As a Lakers fan, at the beginning of each NBA season there are two things I hope for.
- Lakers win a championship.
- And if the Lakers don’t win, then I hope for LeBron James to be denied a championship yet again.
Call me a homer, but when the former was no longer possible, I prayed that at least the latter would manifest.
I decided to take a sabbatical from the NBA after the Lakers were swept by the Mavericks. I thought the Mavericks and the Heat would cruise to the NBA finals. I haven’t been sold on the youth revolution, led by Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, just yet.
And I was right. Both the Mavericks and the Heat won their series’ convincingly, four games to one. By giving myself the conference finals off, I felt refreshed as a basketball fan; and was fully ready to enjoy the NBA finals from an objective standpoint.
Little did I know that I was about to witness the most compelling NBA Finals since I started watching basketball in 1999. Allow me to make my case.
Heading into most finals, I usually have a hunch on who has the upper hand in the series before game one even tips off, but not this time. In the early 2000’s, the Lakers weren’t expected to lose to the Pacers, Sixers nor the Nets, as they had Shaq and Kobe in their primes.
Even when the two combatants were evenly matched, there was always an asterisk. Watching the Spurs and the Pistons grind through seven games is the equivalent to trench warfare. In 2008, everyone wanted to see the Lakers and Celtics renew their rivalry, but unfortunately the climax of that series was a rout. In their rematch last year, it’s fair to say the majority of the country wanted to see two fresh teams battle it out on the grandest stage in basketball.
And don’t even get me started about 2004 when Gary Payton, Kobe, Rick Fox, Karl Malone and Shaq fell to the Pistons. In Kobe’s words after winning the 2009 finals, that series was “Chinese water torture.”
So here we are in 2011, the Mavericks facing off against the Heat. The series had classic written all over it, with story lines that the media didn’t even need to fabricate. Could the Mavericks avenge their defeat to the Heat in 2006? Would old man Jason Kidd, the Big German Dirk Nowitzki and their band of wily veterans be able to win their first championship? Did the Mavericks actually just reach the finals with Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Rodrigue Beaubois all banged up? Are LeBron James and DeShawn Stevenson going to renew their rivalry from their Cavaliers and Wizards days?
But the biggest question remained: how scary would it be for the rest of the league if the Heat’s big three won a championship in their first year together?
All those questions were going to be answered within a span of six games. To top it all off, this series defined the legacies of four superstars: Dirk, LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh.
The series started as we all feared it would. The Heat looked to be clicking on all cylinders at the right time as they took care of business in game one, 92-84. To add insult to injury, Nowitzki tore a tendon in his middle finger in the loss.
Then in game two, D-Wade hit a corner three to extend the Heat’s lead to 15, the Heat were on the verge on taking a 2-0 lead in the series. He started strutting back holding his follow through right in front of the Mavericks’ bench.
Next: A Turn of Events