LeBron James is one of a handful of players whose legacies will be affected by Game 7
The best two words in sports. No matter if you are a fan, athlete or coach, Game 7 is something everyone can get excited about. Especially when the game features two contrasting franchises in the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs assembled their Big 3 through the draft and hail from a small market, while the Heat assembled their Big 3 through free agency and hail from a large market.
Tonight's game isn't just about an NBA championship. It is also bound to rewrite the legacies of the players and coaches involved, for better or for worse.
Does Gregg Popovich become the one of the best coaches ever? Does Tim Duncan put to bed any argument as not only the greatest power forward ever but the greatest player of his era? Does LeBron James take one step closer to Michael Jordan's greatness?
Who else's legacy will be impacted by tonight's result? Well, let's take a look.
LeBron James has a chance to get one step closer to Michael Jordan
What would a legacy talk be without the ever scrutinized LeBron James?
James got the monkey off his back last year when he helped lead the Heat to its first NBA Championship since the Big 3 assembled in South Beach.
A Game 7 win would bring James his second NBA title and bring him one step closer to Michael Jordan's greatness. It would also put him in rarefied air as he would surely be named NBA Finals MVP. As TotalProSports.com points out, only nine other players have won multiple NBA Finals MVPs.
The list includes Michael Jordan (6), Magic Johnson (3), Tim Duncan (3), Shaquille O'Neal (3), Kobe Bryant (2), Hakeem Olajuwon (2), Willis Reed (2) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2). All of them are either in the Hall of Fame or will join the Hall of Fame soon.
Also, as Sports Illustrated points out, he became the 10th player to win both an NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP in the same season.
Plus, James' decision to leave Cleveland for Miami will continue to look better and continue his ascension on the list of the greatest players to ever play the game.
However, if LeBron loses, well Twitter, Facebook and the Internet as a whole may crash. Despite winning his fourth MVP award this past season and basically carrying an injured Dwyane Wade and an invisible Chris Bosh, James will bear the load of every negative thing that is said about the Heat's Big 3 and his decision to leave Cleveland.
Not only will the whole Big 3 experiment be put into question, but also 'The Decision' and their introduction later that summer. James' record in the NBA Finals will also be a dismal 1-3, and more notably, 1-2 after assembling the Big 3.
So yea, one could say James has just a little bit on the line tonight.
Tim Duncan has the chance to cement his legacy as the greatest Power Forward of all-time
The ever quiet Tim Duncan has been anything but quiet since entering the league in the 1997-1998 NBA season.
Tonight he has the chance to cement his place not only among the greatest players to ever play basketball, but as the greatest power forward to ever play. Don't agree with me? I will let the numbers speak for themselves.
Four-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, 10-time NBA First Team, 3 NBA second team selections, 8-time All-Defensive First Team, 6-time All-Defensive Second Team, and NBA Rookie of the Year.
Did I forget to mention the fact that if the Spurs are victorious tonight, Tim Duncan has the chance to become the second NBA player to win NBA Finals MVP 14 years apart? Who joins him? According to sportrageous.com, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the only other player to accomplish this feat as he won in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks and in 1985 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
If the Spurs lose, however, his resume loses a little of its luster. It would drop his NBA Finals record to 4-1 and it should not be forgotten that he was essentially a no show in the second half of Game 6 as he went 2-of-8 from the field with five points.
But hey, I'm just nitpicking.
Gregg Popovich would join the ranks of best coaches to ever strut a sideline
I would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn't mention Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich in the same breath. After all, they have only been linked together for 16 seasons.
With a win tonight in Game 7, Popovich would have to be mentioned in the same sentence as Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and Pat Riley.
Just look at what the man has done in San Antonio. As basketball-reference.com shows, Popovich has only one losing season and that was before Tim Duncan got there. His team has also won 50 or more games every single season except for the lockout shortened season in 1998-1999, where they were 37-13 and won the first of four NBA titles.
Also, as mentioned in the preceding sentence, he has FOUR NBA titles. Winning a fifth ring would rank him in a tie for third place with, ironically, the Heat's Pat Riley, and John Kundla, who coached the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1940's and 1950's.
Who does he trail? Only Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach, who won 11 and nine titles respectively.
If the Spurs lose, well, his questionable Game 6 coaching at the end would be amplified and unfairly never forgotten.
With a win, Erik Spoelstra may start to make a case for the Hall of Fame
Ah, the man behind the scenes of the Miami Heat's success. In five seasons as the Heat's head coach this no-name coach has only had one of the harder tasks in NBA history. Not because his team was terrible, but because of the aspirations and expectations the Heat were to accomplish once the Big 3 came to be.
Since being head coach Spoelstra has a record of 260-143 in five seasons with the Heat. In the last three seasons he has coached a team that has won the Eastern Conference Finals every year and is 1-1 in the NBA Finals.
With a win Spoelstra would become the eighth coach to win two NBA titles and the 13th head coach to win multiple titles. That's not too bad for the young up-and-coming coach.
