If we allow/admit that the NBA is a superstar's league, it follows that said superstars should not only meet on the sport's biggest stages, but also dictate the outcomes thereabouts.
That's been the case in nearly every one of the league's unforgettable championship series. To be the best, you must first beat the best.
It's cliche, but it's true. Four- and five-game series feature vastly uneven matchups more often than not. For a round to earn its own place in history, the games must be closely contested and those deciding the results must be widely known quantities. Any layers of personal feud or team-to-team rivalry that can be grafted onto the proceedings can only help.
Best of Yesteryear
1968-69: The Lakers and the Celtics, already bitter rivals, come to blows in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years. This time, though, L.A. has Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell's arch nemesis on its side. The heavily favored Lakers, with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor on their side, take a 3-2 series lead on the C's before Boston storms back to win the final two. Russell contributes just six points to the Celtics' Game 7 victory, his last in the NBA, but he does plenty to motivate his 'mates after being enraged by the sight of Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke's victory balloons in the rafters.
1983-84: A decade-and-a-half later, the Lakers and the Celtics renew their rivalry with a fresh cast of characters. Naturally, the series goes the distance, with Boston's Big Three (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish) outduelling L.A.'s (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy) after McHale's infamous clotheslining of Kurt Rambis in Game 4. The Lakers would get their revenge the very next year, clinching the title at the C's expense for the first time in eight tries—in Beantown, no less.
2010: More Lakers and Celtics...sensing a pattern yet? The Lakers enter their third NBA Finals in a row in search of retribution against the C's, who'd humiliated L.A. in 2008. Boston bullies its way to a 3-2 series lead after five games, but it can't quite overcome the Lakers' advantage at Staples Center over the last two. The C's lose Kendrick Perkins for Game 7, but they nearly pull off the win anyway, thanks to poor shooting from Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Ron Artest, though, rides to the rescue, scoring 20 points and hitting a key three to seal the Lakers' 16th championship.
What Perfection Would Look Like in 2013-14
In the Eastern Conference, LeBron James takes on one of his chief rivals, be it Derrick Rose's Bulls, Carmelo Anthony's Knicks or the Nets, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two of LeBron's longtime tormentors, in tow.
Out West, the Conference Finals bring us a clash of dynamic duos, be it Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook versus their Clippers counterparts (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) or the OKC duo opposite former Thunder stud James Harden and his new partner in crime, Dwight Howard.
Or, perhaps the Spurs sneak into the mix, much to the chagrin of those who still, for whatever reason, think San Antonio is boring.
The NBA Finals then feature any number of intriguing storylines. There's LeBron going against Dwight, another former antagonist, who hopes to follow James' path to redemption. There's James and Wade going back up against KD and Westbrook, as they did in 2012. There's also the possibility that LeBron will have to take on CP3, his close friend, in a battle with L.A.'s "other" team.
Or, if the Heat can't make it that far to complete the three-peat, there's the possibility of an athletic point guard bonanza between Rose and Westbrook, a battle between former Celtics if the Clips and the Nets advance and an all-out brawl of a series between the Pacers and the Grizzlies—and so on and so forth.