by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
Summer is over (here in the UK at least). Leaves turning brown, nights getting darker, and rain. Lots and lots of rain.
Like the storm clouds currently hovering around my apartment, the lockout hung over the basketball world this summer. An unwanted guest at our party. A bad smell that wouldn’t go away.
Rather than getting down on it, I think the summer of 2011 was one to remember. The best in the world mixed in with the fans. Some headed to Europe. Some led their country to a spot at next summer’s Olympics. Some even got real jobs (no, Blake…your Funny or Die internship isn’t a real job).
So, who won the summer? Here’s my winners, and a couple of losers (spoiler alert, one of them is a 68-year-old former lawyer).
Let’s get right to it. Kevin Durant is not just the winner of this summer. He’s the winner of everything. The most likeable guy in the League got more likeable. The most marketable personality got even more marketable. And the scariest thing of all? It looks like he got more talented. 66 at Rucker, followed by more of the same at Dyckman, the Drew League, Goodman League and literally anywhere else he could find a court. And he hasn’t taken a single day off—the KD vs Lebron shoot-off at the Melo/Goodman game was worthy of the Finals. Or at least, an All Star game, but one where the players actually give a damn. Who knows where he’ll end up next, but seriously, how can you not love this guy?
Brandon Jennings has had a good summer. He’s been out there representing, just like KD. In fact, they’ve pretty much shared the court for the last few months, working out and getting better. Brandon has also been doing his thing for Under Armour—spreading the word by rocking his signature kicks on courts around the country, making a great behind-the-scenes series of films (check them out here), and helping develop new product in his role as ‘Curator of Cool.’ Whether or not he regrets the Kobe t-shirt incident next time the Bucks play the Lakers, it’s been fun watching the guy this summer.
Anyone who got to see KD at Rucker. Anyone who made it to the Melo/Goodman game, or was at the Drew League when LeBron turned up at the Drew League, or squeezed into Dyckman for Team Nike vs Ooh Way. All winners. Hell, even the rest of us who got to watch the shaky Flip cam footage five minutes after it happened. We’re winners, because this summer showed that these guys love the game as much as we do, and putting aside all of the legal talk and bitching, they wanted to come out and put a show on for the real fans.
Europeans: A good summer for the Europeans, particularly if you are Spanish, French or Lithuanian (The best fans in the world? Just throwing it out there…). Eurobasket served as a nice reminder of how good the Olympics could be next summer (Spain vs Team USA is going to be epic). Elsewhere, Deron Williams became the most high profile NBA star to join the Euroleague. We even had a potential Metta World Peace mission to the UK.
Spain, France, Tunisia, Brazil, Argentina and Australia: See you in London.
Lebron: He’s toured the world, hit the gym with his buddies and put on a few shows. By the looks of it, LBJ has had some fun this summer. For those who follow him on Facebook/Twitter, it has been nice to see. Enough of the hate, there’s nothing better than seeing happy Lebron play basketball.
NBA 2k12: It could have all gone wrong for the makers of the best sports game in the world. There might not be a season, and I’m no expert, but that can’t be good for sales of an NBA game. But then they unleashed the expanded legend mode. Queue fevered anticipation among hoops fans seeking something to fill the hours left by a locked out NBA. Bravo, 2K.
David Stern, the owners, and the NBAPA
They are getting somewhere, and then they’re not. They arrange meetings. Then they don’t speak for weeks. YO, STOP GETTING OUR HOPES UP! The Premier League is keeping me quiet for now, but believe this, David Stern: You don’t want to know what happens if the season is cancelled. Amazing is not the word.