By Eduardo Maisonet, III /@edthesportsfan
Reports have surfaced just outside of Akron, Ohio that their hometown hero and his main opponent during the 2012 NBA Finals have been working out with each other to prepare for the beginning of the 2012-13 season. Yes, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are both in northeast Ohio training going through what they call “Hell Week,” an intense twice-a-day workout regiment facilitated by LeBron’s trainer, Mike Mancias. This is now the second year in a row they’ve done this and they’ve actually dubbed the getaway as “Hell Week 2.”
While the two seem chummy about the situation, even tweeting with pride about their joint workouts, many have cried foul about this type of endeavor. The two have now been pitted against each other as rivals and the thought of the two being cordial and friendly isn’t something that’s taken kindly by fans in the NBA. Especially in an era where there are more hugs and hand slaps taking place after the game than a family reunion.
Yet what some fans of basketball might not realize is that many rivals never considered themselves as such, and the nomenclature would shift to “competitors” with a sense of mutual respect towards their craft and what their ultimate goal truly was. Winning, and being the best.
Many remember when Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell were the ultimate big men, battling “mano e mano” against one another in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Yet, many times The Stilt and Russell would hang out during Thanksgiving, with Russell even sleeping in Chamberlain’s bed and eating with his family in late November.
PerFranBlineburyofNBA.com, Even during the peak of their on-court duels, Russell and Chamberlain often ate dinner at each other’s homes.
“We never talked about the last game or the next game or what might happen tomorrow. We were just a couple of guys who truly enjoyed each other’s company and then the next night we’d both go out there and try our best to kick the other guy’s ass. We never tried to get into each other’s head.” — Bill Russell
Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were also considered to be rivals of one another, but the two eventually grew to be best friends. Their friendship took the strongest root during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and eventually Air and Sir Charles would begin their legendary trips to Vegas for a night of gambling and any other type of miscreant deeds the two might be up to in the 1990’s. Heck, they even went on Oprah together.
What’s unquestioned is that the four players previously mentioned were the elite of their respective eras, and in the same token James and Durant are cut from the same cloth. The kids have a tendency to say that “game recognizes game, and you’re looking familiar.” With LBJ and KD, there is a real sense that both recognize their place in the game, and if they both have to push each other to get to their ultimate goals then so be it.