Fans want a team that is consisted of the star players who make highlight reel plays on a nightly basis, like LeBron James. Some stare in awe the first time they see the sheer size of players like Dwight Howard or Yao Ming. Other players command the attention of the media and fans with their postgame comments like Shaquille O'Neal or Allen Iverson.
These players all deserve their titles as superstars. They have athletic ability unmatched by most of the league, and deserve the hype and attention their games bring. But that stardom doesn't always equate to a winning formula for a team. Just ask the New York Knicks, who added Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire last year and finished in seventh place in the Eastern Conference this season.
These players can help a franchise greatly. As they fill up the stat sheets, the team fills up its seats. But their stardom often overlooks the players who truly deserve a share of the credit.
There may not be a player who has been more of an overlooked "X-Factor" over the past few seasons than Kendrick Perkins.
Since he entered the league in 2003 with the Boston Celtics, Perkins has never posted flashy numbers. He is very rarely involved in highlight plays, unless you count the time Blake Griffin threw a monstrous dunk down over him. But he is a model of consistency and modesty that the NBA so badly needs.
In his nine NBA seasons, Perkins has averaged a plebeian 6.2 points per game. He only tears down 6.2 rebounds a game, while dishing out but a meager one assist on average.
But what means more important than filling up the stat sheet? Winning. As Oklahoma City pulled out a victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, Perkins quietly improved his career postseason record to 63-38. His teams are 8-4 in the NBA Finals, in games he has played at least.
Perkins is currently in his third NBA Finals over the last five seasons. He has already won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and possibly could have won a second in 2010, had the big man not been held out of Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers by injury.
Perkins doesn't get the credit he deserves. He is not some bench player who was lucky enough to sit on a star-calliber team that would have won without him. Perkins constantly does the dirty work, and doesn't demand the praise he should be getting from the media. Instead, he goes out and does his job to help his team win.
At first glance, you would look at the Thunder's Game 1 victory and attribute it all to Kevin Durant's stellar 17-point fourth quarter. Durant was truly amazing, and deserves a lot of the credit, especially at the end of the game. But there was Perkins, doing the quiet dirty work in the first three quarters of the contest to help the Thunder pull out the win.
The center only had four points, but that was on a perfect 2-for-2 shooting night. Perkins doesn't need to shoot the ball. He knows his role. He sets picks for Durant, clears out space down low for Westbrook to drive the lane and works the glass.
Perkins has only averaged 4.5 shot attempts per game in the Thunder's 16 playoff games, shooting .553 from the field. By not taking shots away from players like Paul Pierce or Ray Allen, or more currently Durant and Russell Westbrook, Perkins quietly assists his team.
Defense doesn't always show up in the stat sheet. Sometimes fans can overlook the value of a defensive minded player because they don't have the offensive firepower that other players at their position have.
Celtics fans can remember the last few seasons they had with Kendrick Perkins, where they were one of the few teams that didn't bother trying to double team Dwight Howard. It's nearly impossible to completely shut down a player like Howard, but Perkins devoted his energy to atleast slowing down the big man, and allowed the rest of his team to focus on their matchups and limit outside shooting.
It hasn't been all disrespect for Perkins, though. The Thunder's front office showed their appreciation, giving Perkins a $34.8 million deal over four years, last spring.
Make no mistake, however. For whoever wins the 2012 NBA Finals, it will be all about the stars. Each team has their version of a "big three." We will hear how LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh couldn't match up against Durant, Westbrook and James Harden, or vice versa.
With the new trend of the NBA's star players beginning to team up in larger markets, the league needs more players like Perkins. They need more athletes who are fine being the role players and doing what is asked of them, and not commanding the media's attention at every twist and turn.
Players like Perkins are the perfect ingredient for a championship recipe. Players who work like Perkins give teams a chance to compete against the All-Star loaded groups like what Pat Riley's cooked up in Miami.
But Perkins shouldn't mind too much that he may not get the credit he deserves. If the Thunder win, he'll be too busy polishing that extra ring on his finger. And that's something he very well may be be doing a few more times throughout his career.