NBA Finals: Principled and Biased

Currently everyone is making their NBA Finals picks and they are probably 2/3 for OKC and 1/3 for Miami. (I just saved you a bunch of reading!) So once you get past the picks you are seeing folks try to come up with a different slant on the same story that hundreds of people will be writing so that they can be clever or “insightful”. I thought about trying to do that as well, but I think ultimately I would have landed as a mix of various folks’ opinions and it still wouldn’t have been original. So I’ve decided I will make my pick (don’t stop reading after the pick!), hit a couple of bullet-point storylines, and then waste your time by telling you all of the contrived and clichè reasons that I want a particular outcome.

The Pick:
I am very opinionated. This is not a revelation to anyone. And one of my opinions is that if somehow you luck into having the two teams that you picked prior to the season playing each other for a championship you absolutely cannot under any circumstances change your prediction. Because if you do, then you have basically hedged your bet so that in one manner or another you can say you were right. It’s cheap. So despite any personal bias or desire, my prediction is Miami over OKC in 6 games

Random Thoughts Illustrated (Basketball, Hockey, and Baseball, Oh, My!):
This morning on Mike & Mike in the Morning they had the poll about which city is more outraged at this matchup: Cleveland, for Lebron running out on his hometown for South Beach, or Seattle, for the Sonics being bought and immediately yanked away to the midwest. My answer? (Full Disclosure: Back in the 90’s I had adopted Seattle as my “favorite city I have no ties to” for sports purposes, and I was a big Payton/Kemp/Perkins/Karl era Sonics fan). I’m going to say the Sonics because it’s just much more gut-wrenching to lose a team than it is to lose hope for your team. But, I’m not going to give them too much pity because the truth is that if they had just worked out an arena deal then the Sonics never would have left. This is the same thing that just happened in Minnesota, and while it would have been weird to see the Vikings go to L.A. it would have been the fault of the elected officials of Minnesota and not that of team ownership. Thankfully, the Hail Mary was completed and there will continue to be a much beloved football franchise in the Twin Cities. No such luck in King County, WA.

I won’t pretend to be the biggest NHL fan in the world (now that might change if we could finally land a team here in KC…), but there are so many great things about watching the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals: The eruption of a crowd when they realize that it is all wrapped up (that moment happened earlier last night than in most finals, so the roar was sustained for an amazing amount of time); The hideous playoff beards; The handshake line between the teams which leads to amazing moments like the long discussion/embrace/handshake between the younger, respectful, first-time cup winning goaltender Jonathan Quick and the older, cup-winning, legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur; The best trophies in the business, complete with white glove treatment; The chance for every member of the team to have their moment on the ice with the Cup (and even cooler, their chance in the offseason to each have a day with the Cup)… I could go on. It’s just an awesome spectacle.

It’s fun having new blood in baseball that inspires you to start having debates about first year guys like they are future Hall of Famers. My attorney and I had one of those this morning about Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. If you aren’t familiar with those kids (and I say kids because I am 13-15 years older than both of them…) I encourage you to familiarize yourself. Harper is doing things at 19 that haven’t been done before. Or at least since the 1920’s, and most of you aren’t familiar with Mel Ott’s first year in the majors. Oh, and Trout? At the grizzled old age of 20 he’s simply doing even better than Harper and has been the best player on a team that has Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, & C.J. Wilson on it.

What I’m Cheering For and Why You Should Too:
Many media types have started panning the notion that this should be billed as a ‘Good vs. Evil’ matchup or the ‘Right Way vs. Wrong Way’ to build a team matchup. I will be completely biased in my stance that I wholeheartedly think that this is the PERFECT way to bill this matchup.

