At the start of every professional basketball season, every team has the same chance to get to and win the NBA Finals, at least theoretically: 1 in 30. Get enough wins out of the 82-game season to make the playoffs, then get another 12 playoff wins to make it to the finals.
But this year, from all of the hype surrounding this season, the so-called experts had just one team in mind. The Miami Heat, the nearly unanimous choice for a repeat as NBA champions, have had that 3.3 percent chance be bumped up to a 99.9 percent chance.
The finals matchup was supposed to be a rematch of last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Heat. They even made a Gatorade commercial with Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade each having nightmares of being outplayed by the other, then training harder so the dream wouldn’t become a reality.
With the Thunder having their star point guard injured, they weren’t able to make it past the conference semis, so the Heat’s opponent will be the San Antonio Spurs.
Yet a big question comes: “Does knowing almost for certain who will win make sports exciting?”
I don’t think so. Sure, there will be a favorite or the team with the best talent, but an inevitability is hardly compelling to watch.
What fun is it to know the outcome before watching something? There is a reason that reruns of sporting events generally don’t air, except on certain channels. We want something new, something exciting. Knowing the outcome is hardly the entertainment sports fans are looking for.
It could be looked at as going to a movie theater, paying $9 to get in, then dropping another $5 on popcorn, only to have someone come in and scream, “It turns out that the killer was actually the main character’s brother!”
One could contend that some movies are entirely predictable, yet the best ones at least have points that put the outcome in doubt.
This season may just end that way, with hard-fought playoffs that push the Heat to a point where some doubt creeps in, yet they come out on top. Some doubt already crept in during their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Indiana Pacers.
Over the past two seasons, the Heat, led by the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James, have been nearly unstoppable.
James has been playing some unworldly basketball and has won consecutive MVP awards. This year especially, he has maintained or exceeded his level of excellence. This helped the Heat to the second-longest consecutive winning streak in NBA history, 27 games, and to a winning percentage of over 80 percent.
Notwithstanding all of these statistics, no one has won the trophy yet, and the Heat are facing perhaps the perfect team to dethrone them as the reigning champs. The Spurs, under the tutelage of future Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich and four-time NBA champion Tim Duncan, are just the team to pull off the upset. They have the leadership, the experience and the talent to meet the Heat head on.
Both teams play similar games, relying on driving plays and kick outs for threes. Both have good defenses and smart offenses that can adjust on the fly.
It should be a good series, with both teams being pushed to the limit and finding ways to grind out wins, perhaps in the last few seconds of the game. It is a team of players in their prime against a team that is trying to make one final championship push.
The Spurs have all of the tools to win this series. Tim Duncan is undefeated in the NBA Finals, and he isn’t looking for that to change now.
One thing is certain, and that is that there is no certainty of who will be crowned champion. That 99.9 percent chance that the Heat were given is actually 50 percent. This series will be and has already been a good one so far.
With the series tied at 1-1, it is still anyone’s series. It is now a five-game series, where the first team to win three games will win the championship.
It will continue to be a compelling series, and may the best team win it all. The battle continues Tuesday night with a potential seven-game war.