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2011 NBA Finals: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade Looking to Lead Heat into the New Era

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2011 NBA Finals: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade Looking to Lead Heat into the New Era
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Heat are trailing the Mavericks 3-2 in the NBA Finals. The Mavericks stars are all aging and this may be their last finals appearance. The Heat will have plenty of chances for titles in the next decade and could start a new era with a finals win this season.

An NBA Era ended in 1998 when the Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals and Michael Jordan retired. The following year began a new era that was going to be dominated by the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Star players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing and many others were aging and new players were on the rise. The Bulls and Rockets had won eight out of the 10 titles in the 90's, but that was all about to end.

Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and others were ready to take the torch and carry the NBA into the new decade.

Eleven out of the last 12 finals have included either the Spurs or the Lakers and they have won nine titles between them. Ten out of the last 12 titles have been won by a team that has had either Shaq, Kobe or Duncan on the roster.

Now the torch that those three players carried after the Jordan Era ended is starting to fade.

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With Shaq retiring and the other players aging, it's safe to say that a new era is about to begin. A Miami Heat victory in the Finals would bring in the new Era and close the old.

Players like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard are entering the prime of their careers. It would not be a surprise to see these players winning the majority of the titles in the years to come. They are already racking up the majority of the individual awards.

Durant was the scoring champion for the second year in a row and he is only 22 years old. Howard was the defensive player of the year for the third straight time and he is only 25. Rose, at 22 years old, was the youngest player ever to be awarded the league MVP. James has already won two MVP's and Wade has won a Finals MVP and title.

The days of Shaq dominating in the low post are over. While Duncan is one of the best power forwards to ever play the game, he is no longer the best power forward in the NBA today. Kobe will go down as one of the best players ever, but he wasn't the best player in the league this season.

The Heat feature two of the best players in the NBA today and they are built to win titles for the next four to five years, but they aren't alone. The Thunder, Bulls and the Knicks are building teams that will compete for a championship in the next decade.

The Magic will compete if they can build around Howard, but he could leave and turn another team into an instant title contender. The Pacers, Hawks, Grizzlies, Blazers, Clippers, and Suns all have young pieces that will help them become playoff regulars.

The Heat first must win the next two games at home to usher in the new era, but even if they lose it's obvious the NBA is once again ready for the younger players to carry on the torch. The NBA has a bright future ahead and it's all thanks to its younger superstars.

The last 12 years we've been used to seeing the same three guys winning titles. Nobody knows what the next 12 years will bring, but look for James, Wade, Durant, Rose and Howard to compete for multiple titles in the years to come.

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