NBA Finals: LeBron James vs. Dirk Nowitzki Evokes Memories of Legendary Rivalry

David BurnettCorrespondent IMay 31, 2011

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 20:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat passes over Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks  during a game at American Airlines Arena on December 20, 2010 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

The 2011 NBA Finals, which tipoff tonight, will feature the Miami Heat against the Dallas Mavericks, the two teams that through three playoff rounds have clearly proven to be the best in the world this year. 

That said, the real headliners of this series are the Heat’s LeBron James and Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki.

This matchup is reminiscent of the classic Bird versus Magic rivalry more than 25 years ago—two of the league’s most important stars playing the best basketball of their careers.

But this time, both stars have so far won nothing of significance (no NBA championships yet) and thus have everything to prove.  But each has come close—sort of—LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers got swept by San Antonio in the finals four years ago, and Dirk and the Mavericks blew a 2-0 lead to lose the title and four straight to the Heat in 2006.

Redemption is ahead for Dirk and LeBron, but only one of them will finally get to silence the critics.  The other will have bear the weight of public and self-doubt for another year.  This is must-see TV.  The NBA couldn’t have a better series or a better faceoff.  It’s a great way to cap the best NBA season in years.

To quote that great wordsmith, Bart Scott: “Can’t wait!”


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