NBA Finals 2012: 10 Reasons Why This Is the Dream Matchup for the League
These NBA Finals are fantastic; have you been watching?
The new Big Three from Miami have started out both games strong and in the toughest place to play in the NBA.
Even though Oklahoma City thundered back to win Game 1, the Heat were white-hot to begin Game 2, and they got out of OKC with the series tied 1-1.
It's anybody's series to win, and the Thunder will have to take at least a game in South Beach or see their season and championship dreams vanish in thin air, while the Heat can't take their foot off the gas pedal now.
There are so many storylines in this series that make it the dream matchup for the NBA.
Click ahead to find out why.
LeBron James is at once the greatest player in the world and the villain of the NBA.
His personality and public persona at times overshadow his play, and after guaranteeing he'd bring Miami enough titles to have rings on both his hands, the media and fans criticize his every move.
If he records a near triple-double but the team loses, it's his fault because he didn't perform well enough.
Look at Game 1, when he put up 30 points, but only seven of them were in the fourth quarter, when it matters most. His team lost, and he was thrashed in the media.
LeBron is the biggest reason this is the dream NBA matchup because everyone—diehard basketball fans and casual ones alike—is tuning in to see whether the self-appointed King will finally take his crown.
LeBron vs. Durant
Not only is LeBron himself a huge story, but the matchup of James vs. Kevin Durant certainly is a major storyline in itself.
LeBron won the MVP, while Durant was the runner-up and the scoring champion this season.
They're arguably the two greatest players in the world of basketball currently, and each is loved or loathed for his own variety of reasons.
The only thing that would make their matchup better is if they played one another more on both ends of the floor. They're both virtually unguardable, and it would be great to see each try to stop the other amazing scoring machine.
While LeBron would be celebrated for bringing Miami its second title, Durant would be the mayor of Oklahoma City if he could win his state its first professional championship in any sport.
Oklahoma City's First Title
Yes, the dynamic of either of these teams winning one of its first Larry O'Brien Trophies is why this series is appealing to fans too.
We're not talking about the L.A. Lakers or Boston Celtics, who have won too many titles to count. The Heat have only one championship, while a series win would mean the Thunder's first triumph in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma, a hotbed for college sports, has never taken home a professional sporting championship; this would be its first.
It's an awakening moment, as Oklahoma would push itself onto the big stage and into the spotlight; it'd be a huge moment for the entire state.
Durant Blooming into an Elite Player
A win for Durant would not only mean the state's and team's first NBA title—it would be his first too.
In a league that's been built on me-first players, Durant is the quiet assassin, taking care of business and quietly getting better while others rest and become complacent.
He's become a role model of sorts among so many other selfish superstars, showing fame and fortune don't necessarily make you into a bad person.
Durant could easily become the next face of the league, and if he wins, he will be.
Of course, there are a ton more stars in this series besides Durant and LeBron—even if their stars burn the brightest—and they all add to the appeal.
Dwyane Wade is still arguably a top-five player in the league, though he's shown his age a bit in these playoffs. Or is it that Wade possesses the maturity to defer to James? If so, he should be commended, as this is the best they've looked with the Big Three.
Chris Bosh has come through huge too, bouncing back from an injury to play at the top of his game. His 16 points and 15 rebounds in Game 2 were instrumental in the Heat victory, and we can't forget it would be his first title too.
The Thunder have Russell Westbrook, one of the most athletically gifted youngsters in the NBA. He can drive and throw down a thunderous dunk or pull up and pop a 15-footer in your face.
If he can mix that killer scoring instinct with slightly more passing to Durant, OKC could still win this series.
And who could forget James Harden? He was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, and his game shows why, as he sinks deep threes and can drive with authority as well.
Fisher vs. Cole and the Passing of the Torch
Derek Fisher is one of the most decorated point guards in the history of the NBA. He's been a key piece to five championships in L.A. as their pass-first point guard with deadly three-point shooting in the clutch.
Norris Cole is the Heat's rookie phenom, coming off the bench and playing incredibly well for a first-year pro with some of the greats of the game.
