Night. Two opposing ideals meet each other on the court for the first time in a meaningful situation. On one side, a star rides forth to honor his city and defend the old ways. On the other is a team of mercenaries led by three greats whose desire to win united them this past summer.
The script for tonight’s game sounds like it came straight out of a fantasy movie, right?
Guess it makes sense that about two weeks ago, I compared Dirk Nowitzki to Gandalf and the Miami Heat to the Nazgul. For those who don’t know, they are characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings and basically they fight for opposing ideas. Much like Nowitzki and the Heat.
Once the Heat beat the Celtics, I had a feeling that it would make it to the Finals. I also had a feeling that it would end up facing either the Dallas Mavericks or the Oklahoma City Thunder, two teams who don’t follow the trend of having a Big Three.
Of course, now we have Nowitzki versus LeBron in a Finals match-up that the basketball gods probably predetermined at the start of the Playoffs. The basketball gods have chosen their champions to represent the old and the new ways of basketball.
Nowitzki and his Mavericks stand for the old-school way of winning basketball. The Mavericks have one star that carries the team and surround him with good complimentary role players.
The Miami Heat is using the new way of throwing together three stars with the hopes of those stars being able to carry the team. This trend was started by Boston and continued last summer with LeBron deciding to take his talents to Miami.
Those two teams are the closest you can get to polar opposites. The Mavs have Dirk Nowitzki, a solid bench, and that’s about it. The Heat has LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, two of the top five players in the game right now and two true superstars, plus Chris Bosh, who was a star in Toronto and has shown flashes of it again in the playoffs.
Someone tried telling me that Nowitzki wasn’t doing it on his own. Sorry, but an aging Jason Kidd does not count as “help”, neither does Peja Stojakovic or Tyson Chandler, especially when teams have secondary players such as Amar’e Stoudemire or Ray Allen.
Anyway, I’ve said all along that Miami’s success in the playoffs is going to determine the future of the NBA. If the Heat does win it all, then expect more of these super-teams to be made, especially in New York, Chicago and possibly New Jersey/Brooklyn.
Then on the other side, we have Dirk Nowitzki. His Mavs are basically the only thing standing in the way of LeBron and this new trend. You couldn’t ask for a more storybook type ending.
We have the old-school ways being protected by a team full of old veterans who want that championship to cap off their careers going against the new way being led by one of the greatest players ever, who wants that ring to validate his career, his legacy and his decision.
It’s a great picture really. If you think about it, old-school basketball teams are being protected by, well, a bunch of old guys (well, old for the NBA at least). Then you have new school basketball teams being represented by three younger stars with the relatively young LeBron James at their head.
The media’s going to love that angle, but I digress…
Should Nowitzki and his Mavs win, then that would make more people question LeBron’s decision. GMs and owners around the league are going to question whether a Big Three is really needed to win championships.
It’s a fact that no one wins championships on their own. Even Jordan had Pippen. True teams have their one star who’s surrounded by players that compliment him. That’s the way teams were built for the longest time.
However, what the Miami Heat did was unprecedented. Should they win, then teams are going to see and believe that you really do need a Big Three.
New York is going to look at a certain star point guard. Chicago is going to go after that high-scorer. New Jersey (well, Prokhorov to be exact) is going to go after any star. The Lakers are going to go for a certain big man to help bring Los Angeles away from the Blakers, I mean, Clippers.
So in the end, this year’s Finals is about more than just a ring. There are far more things at stake. A legacy. A career. A decision. All of those are on the line as the game starts tonight.
However, two different styles of basketball are going to be pitted against each other tonight. Tonight, it’s old school versus new school, and tonight’s the first time the game is actually going to count. The basketball gods have chosen their champions, now we have to choose ours.