Unless you're Mark Cuban or a fanatical Dallas Mavericks fan, nobody saw the Mavs winning the 2011 NBA championship. Even the wizards behind the sports book curtains of Las Vegas gave the Mavs an 18/1 shot of winning it all last year–and those were the odds closer to the playoffs, not at the beginning of the season.
Unlike the NFL and MLB, the NBA has always read like a predictable Hollywood script, instead of an unpredictable mystery novel. Every year, the team holding the Larry O’Brien trophy could be boiled down to two or three teams.
This season, however, the script has been flipped. What made the final chapter of 2011 so enjoyable, was its surprise ending. The Maverick underdogs came out of nowhere to slay the newest giant in the NBA fraternity, the Miami Heat. And though the Heat are favored once again to win the 2012 NBA championship, here’s why the final chapter of this year's narrative can end in a multiplicity of ways–now more than ever.
In the West, OKC is the sexy pick with the #1 seed. However, the Spurs have outplayed the Thunder in their last two games. Unfortunately for the Spurs, their gold and purple kryptonite have returned again to haunt them. If the Spurs are the Thunder’s big brother, the Lakers have reminded the Spurs that they are still the middle child. Fortunately, the youthful Thunder have stolen the heart and soul of the Lakers by bringing Derek Fisher over, which now makes the West as convoluted as it's ever has.
In the East, the Boston Celtics are like MMA fighters who refuse to tap out until the refs stop the fight. However, just because you have willpower doesn’t mean you can knock out the Bulls or Heat in a seven game series.
Chances are, either Miami or Chicago is going to represent the East, but that's just the point; which one of the two? Everyone knew that the Heat were going to beat the baby Bulls and a rookie coach last year in a seven game series. This year, however, is an entirely different story. The Heat have lost two out of three games to the grown-up Bulls and Tom Thibodeau may be the first one in NBA history to win back-to-back Coach of the Year awards. At 7/5 odds, Vegas is still on board the Heat bandwagon, but whether they can even make it to the NBA Finals remains to be seen.
At this point in the 2012 narrative, one thing remains clear, the NBA gods have decided to make this year's script a mystery novel instead of a predictable Hollywood script. And if you're an NBA fan like me, that's just the way we like it.