It's the ageless veteran vs. the youngster, a sixth title to Fisher or a first to Cole.
In these NBA Finals, Fisher has come up huge, forcing Wade into turnovers late in Game 2 and hitting a few shots along the way, while Cole has been much quieter overall.
Who will prevail?
Two Best Teams
Undoubtedly, these are the two best teams in the NBA.
The Heat have mixed league-best scoring with, at times, physical and deft defense. They can run on the break better than anyone else and have an ability to break other teams' wills with it.
The Thunder can get out and run some too, but where they'll kill you is shooting you out of the gym. Their defense is strong, especially with the presence of both Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins down low, blocking shots and getting mean on people.
Both teams are a mix of youth and experience, and each one showcases the league's talent.
Certainly, each team is made of more youth than experience, as the Thunder and Heat had to go through the much older and experienced Spurs and Celtics in the conference finals, respectively.
Oklahoma City's stars, Durant and Westbrook, are a mere 23 years old each, while James Harden is only 22, and they're the second-youngest team in NBA Finals history.
Miami's young itself; James and Bosh are in their late 20s and Wade just turned 30, while Cole and Mario Chalmers have each contributed in a huge way.
It's a dream for the NBA because it showcases the youth movement of the NBA and the torch being passed from the older generation to the next.
Brooks vs. Spoelstra
Just like the youth movement of the players, Scott Brooks and Erik Spoelstra are both very youthful themselves.
With the old-school coaches retiring—like Jerry Sloan and Phil Jackson—there's plenty of room for the new-school coaches to preach their style of play.
Brooks, who learned under the tutelage of 27-year NBA veteran George Karl, has insisted on team play, defensive physicality and driving the lane. During Game 2, the Thunder made their comeback in the second half by relentlessly attacking the hoop with a reckless abandon, a clear coaching decision by Brooks.
Spoelstra, while he takes a ton of flak from LeBron and Wade, has been one of the best coaches in the NBA the last two years. He's only a few years older than the international sports superstars, but he's been able to get all those egos to coexist with one another and flourish as a team.
One of the two youthful coaches is going to lead his team to the promised land, and one's legend will grow with a win.
Best Fans in NBA in OKC
For the NBA, having Oklahoma City in the finals is ideal because it rewards the best fans in the league.
Since the Sonics moved from Seattle to OKC in 2008, the fans have been fantastic. They regularly stand nearly all game long, more similar to a college atmosphere than a professional sports one, and the way they conform to wearing the free shirts during the playoffs is bar none.
The Thunder crowd is known for being loud, proud and rowdy, going crazy for their team and chanting “O-K-C” in unison throughout games, creating a true home-court advantage for Oklahoma City.
Winning a title is the ultimate gratification, not only for a team and a franchise owner, but for the fans. It's a validation for all the money, time and effort spent following your favorite team.
It's the cherry on top.
If every team's fans were as great as the Thunder's, the league would be better off and in a better position similar to the NFL.
In the End, No Matter Who Wins, Showing Off NBA Talent to the World
In the end, it's a win-win for the NBA.
If the Heat win, LeBron is finally King of the NBA, fulfilling a prophecy that has been long coming. Not only that, it will build his villain status, giving fans a need and desire to have the King dethroned, similar to a wonderfully-written Game of Thrones chapter.
Bringing the Big Three together will have met its climax, and all the labors will have paid off in the end. Pat Riley will go down as a team architect, and Spoelstra will be praised for his intelligence.
If the Thunder win, Durant will be the new face of the NBA and a fresh generation of rising talents that may already be better than James and Wade. It will bring a first championship to Oklahoma City and make Scottie Brooks look like a mastermind and Sam Presti a genius for building a title winner.
The real reason it's a win-win is because much of this talent will be showcased on the international stage soon.
LeBron and Durant should be among the starting five of the USA Olympic Basketball 2012 team in London, while Wade, Bosh and Westbrook should be backups.
That's a scary certainty for soon-to-be opponents.
When these two teams combine forces in the Olympics this coming August, it will be amazing to see just how much they blow out opposing countries by and how dominant their gold-medal victory run will be.