The NBA Finals are here. You'll be unsurprised to learn that there is SO MUCH AT STAKE. Legacies, theories, pantheon placement, inner truths, blah blah blah blah blah. This is an attempt to debunk 11 of those ... things that have popped up since the Heat earned their berth this week. Only a minority of them are straw men.
1. In no way will Game 1 decide the series. The result of Game 1 won't even suggest what type of series this will be. As proof, I submit Game 1 of the 2012 Finals, which the Oklahoma City Thunder won by 11. The Heat won the next four games for the gentlemen's sweep. Of course, that Thunder win came at home; a Spurs win in Miami would be different in that it would shift the balance of home court advantage. But the Heat have shown they can win on the road against very good teams, and the Spurs dropped a game in San Antonio to the Warriors earlier this postseason. Game 1 simply gets one of the teams closer to their goal of four wins and could potentially shift home court advantage. That's it. A loss by either team does not remotely foretell doom.
2. This series will not determine whether the Spurs are a dynasty. It has been six years since San Antonio made the Finals. Rulers don't go on vacation for six years. I prefer to think of dynasties how historians typically do: periods of uninterrupted rule. In my book, a three-peat gets you a dynasty. Regardless, the Spurs are on a totally incredible run that exceeds in length even the Magic-Bird teams of the '80s. Isn't that enough?
3. In no way does this series decide whether LeBron James is a legend, a true MVP, the G.O.A.T., a fraud, an underachiever, immortal or anything else. LeBron has four undisputed, hard-earned MVP trophies and one Finals MVP. He has impeccable numbers. This is his eighth consecutive postseason, and he has never lost in the first round. This is his fourth Finals appearance in 10 seasons, and he has been the undisputed best player on his team heading into each. Also, he's only 28, so he has as many as 12 years remaining to continue to build his legacy.
Another ring would be most excellent for his legacy; if he doesn't finish with a good number of them, he will be looked at differently than the greats with multiple championships. But this series says nothing about next year, or the up to 11 that may follow. Seriously, Tim Duncan is 36 and doing this thing and people think LeBron's legacy will be made or broken at age 28?
4. If Erik Spoelstra is outcoached, it does not mean he needs to be replaced. He's going up against Gregg Popovich. Gregg Freaking Popovich. If a player lost a 1-on-1 game to LeBron, would you say that player is useless? You have to look at the competition. Pop has made a lot of coaches look bad. It's because he's incredible. Don't hold Pop's sublime excellence against Spoelstra. It's an impossible measuring stick.
5. There is absolutely no reason the NBA should want Miami to beat San Antonio for the title, so your conspiracy theories are better suited to Wikipedia talk pages for the Contra affair or Tupac.
6. Nothing Tony Parker can do in the Finals will retroactively make it unfair that he didn't finish higher in the voting for the regular season MVP award. Voters are not automatically stupid if Parker goes off. NBA writers are not fortune tellers (with one exception).
7. Flopping does not foretell the doom of the NBA, does not indicate that either team does not deserve to be in the Finals, does not rot the integrity of the game, will not actually decide any game in the series or the series in total, is not remotely new, is not a rampant scourge, does not make the NBA unwatchable, is not solely practiced by the Spurs and Heat, and is really not nearly as much of a big deal as certain people make it. Honestly now. You know when your league is doing pretty well? When it's biggest crisis is that its players occasionally exaggerate contact in primarily non-critical moments of the game.
8. The referees do matter, but they really don't matter nearly as much as you think. The biggest impact refs make is in knocking players out of the game with technicals, flagrants, ejections and, late in games, foul calls. So unless Joey Crawford gets into a lather (a distinct possibility), the refs really aren't going to have a huge role in deciding the championship.
9. Tim Duncan is a legend and the greatest power forward ever, period. Another championship 14 years after his first would be an amazing exclamation mark on his career. But losing in these Finals does nothing to diminish his legacy. Failing to get one from his thumb in no way mars his career or tarnishes his shine. He's not even supposed to be here today.
10. The Heat are not "the bad guys" here. There are no "bad guys" because THIS IS BASKETBALL, not war or even politics. But if you desperately need a villain to enjoy something competitive, Tony Parker makes a pretty compelling case.
11. Miami is not less deserving of a championship than any other city. Fandom is not a competition. So you get to your seats before Miami Fan did, and you scream louder even for a worse team, and you stay to the bitter end during even blowouts? Cool, man. You deserve a trophy. Here's your trophy.
Display it proudly.
It's the NBA Finals! It's the Heat and Spurs! Sit back and enjoy and don't pay attention to what everyone says it means.
[re-reads the above 900 words]