Never Say Never Again

Let's face it. When it comes to us fans and our sports, we can go overboard in discussing some topics. During the NBA Finals, several of those discussions were occurring. Had Kevin Durant passed LeBron James as the league's best player? Could this season's Golden State Warriors defeat the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls? Is this sort of dominance bad for sports, let alone the Association? People have bantered and argued all of these questions and more. Now that the Finals are over, there's another question that will start creeping up around fandom circles.

This weekend is the U.S. Open. Golfers from around the world have converged on southeastern Wisconsin for the PGA's second major of the year. In April, the Masters promised to be a potential celebration for one of the game's star players. However, the Green Jacket wasn't hoisted over the shoulders of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, or Jason Day. Heck, Dustin Johnson couldn't even play after hurting his back. Instead, a man chasing a major title for nearly two decades finally found his moment. When Sergio Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff, the Spaniard knocked himself off the most dubious list in every sport ..."Best to Never Win a Title/Slam/Major".

This week, another great athlete got to take his name off of that list. Yes, Kevin Durant is only 28-years-old (eight years younger than Garcia). Yes, Durant just finished his 10th season in the NBA (a little more than half of the professional lifespan that Garcia has experienced since 1999). But we know that these two might actually fade from their prime around the same time (2024-ish?). Plus, with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard around to provide proverbial roadblocks, K.D. may have felt that this was the time that he needed to get that shiny piece of jewelry on his finger.

With that out of the way, he knows that he won't join names like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, John Stockton, and Dominique Wilkins. All of those modern players are legends in the annals of basketball. But all of those players couldn't get their hands on the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

There are hoop stars that have phenomenal resumes after the 2017. Some of them could find themselves with permanent placards in Springfield. But who might be the next star to erase his name from that "Best to Never" list? Here are some candidates.

It's Early Yet

John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Anthony Davis have two obvious things in common. They all played one year under John Calipari at Kentucky. They're also all among the new crop of stars at their respective positions. There's appeal to the game of each one of these stars. But there are obstacles.

Wall is the furthest along, making the postseason three of the last four seasons. However, his team can't seem to get out of its own way when it comes to success. Maybe this year's seven-game loss to Boston will turn on the pilot light for the Wizards in future seasons.

Davis briefly saw the playoffs, getting swept in the first round by Golden State in 2015. But, for all of the potential to be the next transcendent player, Davis has to make sure he stays on the court. In 2016-2017, he played a career-high 75 games, and maybe he's finally starting to settle in his body (this will be his age-24 season coming up).

Cousins is about as talented a post presence as the game has now. It's his mercurial personality that has caused a few issues, though. D-Boogie was stuck in Sacramento, without a sniff of the second season in his first six-plus years as a pro. Now, his best chance to get into the postseason might be at Davis' side.

Primetime's Coming Soon

If you talked about the top ten ballers in today's version of the Association, there would be a lot of discussion on where Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Damian Lillard, and DeMar DeRozan land on the list (if they make it). All four of these guys have earned their path to stardom. All four have been involved in playoff basketball. But all four have roadblocks to overcome.

For George, Butler, and DeRozan, there's one man that has been the bane of their postseason existences. King James has ended the seasons of these men's teams eight times (DeRozan twice, Butler twice, and George four times). Indications are that James isn't going anywhere soon. Until he either moves out West, or his skills falter enough, these three might be playing for East runner-up. Of course, George's offseason activity could change that narrative. For Lillard, he may just be coming along at the wrong time. In my opinion, he and C.J. McCollum form the second-best scoring backcourt in the Conference.

The problem is the best one was more than a tick above, until they got even better by adding Kevin Durant. Now, as much as I love me some Steph Curry, Lillard and Boston's Isaiah Thomas are (for my money) the two most enjoyable scorers in the NBA. But that can only get you so far. We'll see what a healthy Jusuf Nurkic might do to help the Trailblazers moving forward.

The Peak of Their Powers

James Harden already has an MVP ... sort of. He won the players' version of the award in Curry's first run to the media award. The second-place finish for that latter 2015 award appears that it'll be matched this season. But there is a positive for the Houston star. He showed everyone that his game could evolve beyond that of just being a dynamic scoring threat. If he looks to improve his defending on that same plane over the offseason, you'd have to think that the Rockets could close that much farther on the top of the league. May be a bit too much of an "if" to expect, though.

Russell Westbrook had an historic season. He became the second man in league history to officially average a triple-double. He's assuredly going to win his first MVP award. All of that, however, got him no closer to a title. Matter of fact, that didn't even get him past a first-round matchup with Harden's Rockets. Going into the season, everyone wondered how Russ would respond to Durant's departure from Oklahoma City. You'd have to think that it was mixed. An individual award is well and good, but, after being one victory from the Finals a year ago, proverbially starting all over in the playoff picture has to leave a bad taste in his craw. How much angrier can Westbrook play? And how much farther can that take him and the Thunder (or wherever he may land)?

Father Time's Catching Up

Three stars could be on the decline at various stages of their careers and for various reasons. Derrick Rose is only 28-years-old, but it feels like he's gone through the trials of someone a decade his senior. Whether it's been the grind applied to his body over the years or complications off the court, Rose is very young to try and look for a second wind.

Dwight Howard is 31. That's not old in "Big Man" years. His issues appear to be more with fit than being fit. Things haven't worked out well for the center since he left Orlando. The year in Los Angeles and the three in Houston weren't the smoothest. Now, back home in Atlanta, it seems that Howard — although a bump in production wasn't there — didn't go through the combative locker room stuff that followed him out West.

Has it already been 14 years since a phenom freshman led Syracuse to a national title? Carmelo Anthony, all of 33-years-old, has had quite a run through the NBA. He's still a pretty prolific scorer (22.4 ppg this past season). But the positive vibes that come from playoff appearances have disappeared. An Anthony-led team has been past the regular season finale since 2013. Before time runs out on what would appear to be a Hall of Fame career (I think he'll get there), 'Melo might need one more change of scenery. I mean, is it just me or is Phil Jackson intentionally trying to destroy Anthony's will to play?

When looking at all the active players trying to be a part of the ultimate team success, the man that may have the best chance to break that personal championship drought is Chris Paul. The 32-year-old point guard has yet to play a Conference Finals game. Despite playing on a talent-laden Clippers team, though, Paul may have a ring by now ... had it not been for the NBA front office. When a potential 2011 trade sending Paul to the Lakers was vetoed by Commissioner David Stern. Stern's office ran the New Orleans Hornets at the time, which meant they had control to determine where Paul ended up. Had that trade gone through, CP3 would have played alongside a still-star quality Kobe Bryant (whom was just a year removed from winning back-to-back titles). Instead, Paul has taken his share of the blame (deserved or not) for the subsequent failures of the fellow-tenant Clippers' playoff struggles.

The beauty of the "Best to Never" argument is that there's always someone else sliding in to continue the argument. Now that Durant has found his way off of that list, there are several viable candidates to fill the void. For the best golfers in the world, this weekend provides another chance for a "have-not" to shed the label forever. For these chosen hoopsters, the wait will stick around for another year.

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