2006 was probably the last Finals that felt like the series would help chart a new course for the league’s future. That was Dallas-Miami, Nowitzki-Wade, the winner seemed destined to dominate the league for years to come.
Of course, other than endless memories of Wade shooting free throws, or Josh Howard calling a phantom timeout, no dynasty was born from that series. The combination of Shaq and Wade never even won a playoff game together after that — swept in the next year by the Bulls before being dismantled; the Mavericks would collapse several times in the playoffs before getting their championship last year.
This year’s Finals has that similar feel. It’s scary — or tiring — to think that LeBron’s reign on the league may finally be just getting started, a first championship would collapse many of the ongoing narratives of failure.
Meanwhile, a Thunder win would mean they would’ve accomplished a rare feat: going straight from the bottom to very top on a continuous upward trajectory without taking a single step back.
What’s interesting is that before the series begins tomorrow night, much of the conversation has been dominated by the morality of how these two teams have achieved their success and gotten themselves into this position to compete for the trophy.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation cautions that there’s more layers to this matchup than simply good vs. evil — with the Heat as the obvious villains.
Jeremy Repinach wrote at The Classical that there may not be that strong of a link between the Thunder’s success in Oklahoma City and their departure from Seattle.
Meanwhile, Dave Zirin lays out a strong argument that we should all root for the Heat in light of how Oklahoma City landed their franchise.
Of course, all these perspectives does is illustrate the subjectivity on the topics at hand. We can all take our thoughts on free agency, and franchise relocation and stand on our moral high ground with them.
At the most extreme of opinions — the Thunder can do no wrong, the Heat deserve nothing. Or Oklahoma City has blood on their hands even in victory. Or LeBron will never be truly respected because he abandoned a hometown for an easier route to the title.
All of that can, should, and will be debated.
But when we tip off tomorrow night, let’s focus on what actually happens on the court. Let’s appreciate and understand how this series will help shape and even define the careers of two of the best players in the game.
Let those storylines take center stage in a series that will undoubtedly chart a new course for this league going forward.
photo via NBA Through The Lens