by Justin Cherot
No matter if it’s sports, the cubicle environment or just a relationship in general, we’ve consistently been taught over the years that teamwork wins out over the individual in the long run without exception. “There’s no “I” in team” is a mantra that gets tossed around quite a bit.
Which is what makes this NBA Finals worth watching, even if you’re not a Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs’ fan. A few weeks ago, when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were actually still breathing (Wade’s Game 7 notwithstanding, although it says something when we’re applauding the former Finals’ MVP for scoring 21 points), this series would have still been quite watchable, but now that they’re the equivalent of basketball corpses, this becomes the ultimate Individual vs. Team litmus test.
On one side, you have a nice mix of veterans (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, undefeated together in three Finals’ appearances) who have been there before trying to solidify their legacy with the help of young, athletic role players.
On the other side, you have LeBron James and a bunch of guys who seem to be limping towards the finish line.
When he made The Decision three years ago (has it been three years already???), James couldn’t have seen this coming. He left Cleveland because he was tired of carrying the likes of Mo Williams and Zyndrunas Ilgauskas up and down the court. Now? Wade and Bosh have essentially become rich-men versions of them, although Williams could stretch the floor better and Ilgauskas didn’t have people constantly posting homosexual memes about him on the Internet. Anyway, somehow James took the Miami Heat and beat an Indiana Pacers’ team that probably outplayed them for 55-60% of the series.
Actually, I shouldn’t even say “somehow.” After all, it is LeBron James, the best player in the world right now, probably one of the best 10-15 players EVER if we’re not being biased (there’s still more than a little bit of residual hate out there). He can drop 30-8-8 on the ho-hum without even breaking a sweat.
Without a doubt, however, this series will be his toughest test. The Spurs remind me of a better, more-balanced version of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks–my Mavericks–that handed the Miami Heat as we know them their only series loss. Think about it: they have shooters (Matt Bonner, Danny Green, and Gary Neal), strong perimeter defenders (Green and Kawhi Leonard), a Hall of Fame four (Duncan), and veterans that will NOT get rattled when James throws down a Seven Nation Army-inducing dunk.
The big difference? Parker is a HUGE upgrade from J.J. Barea, who at times destroyed the Heat with his penetration (no homo). There isn’t a more efficient scoring point guard in the game. No direspect to Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole–both strong defenders–but they have absolutely no chance to stop Parker. None.
(Quick tangeant: I don’t see “no homo” or “pause” as any kind of slur, and I don’t think Roy Hibbert meant it in a derogatory way. I’ve seen Kevin Durant use it on his Twitter page before in a non-demeaning way and nobody even batted their eye-lashes. That said, I can see why it can be seen as offensive. Going forward, I will discontinue the use of it in my everyday conversation.)
But here’s my point: there’s overwhelming evidence that says not only should San Antonio win this series, but they should win it EASILY, five games even. All rational thought points to the Spurs hoisting another banner, which would be Duncan’s fifth.
However, No.6 in the Heat jersey–and the officials, can’t forget about the officials–throws all rational thought out the window.
My official prediction?
And I can’t believe I’m saying this…
Heat in seven.