It's easy to think only two prominent NBA players stand between LeBron James and the ring he so desperately seeks. Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki both felt his wrath this season, but does that mean they can't stop him from his goal?
Saga of Vanessa Bryant may handcuff Kobe and Los Angeles Lakers
Nobody doubted Kobe was a gamer but he still went out of his way to prove it the last few weeks by putting on a scoring exhibition of 40-point games. That hot streak ended courtesy of an ill LeBron James as his Miami Heat went into the Staples Center and suffocated the Lakers offense. This doesn't guarantee anything but it does open many eyes. That fact that James can win on the road against a western conference powerhouse shows how good the Heat are and how badly their leader wants a championship. Bryant assured fans he's no over the hill either, but other factors may contribute to his being unable to stop LeBron. Most notably of course is his ongoing divorce with wife Vanessa Bryant, who took both a mansion and a check worth tens of millions. Combined with some nasty rumors about his personal life, it seems the man who is Kobe Bryant doesn't have enough fingers to keep the dam from bursting. He might not share that problem alone either.
Nowitzki has Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian show circling Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki knows how to beat LeBron James. He did it last year when the Miami Heat crumbled under the constant pressure offered by the Dallas Mavericks. Yet after a humiliating opening day, defeat and subsequent struggles to stay above .500, Nowitzki finds his new team doesn't compare with the one that brought home the title. Among the biggest reasons are the recent arrival of prominent bench man Lamar Odom and his wife Khloe Kardashian. While neither compare to the media disaster that is Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian, they still offer a distraction just by their presence. Throw in Odom not living up to his award-winning talent and Dirk Nowitzki has a problem. Entering his 14th seasons, the German-born big man doesn't have many years left in the NBA. With LeBron entering his prime he may have to bow to the inevitable truth that Dallas can't repeat under such circumstances.
Burden falls to those like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant to hold the fort
While reports continue fawning over the Miami Heat and their polarizing leader, two young stars have emerged daring to challenge his right to the crown. In the west, scoring machine Kevin Durant has built the young Oklahoma City Thunder into an impressive spectacle. In the east, reigning MVP Derrick Rose leads a talent-laden Chicago Bulls squad featuring suffocating defense. Both players are eager for their chance to prove King James is not of true royal blood.
Distraction becomes the buzz word of the 2012 season. Kobe Bryant has his wife Vanessa Bryant. Dirk Nowitzki has Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian. Even as their teams keep winning, LeBron James keeps them at a comfortable distance with convincing victories in head-to-head contests. Whether he does that in the finals, like he's failed to do twice already in his career, remains a mystery until June.