A couple games into the second round of the playoffs, there are just a few players we can see that are truly hungry. Some expected, some truly big surprises. But that's what the playoff stage is about; bringing the best out of the players who are clearly one level of game better than everyone else on the court.
For starters, everyone ruled out the Houston Rockets from the get-go of the Lakers-Rockets series. Hell, some people were fully believing in a sweep. But the Rockets came in by surprise, and stole game one, and stole it in loud fashion. They showed the quiet city of Los Angeles and everyone watching the game on TV that the Rockets are here to play. But louder than anyone else was Yao Ming.
Bumping knees with Kobe in the fourth quarter, Yao was helped off the court and into the tunnel towards the Rockets locker room to be examined. When returniing from a commercial break, the cameras quickly went to Yao, still in the tunnel telling Houston trainers that he doesn't want to go back in, and that he has to finish this game. The same Yao that people have continuously called soft, and not really a superstar in this league. It was the same Yao that came right back into the game, and made big play after big play. This was the same Yao and Houston Rockets team that had never made it past the first round in recent memory. The same Yao and company that everyone had considered down and out before the series even started. Yao Ming wasn't trying to tell us that he can take his team past the first round. He was trying to tell us that he's hungry; that he's thirsty.
Granted, now the world is considering the Lakers dead and gone based on historically and statistical evidence, but the Lakers too, we must remind ourselves are hungry; just in bits and pieces for some odd reason.
A few years ago, there was that draft that brought a number of complete basketball gifts into the league along with a boy named Darko. One of those gifts was suppoesd to be Carmelo Anthony, but video tapes, sucker punches and DUIs have hindered him from really becoming who he was supposed to be; Denver's savior. Enter Chauncey Billups who has to take some
credit for getting Melo to mature super quickly and prep him for game time. Melo is now playing at that level he should have been over a year ago, and is now showing that he just might be ready for more than just a couple of games in the playoffs. Melo is no longer trying to get his stats, but he's trying to win. He's not hoopin' for kicks anymore; he's in it to win it. He's hungry. You can see it in his demeanor.
Let's end with the obvious, and there isn't a whole lot I can say that isn't already visible to anybody who watches a Cleveland Cavaliers game. Lebron James is damn hungry. There's a reason they call him "King." There's an even bigger reason that Nike is branding the beast with a lion. There's a reason he's got a lion on his arm.
Because he's hungry. He already got that MVP Trophy; but he doesn't want that. He wants something bigger, heavier, shinier. He wants that ring. He wants what Kobe, Wade, Shaq and Jordan have.
Lebron. Melo. Yao. They are hungry. And so many more are with the eight remaining teams, but you can really see it on these three through 1-2 games in each respective series. And there isn't going to be any let up, any time soon.
But adversity, struggle and hunger do bring out the best in some people. Whether they are deadly snakes, given Biblical names in fictional films or use ex-Baywatch stars are motivational tools...these athletes can, may and should
get up for the fight in any moment.
In the words of our good friend, the most interesting man in the world...Stay thirsty, my friends.