(Note: When I am panning the quality of people in this article, please note that I understand that their kind of bad is very preferable to the kind of bad that the JailBlazers or the Raiders/Bengals of the NFL have been known for in the recent past)
(Note 2: Not all of these reasons will play in all regions of the country. I understand that. But I’m right, so that shouldn’t matter)

College Towns Rock: Collegiate atmospheres are quite simply fantastic. The beauty of the Thunder is that not only are they the only the only Pro team in town, which brings it’s own level of fanaticism, but they are a very deeply a college town. Not only that, they are really a two-rival-college town (being sandwiched between Norman & Stillwater) which also takes fanaticism to an extreme. By all accounts, that has translated beautifully to a rabid Thunder fan-base that supports them with gusto. Miami is technically a college town too… but they have multiple Pro teams as well as The U and NONE of them sell out except for the Heat in the playoffs. Advantage THUNDER.

Global Icon?!: What do you want your team’s best player to say when asked about what they want to accomplish (in the context of a basketball interview)? Do you want them to say things about championships, pride in your city, teammates, etc. or do you want them to answer that they want to become a Global Icon like Lebron said? Global Icon means you are always worried about your “brand” instead of just doing your job. I’ll pass on that. Advantage THUNDER.

Assassin’s Creed: Let me first say, that Lebron James is probably the most athletically gifted basketball player in the world today. But athletically gifted isn’t what netted 6 rings for Michael Jordan, 5 rings for Kobe Bryant, 4 rings for Tim Duncan, or even 1 ring for Dwayne Wade. Athleticism must be paired with an overwhelming desire to annihilate your foe. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to be ruthless like an MJ or Kobe, but it does mean that like a Larry Bird or Dirk Nowitzki you have to have that desire AND ability to seek out those clutch shots and knock them down in order to rescue your team or destroy your opponent. Now I can’t say that Kevin Durant has proven his mojo in the Finals yet, but I can promise you that if you ask basketball people who they would want taking that shot out of LBJ or KD the overwhelming response will be Durant. And that’s from a career half as long as Lebron’s. Even last series when Lebron had one of the great playoff games of all time, he didn’t have to do it in the clutch (he simply dismembered the Celtics so there was no clutch…). Give me #35. Advantage THUNDER.

The Border War (KU v. MU): Ok, this is a bit of a stretch, but for KU fans, you have two BELOVED players in Cole Aldrich and Nick Collison on the Thunder (and be honest, you only say you love Chalmers because he made 1 shot). And for MU fans, you had to listen to KU fans go on and on about themselves because of Chalmers, who plays for the Heat. So both KU & MU can agree on OKC. Advantage THUNDER.

140 Characters vs. An Hour of My Life I’ll Never Get Back: Do you remember that Kevin Durant and Lebron James got their new contracts the exact same week in July ’10? Everyone remembers Lebron’s hour of self-promotion that left the people of Cleveland feeling like Art Modell just stabbed them all over again which was followed by a ‘Mission Accomplished’ style pep rally the next day with flippant comments about winning as many or more rings as Michael Jordan. Durant’s announcement a day or two before? This tweet: Exstension (sp) for 5 more years wit the #thunder….God Is Great, me and my family came a long way…I love y’all man for real, this a blessing! Serious Advantage THUNDER.

Robin to my Batman (a.k.a. Wade v. Westbrook): To quote Brian Phillips of Grantland.com, “Wade has had a fairly miserable run/hobble through the playoffs. Westbrook’s been playing the best basketball of his career.” Advantage THUNDER.

Small Market Gold: If you like David over Goliath, you want the Thunder. If you like the Royals over the Yankees you want the Thunder. If you cheered for Brad Pitt during Moneyball, you want the Thunder. So not only is it the little guy vs. the big guy, but it’s the way that the teams are built. The Heat did not draft Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, or Shane Battier. They bought them and tried to buy a championship (which is absolutely within their rights, and it could work…I just don’t have to like it). The Thunder drafted all 4 of their big 4 and then traded another draftee to fill the spot they needed at Center. They didn’t have the budget to sign the world…they just had Sam Presti who has more than enough smarts to build a team for years to come. Advantage THUNDER.

I could go on, but I think you probably have picked up on the fact that I am unabashedly biased in my support of the Thunder this series… So ladies and gentlemen… THUNDERUP!

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Categories: Basketball

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