Legacies are a tricky thing in sports. While there are stats to back up a particular point of view, perspective and opinion always come into play. Barry Bonds is easily the greatest baseball player of my generation, but his legacy viewed against the history of the game will always drop him below the likes of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
This season, in the NBA, legacies have been cultivated, called into question, and at times, leaned upon too heavily. Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers. All season they had chemistry issues and bad stretches, where it seemed as though they just weren’t listening to each other. But at every downturn, Kobe would let it slip to the media that they weren’t worried. They’ve done this before. They know the drill. They’ll be ready when it counts.
On the flip side of that coin, the Dallas Mavericks are maybe the biggest surprise of the playoffs thus far. I’ll admit, when Dirk Nowitzki signed an extension in Dallas at the start of the season, I thought it meant he would never win a title. It seemed to me as though their best shot came and went in 2007. But now, coming off a dominating sweep of the defending champs, how could you not take them seriously as a title contender?
Of course, the series that truly encapsulates the end of one era alongside the rise of another is being played out in Boston and Miami. We all know the story here. Boston created the first “Big 3”. Then Miami created theirs. Boston didn’t like these newcomers and their talk of “5, 6, 7” titles. Then came the time to do something about it.
Of course, the team with the best FG% against were the str-uggl-ING Chicago Bulls. The Bulls entered the playoffs on a wave of good vibes. They won more games than any team in the league and their star player was the obvious league MVP. And after a tough first round against the surprise of the season, Indiana Pacers, they had to feel good about the fact they wouldn’t have to face the Heat or Celtics in the next round. Instead, they just had to get through the Atlanta Hawks to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since number 23 put on the black and red.
As LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and even Jordan once discovered, taking it all upon yourself has it’s advantages in the regular season win-column, but may come back to bite you in the playoffs. Both the Pacers and Hawks have at times been able to stifle Rose’s production and this has in turn exposed the fact that behind him, there aren’t many guys who can pick up the slack. And while the Bulls might have enough to get through Atlanta, it would seem logical that if the Hawks and Pacers can do it, the Heat can do it too.
So what does all this rambling mean? It means that the new era of basketball has officially begun. The Lakers, Spurs and Celtics are finished as we know it (only 1 of those 3 coaches, let alone players, is definitely coming back). And the opening chapters of the Heat, Bulls, Thunder and Grizzlies’ legacies are just being written. (Seriously, pay attention to the Grizzlies). The rule changes of the last 4-5 years have opened up the lanes of the game for a fast-paced revolution and it has finally arrived. So if it you weren’t watching, I suggest you start.
Oh, and like it or not, you should probably get used to seeing championship banners in Miami.