LITTLE ROCK — Waiting out a commercial break, one of the radio show co-hosts asked Tiger to 19 or LeBron to seven, who has the best chance.
Neither was the response.
Not an option, he said. A minute later, I realized the man on the other end of the phone line was providing a heads-up on the question of the day. Trying to evoke opinions from listeners, radio folks pose such things as Woods to 19 majors vs. James to seven NBA titles. On live radio, the lukewarm endorsement of James was supported with some flimsy reasoning.
Off the air, with time to ponder, James is the obvious choice.
Above all else, he has help. James would not have had the opportunity to perform his seventh-game heroics if Chris Bosh had not rebounded a miss and passed the ball to Ray Allen, who retreated beyond the 3-point line and made a clutch shot.
Sure, James was superb in the fourth quarter of the deciding game. But, it is impossible to calculate the value on the scoreboard and the effect on the San Antonio defense of Shane Battier’s 6-of-8 from long range, including his first five.
And, don’t forget Dwayne Wade’s 32 points, including 14-of-25 from the field, when Miami evened the series at two apiece.
Woods flies solo. If he has an off day, there is nobody to bail him out. Tee shot out of bounds; re-tee. Too much left to right; play from the rough. Kerplunk; go to the drop area. The final score is his alone.
Woods has a swing coach and a caddie and neither are allowed to hit a shot. At most, he could replace them.
Bosh’s scoring average and rebounds per game have declined each of the past three years, partly because he is a second banana at Miami, but also because he is on the downhill side of a solid career. Wade turned 31 in January and his knees probably feel 41.
After the production number introduction of the big three in July 2010 and two straight titles, unloading Bosh might be impossible, but James is going to need more help soon and Miami hiring more members of a supporting cast is a given.
Although age and the number of opportunities are working against both James and Woods, the depth of the competition favors James.
At 28, he could be at his peak for another half-dozen seasons or so. Michael Jordan was 35 when he won his sixth and last NBA title. To get to seven by 35, James would have to win five of the next seven and no team has won three in a row since the Lakers in 2000-2002.
That said, Miami only has to beat three teams each year to win the championship. No team below .500 all year is going to jump up and upset the Heat, so the road to the title comes down to beating two teams from the Eastern Division and the winner of the Western Division. The best-of-seven format gives the superior team plenty of opportunity to overcome a stumble.
Jack Nicklaus won one of his 18 majors after he turned 41. Woods will be 38 at the end of the year and even though he is fastidious about physical fitness, this week an elbow problem is forcing him to miss a tournament that benefits his foundation. He no longer intimidates as he did when he completed the “Tiger Slam” by winning The Masters in 2001 and he no longer holes every meaningful putt as he seemed to do when he won six majors in 2005-08.
When Woods tees it up in the majors, there are dozens of players who can win and he has to beat all of them.
James has the edge over Woods, but I’ll stick with neither.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.