WASHINGTON — It’s almost fitting that perhaps the most compelling NBA Playoffs in recent memory ends with a series that (on the surface, at least) comes off as boring.
The NBA has been taking its talents to South Beach for four years running, thanks to the Miami Heat becoming the third franchise to play in the Finals in four consecutive seasons.
Add 38 year-old Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs to the mix, and you’ve got casual hoops fans yawning.
The Spurs are the sports equivalent of vanilla ice cream: very plain, but simply gets the job done in a variety of ways. We assume this is just an old, fundamentally sound team but there’s also an athletic, quick element to the Spurs that make them dangerous — just ask Serge Ibaka.
But this NBA Finals rematch is so much more. With Dwayne Wade aging rapidly before our eyes, and LeBron James’ free agency looming, this could be the last time we see the Heat as currently constituted.
This could be the final hoorah for the Spurs too. Tony Parker enters this series hobbled, and he just turned 32. Manu Ginobili is 37. Duncan might last a bit longer because he’s a big man, but probably not more than a year or two.
Some of the biggest names in the game are competing on a national stage they may never grace again. Everyone wants to a see a great curtain call.
For me, this will be compelling simply for the LeBron factor. James is universally assumed to be the best player in the league but the Spurs have had his number this season, holding King James to an average of just 18.5 points per game in two matchups. If San Antonio can hold LeBron below his playoff average of 27 points per game, that’s going to go a long way toward ensuring this rematch ends differently than it did the first time around.
Let’s also not forget: Rematches tend to fare well in sports. The last time we saw one in the NBA Finals, it was Michael Jordan hitting his last shot in his last game to win Chicago’s sixth title (and second in a row at Utah’s expense). Boxing alone gave us Tyson/Holyfield and Ali/Frazier (twice).
Considering the seven-game gem we got last year, there’s no reason to believe Heat/Spurs II won’t be an instant classic as well.