However, with a loss, he will be grouped into the scrutiny and negativity that comes with coaching this Miami Heat team. In three seasons, with three superstars, he only managed to bring one title to South Beach, which is far below the expectations that were placed upon him and the Heat since the Big 3 came to be.
Unfair or fair, his coaching legacy will be greatly impacted by how his Heat perform tonight in Game 7.
Dwyane Wade would cement himself among the best shooting guards to play the game
Dwyane Wade has been the face of the Miami Heat franchise since being drafted by the team in 2003. He also has been one of the more accomplished shooting guards in NBA history.
He was more-or-less the reason the Heat won their first title in 2006, even if he did have Shaquille O'Neal helping him long the way. He has one Finals MVP to his name for that effort and was instrumental in last year's title run, too.
He also has over 24,000 career points, 3,300 rebounds and 4,000 assists in his career. Although injuries have plagued him throughout his career, he still brought it every night and is a great all-around player.
According to foxsports.com in an article done on May 14, he is the sixth best shooting guard to ever play. With a third ring in hand, he could easily bump up that list.
With a loss, however, it may signal the start of a declining career. Wade will be known as a great player, but one who was hampered by injuries along the way. He also would be linked as the man who had the idea of bringing Bosh and James to Miami in order to win multiple championships.
Chris Bosh could resurrect his image as a star with a big Game 7 performance
Chris Bosh was supposed to be the third star of the Big 3. Yet in three seasons with the Heat, he has been anything but. After averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds during his career in Toronto, Bosh's numbers have dipped to around 18 points and eight rebounds a game.
While those numbers are due to dip because he is sharing the ball with Wade and James, he hasn't been a force on the interior that the Heat thought he would be.
He has been at the center of trade rumors, as reported by the Orlando Advocate, and with a loss would most likely be the fallout guy for the failure of the Big 3.
A win and a big performance in Game 7 would give him a boost to his star power and quiet some of the critics who say he isn't a star anymore. His crucial rebound on the Ray Allen three-pointer and two blocks of Tony Parker and Danny Green have started to remind people how important he is to the Heat.
Tony Parker could cement his Hall of Fame status with a win tonight
Tony Parker is one of the best point guards in today's NBA. He has also been one of the key reasons for the Spurs getting to this point in the NBA Finals. He is an instrumental part of San Antonio's Big 3 and, with a win tonight, could cement his place in the NBA Hall of Fame.
After all, he was one of, if not the, best player for the Spurs during their previous three NBA titles. Remember that he won NBA Finals MVP in 2007, the last of the Spurs NBA titles.
Ever since the Finals began, Parker has been the focal point on defense for the Heat, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Despite Danny Green's hot shooting, the Heat know the offense starts with Parker as enables Green to get open looks.
With a loss, Parker would be on the bubble in terms of getting into the Hall of Fame, especially with how poor he played in the previous game, as he shot 6-of-23 from the field.
Manu can make everyone forget what has been a dismal series with a big Game 7 performance
Manu Ginobili, save for his Game 5 performance, has been forgettable during this NBA Finals. As NBA.com shows, Manu is averaging 10 points, two rebounds, and four assists during this series while shooting a lowly 41 percent from the field.
Overall in the playoffs, he is averaging some of the worst numbers he has posted in his playoff career. The 11.2 points and 39 percent shooting are his worst numbers since the 2002-2003 season, the first playoffs of his career.
With a win and a good performance in Game 7 tonight, Manu can remind everyone of how special and how important he is to the Spurs. He was one of the best sixth men in the league for a number of years and part of the Spurs Big 3. Not to mention he was a main reason why the Spurs won three titles in the early-to-mid 2000's.
With a bad performance, however, he can remind everyone just how far he has fallen and just maybe bounce himself out of the Hall of Fame. His eight turnovers in Game 6 and 10-29 combined shooting during the first four games of the NBA Finals would be too much not to leave a mark on his playing resume.
Pat Riley can continue to add on to an already impressive NBA legacy
Pat Riley may be the definition of winning. He not only won an NBA title as a player, but five more as a coach, and of course, one last year as an executive.
Although his playing career was quite undistinguished, he helped the Lakers win an NBA title in 1972. As a coach, he made a huge impact and helped create 'Showtime.' As the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he won five NBA championships during the 1980's and is one of the best coaches of all-time.
As an executive, he helped concoct the plan of bringing James, Bosh and Wade together in South Beach. With the NBA title from last year, he became the only North American sports figure to win a championship as a player, coach, and executive.
So with a win tonight, he would be known as a great NBA executive as well as one of the best NBA coaches ever. The ability to draw three superstars and get them to listen to Erik Spoelstra is a feat of itself.
With a loss, there is the backlash of the Big 3 idea and whether it could work. It also provides a plethora of questions for the direction of the Heat and pulls the Big 3's existence into doubt.