For LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and for Dirk Nowitzki as well, it’s time to write the concluding words in one more chapter of each of their legacies.
With a much scrutinized off-season long gone and an uphill battle of a regular season now behind them, the Miami Heat find themselves on the brink in the NBA Finals. And this isn’t just any ordinary NBA Finals, because there is way more on the line than an NBA championship.
The heart, character, and placement among the all-time greats is being discussed about the Big 3 of this series – LeBron, D-Wade, and Dirk (sorry Bosh) – more than I’ve ever seen or heard before. This is especially true for Dirk, who seems to have skipped about five to ten players on the NBA’s all-time list in a matter of a months, simply due to how he has handled himself under the spotlight.
As for Miami’s dynamic duo, they both have performed amazingly over the course of the entire year in order for their team to be two victories away from crowning themselves champions and bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy back down to South Beach. The issue is that the team standing in their way of their first championship together is only one victory away from the finish line.
Most will remind me that LeBron isn’t performing at the same level as Dwyane, but in five years when this series is long gone, no one will care. If Miami loses, the memories of the 2011 NBA Finals will be that the Miami Heat as a whole failed to win an NBA championship, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki and his Mavs. Put any other team in Miami’s current position, and the media doesn’t attack them nearly a half as much as they’ve attacked the talents down in South Beach.
It is clear that the Miami Heat are one of the most hated franchises in this entire planet, and that is fine. They usually handle themselves well under pressure, but the reason most hate on them isn’t just because of them fusing their talents onto one roster, but in the manner of which they did it.
LeBron James’ “Decision”, which captured ESPN’s largest audience ever for a non-sporting event, was one of the most disgusting things for a sports fan to witness. Many asked how someone could do that to a team they’ve been with for seven seasons. Never mind the fact that the guy grew up in the state of Ohio. Then the Miami Heat decided to throw a little concert, where we witnessed Miami’s triple threat in uniform for the first time, on stage being showered in confetti, all while being affectionately eye-balled by Pat Riley from across the way.
Not five? Not six? Not seven? That all seems foolish right about now, and you can bet the Miami Heat acknowledge it.
Not enough can be said about Dirk. The media is mentioning his name in the same breath of Larry Bird, Rick Barry, and others; and deservedly so. There was even a quote by Chris Broussard that had Dirk Nowitzki in the same category of the all-time best power forwards. Can we really argue with that at this point?
Dirk is doing it when the stage is at its largest, and to think a sinus infection or a left finger sprain is going to stop him is crazy. Need a statistical point of view? In these Finals, Nowitzki is averaging 10.4 points in the fourth quarter; the second-most ever to Shaq’s 11.5 in 2000.
The man never needed a one-hour TV special, a party thrown for him in American Airlines Center, nor did he need to team up with multiple superstars in order to hold a 1-game lead over these Miami Heat.
At the end of the day, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Dirk Nowitzki are all in the hunt for the same thing; an NBA championship. All three have paved glorious paths for themselves up to this point, paths that include three MVP awards, over twenty All-Star appearances, over fifteen All-NBA 1st teams, and much, much more.
But in a matter of three days there will be rings on fingers, champagne bottles popping, and fans roaring at their team winning it all whether it is in an arena or simply on a television.
So in these final games it is time for someone to put their foot down, win an NBA championship, and rightfully be thrown into the same breath as the greats.
Or, regretfully, forever hold their peace.
Dirk & LeBron photo: AFP Photo/ Robyn Beck
Wade & Dirk photo: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky