There have been so many disappointments in sports (especially Houston sports) that it is important to take a step back and appreciate things when something special is happening. Chances are if you are reading this you are a hard core sports fan. You enjoy the game itself as well as the highs and lows that every athlete and fan feel throughout the course of a season. If that is the case you should be absolutely enamored with the NBA Finals this year.
Not only have we had 60% of the games decided by the final shot (the first time there have been three such games sine 1948, and we still have at least one more game to go) and another game that had Miami down two points with under a minute and a half to go but there are storylines and drama that have not been equaled in recent memory.
First, on the court the games have been magnificent. The first game Miami easily handled Dallas and everyone thought that the rout was on. Little did we know that the next four games would be hotly contested but the Mavs would end up taking three out of the four in breathtaking fashion.
The headliners may not have played their absolute best at all times but they have given us plenty to delve into. James has pulled a disappearing act having scored eight points in game four and even when he had a triple-double in game five, it may have been the least noticeable triple-double in NBA Finals history. But then on the opposite side Dirk has been a consummate professional doing all of the heavy lifting for the Mavs and Wade has been stellar for the Heat, just as he was in 2006, until he was injured in the second quarter of game five. His injury along with Dirk’s injury/ sickness give us some on the court question marks as well as everything that must be going on in between the ears of all of the major players in this series and that is just one more reason to be excited about game six.
While a true sports fan needs nothing more than a great game to be really excited about it, ESPN and the mainstream media need more. Fortunately, they have it this time. They have a true villain in James and the Heat. They have been hated by sports fans, legends of the game, and of course Cleveland since “The Decision”. The sports fans hated the way it went down, the legends hated that it went down, and Cleveland probably just hates being Cleveland and decided to take it out on James (not that he didn’t deserve it, but you probably didn’t need to burn his jersey in effigy). Contrast that to the image of Dallas, a veteran team that has been through the battles and paid their dues (most notably the 2006 Championship series). The Heat are brash, arrogant and cocky; whereas the Mavericks are quiet and collected with a workman like demeanor. But it goes deeper, this isn’t simply a battle between teams that people like or dislike; it is a clash between the new school and the old school. It could change the way that the NBA is structured. If the Heat win there is no reason for any super star to decided to stick it out where he is instead of teaming up with another couple of stars. While it may seem exciting, the cost that a team must pay in loses (in order to get enough open cap space to make an offer like the Heat did) would be extreme and would change the way we watch the NBA as a country.
The next two games could be two of the most important, exciting and dramatic games in NBA history. In addition to everything else that makes this must-see-T.V. there have been only two game sevens since the Rockets won game seven in 1994 and Vegas is banking hard that there will be a game seven. The Heat are favored by a substantial five and a half points in game six.
If you are watching the game solely for the games sake then the Heat being favored is great news. Not just because it would bring the single most exciting thing in sports, a game seven, but because we might not have professional basketball for an extended period of time. While the NFL has already reached a lockout there is still hope that they can come to an agreement before the start of the season, basketball fans on the other hand need not carry such optimism. It is still early and anything is possible but things look bad, really bad for the NBA and if that is the case then all sports fans should cherish what we have left and enjoy every moment of it. I know I will.