for TV ratings, breaking the hearts of both the advertisers and David Stern, it would at least do wonders for the integrity and believability of the NBA, which certainly took a hit in the recent referee scandal.

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Admit it: once you saw Nike coming hard with those puppet ads, which seem to air every other commercial break, like me, you thought: Aha! I knew it! Fait accompli! Done deal! The NBA already KNOWS it’s going to be Kobe vs. LeBron, a superduperstar showdown for the championship of the world. I was pretty sure Stern, the Knish Commish, had Michael Buffer‘s number on speed dial. Don King and Bob Arum were probably dying for a piece of the action, too.

Kobe vs. Bron isn’t just must-see TV, it’s hoop nirvana and might be even bigger than Magic vs. Bird.

So wouldn’t it be funny--and very unexpected--if the only meeting between The Black Mamba and King James comes between ad agency dummies chilling in their living room in clever TV commercials?

So Nike to ad agency, 911, this is an emergency: Can you work up some Superman and ‘Melo puppets real quick and get them on the air right away?

-- Ted Green

Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times. He is now Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News.

Left photo: LeBron James. Credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Right photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times


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