Both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma Thunder are at the crossroads of their respective franchises’ histories. The Heat can win their second NBA championship in the last five years while the Thunder can catapult themselves into that rarified air of company of champions in winning their first since moving to the Midwest from Seattle. This series will also have an impact on how we view the legacy of one LeBron James.
It may sound silly to make this series a referendum on the legacies of these two franchises. The core of the Thunder is under 25 years old so there is plenty of basketball left in this group. Miami’s big three are 30 and under so they are not going any where either. So why are so many basketball pundits putting so much into this series?
As time goes by, this NBA Final will be looked upon as a Rights of Passage for a number of players. For one, LeBron James, the 2012 NBA Finals can be seen as the turning point of his career. He has already accomplished everything a player can do with the exception of winning a title. He has won three regular season MVP awards. He has led two different franchises to the NBA Finals only to go home empty handed in his previous two attempts. Now he stands on the verge of capturing his first title if he can lead the Heat to two more victories. He has done everything in his power to carry the team on his back through the first three games of this series leading the Heat to a 2-1 lead.
James has averaged over 30 points and 10 rebounds per game. The only other non center to put up those numbers in the NBA Finals was John Havlicek back in the 1960s. He has come up big in the closing moments of both Heat victories. And, he has taken on the responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s best scorer for most of the game. James has answered his critics thus far. LeBron’s fans just hope he can sustain this remarkable level of play. Should the Heat win this crown and James continues to play at this level, James’ resume will be complete. Every other title from here on out will be gravy in most people’s eyes. Yes, there will be some detractors who will claim that he needs to win multiple titles. In order to do that, he has to win the first one.
I must give Chris Bosh his props as well. He came up big in the Heat victories. His scoring is down but he dominated the paint in Games 2 and 3 and that was the difference in those games.
As far as the Thunder go, they are already ahead of the bell curve. Like I said, their main players are all under 25. The mere fact that they are even in a position to win a title is nothing short of miraculous. We thought their inexperience would be the Achilles Heel, but they made it to the Finals behind the brilliant play of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There were times during this journey where their inexperience reared its ugly head but they were able to overcome those instances. But in Games 2 and 3 their immaturity or lack of poise came to the forefront.