I consider myself an NBA fan. I'm not a die-hard, nor do I particularly like the pro game more than the college game, but I probably watch 60 or so games a year, and these 2011 NBA Playoffs have kept me more intrigued than usual.
As somebody considered a casual fan of the sport, who's also a diehard fan of the league and sport that's arguably the NBA's biggest direct competition, I feel like I'm exactly the kind of person that David Stern's league should be courting. I'm exactly the kind of person that's in a position to make that jump from casual fan to die-hard.
But as I watched Game 6 between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks wind down to a close on Sunday night, and as I watched the Mavericks celebrate the 2011 NBA championship, I only found myself left with one emotion.
I mean, for a team that was considered such an underdog to overcome the odds and beat a team like the Heat, with months of storylines and ridiculous, ESPN-fueled hype behind them, what the hell kind of celebration was that?
The end of Game 6 was just a giant, anti-climatic mess. I'm sure that didn't help. We knew the Mavs were going to win the thing for at least, what, the last three or four minutes of the fourth quarter?
As a result, the Mavs never really had that one moment where they collectively realized they had just won an NBA title. It set in slowly. It wasn't a buzzer-beater or an overtime goal or a final strikeout or a game-winning field goal. It was boring.
Dirk Nowitzki, the only star of the Finals that actually showed up to play in them, ran down the locker room tunnel. The rest of the players just kind of stood around with their hands over their heads, looking around wondering what to do. Some guys exchanged hugs. Mark Cuban looked more excited than anybody else, and he didn't even play in the game.
Was a championship just won, or did the Mavs and Heat just play Game 28 of the regular season?
After the players got done standing around, ESPN went to commercial and we came back with the team gathered on a stage. Stern stepped up to the mic and the trophy came out. I'll spare the hate on the trophy -- which somebody during the telecast inexplicably called the greatest in pro sports -- but I won't spare it on the presentation.
The NHL does a lot of things really, really wrong, but the presentation of the Stanley Cup is without a doubt one of the things it does right. The Commissioner hands it over to the Captain of the team, a guy who actually played the game. It gets passed around in vitally important order from player-to-player as they each get their moment to skate a victory lap. Even as a fan of the losing team, I was in awe of the celebration the Blackhawks had in front of my own two eyes last season. It hurt to watch, yet the spectacle kept me 100 percent fixated. There's nothing like it.
In the NBA, the trophy goes right to the owner of the team, who didn't really do much of anything to contribute on the basketball court except amass a ton of personal wealth. The team poses for a picture and that's kind of it.
There was the nice little twist on things Sunday night, when Cuban opted to have the trophy presented to the original owner of the Mavericks instead of him. You know what would've been a really nice little twist? Why not give it to Dirk, the guy who made it all happen and had his incredible career reach its climax just moments before?
Maybe it's a petty complaint after the drama that the Finals afforded us, with late comebacks abound and all of the hype, warranted or not, around the Heat and LeBron James' inability to come through in the clutch.
But it's the feeling I'm left with after these NBA Finals. I turned off the TV, went to bed, and said to myself, "Wait, really, that was it?" After all, that's the moment the entire season is played for. You've played 82 games plus two months of up-and-down emotion in the playoffs, and at the end, you're the ones on top.
There's Brian Wilson throwing the final strike, beating the Texas Rangers and getting mobbed by his entire team on the mound. There's Patrick Kane scoring an overtime goal -- with nobody in the building realizing it's in the net except for him -- and running around in circles like a delirious puppy while his teammates mob him.
Hell, there are the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers beating the Boston Celtics, gathering on the court and jumping up and down like, hey, they just won something, and it's kind of a big deal. And that was their second title in a row, not a culmination of a great dream for all the players on the team.
Dirk had never won before. Jason Terry had never won before. Jason Kidd, in the league for 17 years, had never won before. The Mavericks organization had never won before, nor did any other player on the team. And if you don't speak English and don't know the back story, you could watch that video and not have any idea that that's all changed.
As we get ready to crown the next Stanley Cup Champion in the NHL, potentially as soon as Monday night, this is the perfect time to sit back and realize how lucky we as hockey fans are at the end of each season.
No matter who wins the NHL's championship in 2011, it won't be about one player or even about the losing team. It won't be about the legacy of the Sedin twins being hurt because they're not able to catch Wayne Gretzky in Total Stanley Cups Won, nor will it be about Zdeno Chara's incredibly horrible record in Game 7's.
The owners of the team will be out of sight. It will be about the winners: the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks and the players that make up each team winning hockey's greatest prize. It will be a spectacle.
And no matter how it's won -- be it an overtime goal or a 6-2 blowout -- we can safely say for sure that it'll be a whole lot more exciting than what we saw from our NBA counterparts on Sunday night.
The Stanley Cup Finals are ongoing, as the Vancouver Canucks battle the Boston Bruins. For coverage on the Finals, stick with our Stanley Cup Finals hub, our Canucks blog, Nucks Misconduct, and our Bruins blog, Stanley Cup of Chowder.
For NBA Finals coverage, head over to our NBA hub at SBNation.com/NBA.