The NBA Playoffs have been great theater in both conferences. Ultimately, we have ended up with the match-up most people both predicted and wanted: the Miami Heat versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
How couldn’t you want it? A team built the “right” way around a big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden versus the team built the “wrong” way around a big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. A superstar small forward everybody loves in Durant against a superstar small forward everybody loves to hate in James. Arguably the weakest fan base and home court advantage in Miami (unless you count white t-shirts as fans) against the most electric home crowd in the NBA right in Oklahoma City.
Are the Thunder too young? Their big three are all under 25. None of them have been to the NBA Finals. Yet, they have Finals tested supporting pieces in Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins. Miami was here last year with all the same key parts returning. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem already have a Championship under their belt for the Heat.
The focus will inevitably be on LeBron James and Kevin Durant, battling for alpha-dog status in the league. If LeBron isn’t going to get a title now, when is it going to happen? How are the Heat’s big three going to win 6…7…8 championships if there is a younger big three who has already bested then on the NBA’s biggest stage? We all love Durant and how he plays the game but make no mistake, James is the best player in this series. If he plays like he did in Game 6 of the Boston series, Miami will be bringing the trophy back to South Beach.
Of course that is always the question about James. How often will he really bring it? A timid, passive and scared of the moment James is going to equal an ugly series for the Heat. Oklahoma City is too athletic and too deep. They have an advantage at point guard. They have a better bench. They don’t have players like Ronny Turiaf and a beaten down Shane Battier playing key roles for them. They have a sizable home court advantage that Miami lacks.
Dwyane Wade isn’t carrying Miami to this title. Chris Bosh can hit all the mid-range jumpers he wants. This is about LeBron rising above the challenge of Durant or falling short to a player who just might resemble Dirk Nowitzki in these NBA Finals.
Two superstars vying to start a legacy of championships. A Hall of Fame two guard looking to add another title to his resume. The most athletic guard in the NBA looking to show he isn’t the headcase who will prevent his team from becoming a dynasty. The best beard in sports. Great theater. Great basketball. Let’s enjoy the ride.