Miami Heat vs. OKC Thunder: Why 2012 NBA Finals Will Brand Newest Rivalry

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IJanuary 9, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 16: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is guarded by Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a game at American Airlines Arena on March 16, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Kevin Durant is placing himself in a wealthy place of power in the NBA as of today and what the requirements of a superstar are. Not only is he carrying his squad on his back, but he is tap-dancing along the lines of the regular season MVP and a NBA Finals berth.

It takes the heart and soul of a winner to achieve the individual awards he has, but it takes a little more than a crisp jump shot to combat two of the best five players in the league, with arguably another sitting in the top 20 alongside them.

Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh standing tall as their primary obstacles to claim what they believe is rightfully theirs. But, of course, no victory is intriguing enough to stand the test of time without a rivalry scraping across the surface.

In comes the West-East battle of the conferences to play out between the two franchises in the league with the most potential and the most to lose.

Last season, the OKC Thunder were not slated to come out of the Western conference on top. But, the Dallas Mavericks sure were not either. The Thunder were supposed to combat the Los Angeles Lakers for  a trip to the Finals, but unfortunately nothing happens as planned, especially not in the NBA—Where amazing happens.

The Mavericks snatched the Lakers up by their coattails and exposed how much work needs to be done before Kobe makes another trip to the big show. OKC was left licking their wounds as a strong showing of emotional turmoil between their two star players seemed to keep them from being one step closer to the ultimate goal.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 30:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at Ford Center on January 30, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But this season is different. Youth, exuberance, style and celebrity have come into play just as much as raw talent and skill and no franchise possesses it more than both the OKC Thunder and the Miami Heat. Who better to engage in modern day warfare than the two franchises expected to prevail in the face of such a trying set of circumstances?

A 66-game season? There is no better time for these two teams to establish dominance and develop a rivalry that could trail on for years to come. The perfect storm is brewing right before our eyes.

Durant and Westbrook make for such a lethal combination—when both of their heads are on straight that is. Fans have seen Durant put on jumper clinics against teams unable to figure out how to guard him (pretty much everyone in the Free World), but we have seen the personal struggles of such a young team growing up under such a dangerously bright spotlight.

Westbrook’s maturity has been questioned as well as the tandem’s ability to operate in the same jerseys. It has been worth the wait to see the duo bounce back from “trying” times and put on a show as we have seen of late. Westbrook’s double-digit scoring and Durant’s miraculous clutch gene never fail to impress.

But there is a three-headed monster stirring up crowd tremors on the other side of the country.

The Miami Heat are able and willing to shut down any team in their path and their development, although at different stages of their stars’ careers, has been just as attention-grabbing as OKC’s.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 16:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat is fouled by James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a game at American Airlines Arena on March 16, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron, Wade and Bosh are nowhere near new to this. Each player has been in the league since they were all selected in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft. Wade already has a ring to push in the younger players’ faces, but the other two have yet to meet the same fate.

Bosh, because his team just was never good enough to properly contend, and LeBron because, well, hell, he was in Cleveland. Sorry Clevelanders, but there was not a standing second man in command to assist him in any manner.

So, now they have arrived in South Beach and have meshed with a chemistry that rivals that of the greatest Big Threes in the history of the game.

Both squads have supporting players like James Harden, the recently-injured Eric Maynor, Serge Ibaka, Mario Chalmers and rookie Norris Cole that add to the excitement of every game due to their wild card ability. You never know exactly what you are going to get from these young men, but each contributes to the success of their franchises when necessary.

At the end of the day, what do we have?

There are two young stars in OKC battling for their respect and reputation, and three in Miami hoping to get the media monkey off their backs with a championship. When awesomeness battles towards a common goal with equally effective weapons, greatness should be expected. It should be required.

The pressure is weighing in this season and the rush to the top may authenticate a rivalry in the league that will put fans back on their toes.

The coast to coast Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry has grown stale and too brittle-boned to make much static anymore. It’s quite predictable as well. What’s wrong with stirring up some new trouble among the league’s grandest stars?

Nothing at all. Which is what makes the league so amazing.