It’s one of the greatest words in sports, Game 7. And tonight everything in the NBA season comes to a head in Miami. I just wanted to post a few quick thoughts on tonight’s game. To give some insight into the magnitude and ramifications of tonight’s season finale. It really doesn’t get better than this in sports. You have two teams so evenly matched, if this series didn’t go seven it’d be a disappointment. Legacies, good and bad will be shaped and cemented tonight. The old guard of the Spurs vs the super team of LeBron’s Heat. If you don’t think this is the biggest NBA game of this generation, well, just keep reading.
The big elephant in the room regarding Popovich and his Spurs is the finality of their Big Three; Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. Manu has hinted that this is probably his final season. If Duncan decided to hang them up, would we be really all that surprised. Popovich is the longest tenured coach in North American sports. He has guided the Spurs from their very beginning, before any of the Big 3. He has reigned in 4 championship and is on the cusp of a 5th, unprecedented in the modern era. Pop is already the greatest coach in the NBA, but a 5th championship puts him in rare air, the Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach air. This is probably Pop’s last dance with Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
As for the Big 3 themselves, winning another ring will only cement their place as possibly the greatest Big 3 ever. Their 4 rings would eclipse Boston’s Big 3 (Bird, McHale and Parish won 3) and the Lakers Big 3 (Kareem, Magic and Worthy won 3 as well). And it seems like poetic justice that the Spurs victory would come against the modern day Big 3 of the Heat. But for what this means for Parker and Ginobili, it means ten-fold for Tim Duncan.
Duncan submitted a pantheon worthy performance in Game 6, only to come up just short. The fact that Duncan (the greatest power forward ever) can still be the go-to-guy when the Spurs are backed into a corner or when they need a score, at his age nonetheless, is remarkable. Seeing Duncan take over Game 6 at will is a testament to his greatness. Should Duncan complete the journey and dethrone LeBron and his Heat, well, you could make the argument he belongs in the discussion of the TOP 5 players of ALL TIME. Just think about that statement. Jordan, Russell, Kareem, Magic and Bird. I have no problem kicking Bird out to make room for Duncan. And sorry Kobe fans, but Duncan is better and that is coming from a Lakers fan. Kobe was the best imitation of Jordan we’ve seen since but Duncan is the greatest player of his generation win or lose tonight. But should he win, just keep in mind that you watched the greatest power forward who ever lived, come through on basketball’s grandest stage.
The stakes are pretty clear for the Heat, it is and always has been, their championship to lose. They’re the defending champs. They’re the team that ripped off the 2nd longest winning streak in NBA history (27 games). They have Wade and Bosh. Oh, and they also have the best player in the game at the height of his powers coming off his 4th MVP award. They said when they got together that they would win……..
They are in the midst their 3rd straight Finals trip, which when you look at teams who’ve done that historically, the list is really short. After losing to the Mavericks in 2011, we only forgave the Heat and LeBron because they handled business the very next year with OKC. But if they were to lose this series (and in reality there is no shame in falling to Pop and the Big 3), they would’ve have lost 2 of their 3 Finals trips. Not exactly a mark of excellence or what LeBron promised. Which brings me to my key point of the article.
As much as basketball is a team game and as much as LeBron has been an embodiment of that. The world is watching him and only him. His legacy like it or not is tied to this game. When all is said and done in LBJ’s career, this game makes the first paragraph, win or lose. I was a LeBron hater early on but then Game 6 in Boston happened, LeBron ascended to another level of basketball greatness. I began to appreciate what he was doing, not rooting for him to fail. And this whole year has been a coronation of his skills, his talent and his legacy. The 27 game win streak is a part of that. The incredible play on both ends of the floor this postseason is apart of that. But if he loses this game, and as I said before, there is no shame in that, it will mark a cornerstone in James’ career. A cornerstone that he may not recover from.
What he has had to endure in his NBA life, no one in the sporting world has come close to. Especially in the last 3 years, and yes, he brought that onto himself with The Decision. But he has been scrutinized, poked and prodded more than any athlete in history. This Game 7 will shape and define his career. Win and he makes good on the multiple championships he promised. Lose, and well, he might be coined this generations Wilt Chamberlain while Duncan is the Bill Russell. He’s the game’s greatest player, he’s been blessed with the greatest skill-set of any basketball player and he has a chance to finally, once and for all silence the haters. This is his moment, his Game 7, his stage.
So when you watch tonight’s game, appreciate it. It will be awhile till an NBA Finals is decided by a Game 7. It will be awhile till this amount of Hall of Fame talent is duking it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Where the careers of two of the greatest to ever play are decided by 48 minutes of basketball. As much as it is Spurs vs Heat. It really is Duncan vs LeBron. I really don’t care who wins, I just want the magic that make sports so great to happen tonight. The magic that made Game 6 one of the greatest Finals games ever. Appreciate tonight, because it might be a generation before we see a single NBA game have stakes this high for everyone involved.
But what else would you expect from a Game 7.