There are plenty of people who have lots on the line in this year’s NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki has a chance to finally get a championship. Dwayne Wade has a chance to get his second. LeBron has a chance to try to make people forget about his decision.
None of them have anything on me.
I got in over my head and now am only two Heat victories away from unspeakable consequences.
It all started innocently enough, and has ended up spiraling into a friendly wager between my brother and myself that could leave me wishing I had never opened my mouth.
I mean, we all do it. The conversation starts innocently enough. Some talking head on the TV screen starts spouting out audacious predictions, presumably just because it will get people like me and my older brother to listen to them.
Well, it worked. Next thing we know the two of us are in full blown brother against brother sports arguing. He says that having two of the best players on the same team is all that matters, nobody is going to stop them.
I try to remind him, okay maybe I yell back at him, that basketball is a team game. That things like role players and chemistry matter. That great teams are like good barbeque. They need time to obtain the highest levels of their potential, you just have to be patient.
He keeps going back to the fact that you can’t double team both of them at the same time, that having them both on the court wearing the same jersey will all but guarantee a championship right away.
I come back that his argument is lacking any other points. I swear he snapped back, “That’s all the argument I need, Ben!!!”
Or maybe I saw that in a movie preview, whatever.
Despite the lack of my clear understanding of how we got here, things have gotten way out of control. That original debate led to where all good manly debates lead to.
One of us eventually used the nuclear option and demanded that the other “put his money where his mouth is”.
I love it when this happens. It’s the ultimate move. There’s no topping someone who challenges you with it. You have two choices. Step up and take the bet, or walk away with your tail between your legs and never hear the end of it.
So my brother laid the gauntlet out in front of me, he would take the Heat to win it all and I got all the other teams in the NBA. As simple a bet as you could come up with. If Miami won the championship he won the bet, if they didn’t, I won.
I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t even want odds from me. First rule of challenge bets, you always take the field if your opponent doesn’t negotiate odds. The decision was simple. He even let me choose the stakes.
That’s when I made the biggest mistake.
I told him that I would take any stakes he wanted to put out there. I was that confident. This was a sucker’s bet after all. Or at least it seemed that way at the time.
You have to remember, this was months before the season was even going to start. There were so many reasons why the Heat would never make it this far.
They had almost no other players on their roster at the time. Injuries could happen. Dwayne Wade could decide he was tired of living the life of an NBA superstar and go into hiding in a third world country. It was all in play.
I didn’t give any thought to what it would cost me if the Heat went all the way. There were way too many things that could, and would, go wrong. So, after weeks of debate, when my brother proposed his conditions, I just let it roll off my shoulders. He was going to lose after all.
He didn’t want money, he didn’t even want me to do some horrible chore for him. No, a brother wants something deeper, something more meaningful. A brother wants something money can’t buy. My brother wanted shame.
He wanted me to suffer for having the unbelievable ability to disagree with him. His first idea was to make me pay the fee for him to take out an add in the local paper admitting to the world that I was stupid enough to bet against the Heat.
This original idea then spiraled way out of hand.
We spent the ensuing months going back and forth, thinking of new and harsher ways of shaming the other. Then we did what any good set of siblings would, we got our friends involved. They had great ideas as well.
Some started going a little too far. Things were suggested that I can’t even say. I tried to veto some of the more humiliating ones. Then my brother reminded me, I had said I would accept any terms he wanted. There was nothing I could say, he had me dead to rights.
So all season we kept track of how the Heat were doing. Things looked good for me when they stumbled out of the gate, then they started to pull it together and my brother was the confident one.
As the playoffs started things got even more intense. I knew the Heat would win the first round, as they did easily. It was the second round where I thought I would be vindicated.
The Heat had to beat my home town Boston Celtics. This was when my theory was going to be tested. I thought that the Heat needed time together as a team to beat a battle tested crew in a tough playoff series.
Boy was I wrong. The Heat made quick work of the Celtics in the second round and moved on to face the Chicago Bulls.
This was another chance for me to escape with a victory in the shame bet. The Bulls had the newly crowned league MVP. Surely the Heat would stumble at some point and the Bulls would save me.
Nope, that didn’t work out either. The Heat showed they had yet another gear they were saving for when it really mattered, and they dominated the number one seed in the East. This was when I started getting really worried.
And this was when my brother pounced.
He wouldn’t let any conversation go by without reminding me of what lay ahead. He even started an email chain with all our friends under the subject “Shame”.
Despite the fact that only the first few messages were about the bet, I had to spend the next few weeks seeing emails with the subject "Shame" in my inbox on a daily basis. Things were getting bad.
Now all my hopes were in the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. Always the team that didn’t win when it mattered, I couldn’t have been less confident in their chances against the dominant-looking Miami Heat.
Now I’m one Mavs win away from my goal. And I couldn’t be more nervous. I feel the same way I did as I got ready to watch my Celtics play Game 7 against the dreaded Lakers last year.
Let’s hope things turn out differently for me this time around.
But really, whether the Mavs come out victorious or not, I feel like a winner.
What started as one of many pointless sports debates that my brother and I have had over the years, has turned out to be one of the best experiences we’ve had together.
It gave us a reason to watch more games together than we ever have. It gave us a reason to joke and laugh, most of the time at each other’s expense.
It gave us a reason to enjoy sports. And that’s worth any amount of shame.
But still, no one will be rooting harder for the Dallas Mavericks tonight than me.