The NBA playoffs have been intriguing and exciting this year, but we’re still down to the last two teams who were the last two teams last year.The Miami Heat look to three-peat while the San Antonio Spurs look for their fifth championship in franchise history, and their fifth championship since drafting Tim Duncan with the #1 overall pick in 1997. As close as last year’s NBA Finals was, this one should be a real thriller.
The NBA is changing. A year ago, David Stern was still in charge of the NBA and Donald Sterling was still the old racist bigot who controls the Los Angeles Clippers. Now Adam Silver has replaced Stern, and Silver has run Sterling out of the NBA, with retired Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer set to buy the Clippers, but this year’s Finals remains eerily similar to the one from last year. The same storylines apply. The Heat are defending champions, and the Spurs are turning back the clocks. People have been saying that Tim Duncan is too old to carry a team to a title since 2008, but he’s in position to do it again. Coach Pop has been great at getting San Antonio to play smart fundamental basketball, and it starts with their star big man.
For the Heat, the chance at a three-peat can shut critics up once and for all. Sure, the leaguewide competition flattened when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh teamed up in South Beach in the summer of 2010, but to their credit, they’ve executed on their end when it mattered. You might not like what they did, and you may think it has made the NBA less interesting (I certainly do), but it’s still impressive. It will be interesting to see how long they can sustain this level of success with younger star players knocking at the door and the level of competition finally starting to rise again in the NBA. Kobe and Shaq have a three-peat on their resume with the Los Angeles Lakers. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin have two separate three-peats on theirs with the Chicago Bulls. Phil Jackson has three three-peats as coach of the Lakers and Bulls, and would have had another if it weren’t for those meddling Celtics in 2008. This is the chance for LeBron, Wade, and Bosh to join that elite company.
Duncan and the Spurs have never been repeat champions, but their legacies also have the chance to go from great to epic with a win in the 2014 Finals. Five titles would give Duncan as many as Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant and more than Shaq or Larry Bird. The last time Duncan won a championship was in 2007, in a four game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers and some kid named LeBron James. That was the first time LeBron fell short in the playoffs. The older generation of NBA superstars: Duncan, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki, were the obstacles in the road on LeBron”s way to becoming the best player in basketball. It seems now that everyone else is either too young or too old to match LeBron right now, but Duncan wants to prove me wrong, I’m sure. Personally, I would love to see him do it, and he has the best chance of anyone to unseat the Miami Heat.