In the end, hoops fans got the matchup they had longed for: a repeat of the NBA Finals from a season ago.
Call the series Heat vs. Spurs II.
The backstory here isn’t worth revisiting. Not in a serious way, for the outcome of that Finals won’t change. Ray Allen won’t suddenly miss a three-pointer that sent Game 6 into overtime.
Nor will Tim Duncan make an easy layup that would have made Allen’s shot meaningless. Duncan’s layup would have won the title for the Spurs, cementing them as the team of the millennium.
But Duncan did miss. Allen didn’t, and now the Heat are chasing a three-peat, a title that would, perhaps unfairly, turn them into the talk of the 21st century. They might be that regardless of how this series plays out.
For the Heat are a team built around stars, and stars like LeBron and Dwyane Wade fill arenas in ways the team-centric Spurs don’t necessarily do. Of course, they, too, do have stars. Duncan and Tony Parker are headliners themselves, and Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are nice complements to fill out a deep San Antonio roster.
The question is whether a team can find a way to stop the best basketball player on the planet. If coach Gregg Popovich’s Spurs can slow down LeBron – to stop him altogether would take the work of a higher power – they still have to contend with Wade, who plays a central role in whatever success the Heat have.
Yet it is difficult to figure out which team goes into the game with an edge. The Spurs have had a rougher route to the Finals than the Heat, whose victory over the dysfunctional Indiana Pacers didn’t have the high drama the matchup had a season ago when LeBron & Co. fended off Indiana to reach the Finals.
Here the Heat are again. They are in the Finals for the fourth year in a row, just four wins away from an NBA title that would continue the debate about LeBron’s greatness.
That’s more or less what this championship series is about. It’s either the legacy of LeBron James or the legacy of Coach Pop’s Spurs. Both legacies are up for discussion, even if we might prefer not to look beyond the present and ascribe larger meanings to a matchup between two splendid teams.
Penning a historic perspective on this series might lesson the drama of it. For in the end, legacies might not mean much if the series plays out as it did a year ago.
Who can think of legacies when he is enjoying what could easily turn into the greatest show on hardwood?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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