Clash of the Titans

Let’s rewind. Last week, with both Conference Finals tied at two games a piece and the still very real possibility of a Boston vs. San Antonio Finals, I wrote this:

“At some point, LeBron or KD or Paul or Howard or Rose or one of the other Gen Y superstars is going to win a championship. But it won’t mean as much if they get the championship due to the inevitable Gen X attrition. That’s a Docile Takeover. They have to forcibly take ownership of the league. For their sake, the league’s sake, our sake and history’s sake, I hope they get their bully on next month.”

And we are here, now. It’s a new day. Well, it’s the dawn of a new day. Within the next two weeks, either Miami or Oklahoma City will be NBA champs and the Gen Y superstars will have forcibly taken over the league – probably for good – in the most compelling, dramatic, gripping fashion.

OKC exposed a Spurs squad many thought was possibly an unbeatable juggernaut. And the Heat – especially LeBron James – held off Rajon Rondo and the Celtics’ proud vets that temporarily had them on the ropes of disgrace, ending Boston’s five-year pseudo-dynasty. Each squad advanced to the Finals mainly because of gutsy, pressure-drenched, late-series victories on the road.

This is what the NBA needed. Two young Big Threes. Three of the games six biggest stars. Oh – and the two best players in the game, that happen to play the same position, guarding each other all series. Every championship series takes on some type of historical import, but this one is special. It's right under Celtics-Lakers in 1984 and Bulls-Lakers in 1991. No matter the outcome, we’ll be watching history-making.

With that said…a few quick thoughts heading into the Gen Y Finals.

My oft-quoted homeboy Tony put LeBron’s current rep in keen perspective. He said that, in Games 6 and 7 of the ECF, Bron wasn’t playing for greatness, he was playing to avoid humiliation. I couldn’t agree more. Bron is still on trial. Remember that he came swaggering into last season’s Finals like a GOAT candidate only to implode in historically ignominious fashion. Tony again: “He was in the red after Game 5. Games 6 and 7 have brought him back to zero.  Let's see if he can break into the black in the finals.” It is THE plot of the series.

There are several ways to compare players. Who’s better? Who’s more valuable? Who’s greater? There will never be a day, within the next five to six years, when Kevin Durant is better than LeBron James. Although KD is a more versatile scorer than Bron, if they both put their minds to it, they’d pretty much end up in a draw when it came to scoring, with Bron probably holding the field goal percentage advantage. Bron is a better rebounder, passer, facilitator and defender. LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet and it’s really not close. But then there’s this: If it is KD that leads his squad to a championship, then KD becomes the greatest Gen Y superstar and the most valuable player in the league. You can take LeBron’s MVP trophies and put them with Will Smith’s Grammys. It’s all about rings. Championships are sports’ most precious commodities (value) and the barometer for greatness. League alpha status is riding on this one.

Just because LeBron and KD are battling for the ultimate alpha status, that doesn’t mean Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook are beta males. Both teams will need alpha games out of each to win this thing, since both Bron and KD have a natural tendency to periodically defer.

Udonis Haslem and Kendrick Perkins are some tough dudes. Having said that, Russ is the toughest dude in this series. Or maybe it’s Wade. Hmmm. A Westbrook-Wade beef is a very real possibility.

So is a Wade-Perk beef.

You know those Mic’d In segments where we listen in to team huddles? Erik Spoelstra is the all-time worst mic’d up human being in humankind history. I’m talking abject stuff, here. This is a fictional sample of one of his motivational monologues during the timeouts: “Come on, guys! Attack! Stay the course! Find the open man and pass the ball to him! Hard work for 48 minutes! We gotta march! Fork in the road! Which way are we going?! Monitor your reads! Know your limits! Heart! No garbage time!”

There’s a philosophical debate at stake in this series, too. Four of Miami’s seven-man rotation (LeBron, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, Mike Miller) have come to the squad within the past two seasons – all as free agents. Of OKC’s seven-man rotation, only Perkins is new and the rest, other than Thabo Sefalosha, were drafted by the Thunder (or Sonics). And Perk and Sef’ came to Oklahoma City via prescient trades. Miami built its contender based on Wade the Recruiter, Pat Riley the Don and South Beach the Allure. OKC built its contender based on patient, smart management. Miami was a destination; OKC is a farm-system. The OKC-way is far more impressive.

Bosh will never escape ridicule and I don’t think he cares. He shouldn’t. Dude hooped his butt off in Game 7. He makes the game easier for Bron and Wade. This matters. I’m picking – albeit hesitantly – Miami in a memorable six, for the King’s belated coronation.

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