Thursday, June 6, 2013

NBA Finals Preview

The NBA Finals kick off tonight and I'm not as excited as I should be.  The reason for this is because I've been rooting against this matchup happening.  Not directly, but indirectly.  As I've mentioned before, the Warriors were the most fun team to follow this year.  So naturally, I rooted for them against the Spurs.  Once the they were eliminated, I invested my rooting interests in the Grizzlies.  I've been a fan of them ever since their amazing 2011 playoff run, and I love Z-Bo and Gasol.  I really wanted to see a Miami-Memphis Finals.  It would've been a great clash of styles; the Grizzlies using the old school lineup, featuring two bigs, against Miami's new school small-ball lineup.  Which style won out would've been extremely fascinating to watch.  But the Spurs squashed that possibility too.

Then a new interesting team materialized in the form of the Pacers.  The emergence of Hibbert, Stephenson and especially George was fun to watch.  I was actually interested in the possibility of a Spurs-Pacers Finals.  I think it could've been fun to have two small-market, non-star driven teams in the Finals.  Last year when I previewed the Finals possibilities, I said that Thunder-Pacers would've been the greatest college basketball ever played (similar style and atmosphere, but way better execution).  But I actually think that would've been more the case this year, had the Spurs and Pacers squared off (yet something tells me the pro-college, anti-NBA basketball fans wouldn't have tuned in, even though it would've delivered everything they claim to love).

So my tempered excitement is more the result of Golden State, Memphis and Indiana being eliminated than it is the actual matchup of Miami and San Antonio.  But instead of focusing on what teams aren't playing, I need to focus on the teams that are playing; because the actual matchup of Miami and San Antonio is worth getting excited about.

Six years ago, LeBron met the Spurs in the Finals.  A Finals that would turn out to be the lowest rated one of all-time.  Looking back, it makes perfect sense.  Because it wasn't a culmination; it was an impetus.  The impetus of the Spurs transitioning from Tim Duncan to Tony Parker and of LeBron becoming LeBron.  Parker would win the Finals MVP and eventually take control of the team and LeBron (after the first in a series of failures) would fully realize his potential as the best player in the world and finally be surrounded by a great supporting cast.  The 2007 series wasn't a culmination.  This series is the culmination.

And even though Tony Parker may be the key cog for the Spurs now, that doesn't mean Tim Duncan is merely a supporting member.  Which means it's still exciting that we're getting to see the best player of the last generation (Duncan) square off against the best player of the current generation (LeBron).  Something that hasn't happened in over 20 years, when Jordan squared off with Magic.  Jordan vs. Magic was also the last time that two top 10 players of all-time met in the Finals, prior to Duncan-LeBron.

We're not just getting two top 10, generational players squaring off, we're also getting arguably the two best teams in the league doing battle.  Teams with outstanding ball movement, defense and shooting.  The Heat have been the best team in the league all year, but the Spurs will provide a very interesting challenge for them; as they're a team that can go big or small, without compromising the strength of their team.

Regardless of the outcome, we're going to see something historic (Duncan and Pop winning titles 14 years apart or LeBron taking another step toward becoming a top 5 player of all-time).  But most of all, we should see some really great basketball.

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