Call it an underwhelming apex to a completely underwhelming postseason. Tonight, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers begin their quest to pull off what could possibly go down as the greatest upset in NBA Finals history as they take on the heavily favored San Antonio Spurs.
Make no mistake about it; I have no love for either franchise, especially the “Cadavers” from the “Mistake by the Lake,” but I am no dummy. I know that the only way this series will captivate my interest (and the interest of the general public, for that matter) is if Cleveland shocks the world or comes darn near close to it. I have been hearing Spurs fans complaining this week, crying out, “Nobody is talking about us. We’re being disrespected,” and all of that nonsensical crap. The truth is, we respect the Spurs, we just don’t care to watch or talk about them. While many describe the soon-to-be World Champs Spurs’ style of play as boring, I completely disagree. When looked at from a pure basketball standpoint, San Antonio is one of the few teams in The Association that actually plays quality basketball. This postseason made me realize that the San Antonio Spurs are almost too good. Because only Phoenix and Dallas can match San Antonio when it comes to quality of play, we are able to see San Antonio in a truly competitive series only once every postseason. The rest of the postseason we see the Spurs plow through their opponents like Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in “Rush Hour.” In fact, the analogy of the Spurs being like a bad action film seems to fit quite well. Tim Duncan plays the role of the silent, but deadly hero, with Tony P. and Manu Ginobili as the flashy sidekicks and Gregg Popovich playing the underappreciated master-motivator. They usually encounter some sort of bump in the road (the Phoenix series), but everyone knows that they will come out triumphant in the end in exceedingly predictable fashion. The problem is, very few people actually enjoy a bad action movie; especially when we have seen this movie three times before.
LeBron and the Cavaliers, however, have the potential to make this run-of-the-mill action flick an Oscar-winning classic. The Cavs can be the difference between this series playing out like “Rush Hour 2” or a classic like “The Departed,” and it is no secret that the fate of this series rest on the broad shoulders of the 22-year-old from Akron, Ohio.
“King” James is, potentially, the gunshot in Leonardo DiCaprio’s head, the final “trick” in “The Prestige.” A plot twist that we should have seen coming, but did not, only because we expected the predictable. After LeBron James’ ri-donk-ulous performance in Game 5 in Auburn Hills, we can all see the plot twist coming; we just don’t know if it is in the script.
Sadly, despite the conspiracy theories and jokes, the NBA is not a scripted movie. Martin Scorsese is not the director, and a climatic elevator scene is a pipedream that just will not come true. LeBron James may be “The King,” and best 22-year old in league history, but the fact is he is simply not good enough to take down the Spurs.
I heard Rick Reilly compare LeBron James and the Cavaliers to Justin Timberlake and *NSYNC, with the implication that JT single-handedly carried the boy band into the CD players of millions of teenage girls around the globe. It is the perfect analogy, because at the end of the day, despite Timberlake’s undeniable talent, *NSYNC as a whole was gawd-awful. Sure, LeBron, like JT, had carried his band of dancing buffoons to a couple of memorable hits (see East Finals Game 5), but in the end they did so at the expense of LFO (Washington), 98o (New Jersey) and The Backstreet Boys (Detroit). Impressive? Not so much.
I really wish I could predict something other than a train wreck action film, but San Antonio is just too good. Period. At some point, LBJ will up the ante with a series of explosions and car crashes, but in the end, it is the same ol’ movie with the same ol’ movie. However, I, along with millions upon millions, will tune in to the Finals.
Because, time has taught us that you never know just when the plot might twist.