It’s finally here, the way we wanted it and the way we expected it at the start of this strange NBA season: The Oklahoma City Thunder will lock horns with the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, a matchup that features seven of the top 50 fantasy basketball players in the 2011-12 NBA season (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Chris Bosh).
The poll that’s been up on the home page of this site since the beginning of the season shows that 35 percent of you thought the Heat would win this season’s championship, while 14 percent thought the Thunder would. Granted, perceptions and realities have changed since then: the Thunder look more sure-footed and ready than they did earlier in the season, while LeBron is in full-on Hulk mode.
What strikes me about the matchup, among many other facets that have already been mentioned by others, is that this is a clash of the organic and the inorganic — the natural vs. the unnatural, the honest way vs. the shortcut.
In the Thunder you have a team that stands for what’s understood to be the right way of doing things. They’re a young and talented group that took what it was given, struggled early on, worked hard, stuck together, and climbed the ladder to the pinnacle, taking its fair share of lumps and vanquishing historic foes along the way.
The Thunder lost 121 games in Durant’s first two seasons with the franchise. Since then, they’ve gone 152-78, a 66 percent win-loss percentage. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, many would say: take what you’re given, no matter how seemingly dire and lacking, and keep at it until you’ve dug yourself out of the pit and into the fresh air. You start at square one and battle your way to higher ground.
The Heat represent something quite different: They’re a man-made Voltron, a formidable machine headed by three beasts brought together by calculated means. As a forged unit, they tried to punch in the cheat code to avoid the natural order of bruises before glory in hopes of beating the game on an easier mode, and many resent (or envy) them for that.
We’re living in a time of daunting hardships, where many people are forced to take what they have — or what they have left — no matter how little, and make the most of it, plugging away until they they emerge from red into black. The majority of us don’t have the luxury of breaking free from our less-than-ideal circumstances and signing on to live a more enjoyable existence. Instead, we understand that we are dealt a certain hand and must do the absolute best we can with it. To see someone do just that and triumph is heartening; to see someone prosper by trading in their hand for a better one is offensive.
This is the backdrop for this series, the undercurrent fueling the general public’s affection for the Thunder and disdain for the Heat, and it’s the layer that makes this iteration of the NBA Finals so much more intriguing than it already is.