The mythology of sports is a paradoxical melding of “no one thought he could do it” and “this is destiny.”
That combination makes sense when considering the role that winning occupies in the making of myths. We retrofit events to suit a narrative not only because that’s human nature, but because we demand and expect greatness from our champions.
We want our champions ordained, but they have to work for it.
Advanced statistics, the proliferation of good basketball writing and the availability of game footage have created a community of basketball enthusiasts and analysts better educated on the game than ever before. Yet myths rely, in part, on ignorance. LeBron James will never be the story that Michael Jordan was -- not because he can’t be as good, or because he can’t win six titles, but because a layer of ignorance, and therefore wonder, continues to enshroud His Airness. Jordan’s myth was an unimpeachable brand, a coin-worthy sillouette soaring, not definitively towards anything, but floating God-like above an entire culture. What we didn’t know elevated him, what we know about James and indeed Nowitzki renders them utterly human.
But in the 2011 playoffs, Nowitzki and James have somehow transcended the explanations provided by experts with incontrovertible data. All of a sudden they have arrived at the same place riding on high crests of infallibility. We cannot stop, but this is a nice moment.