Posted by EOB Staff
Legacies mean a lot in sports, no matter what players say. You want to be crowned a champion because you don't want to remembered as the guy that was great but never put on a ring. So as The Finals tip off tonight, we wondered, who has the most to gain?
Miami: I think for the Heat, LeBron's the obvious one. There's really no comparison. He's trying to avoid being "the best to never win a ring." That's a long and illustrious list, but it would absolutely devastate his career arc. Bosh is along for the ride. Bibby is just kind of there, though I think the fact that he has a chance to finally cash in on the work he put in in the early 2000's is interesting. Juwan Howard's another nice one. Ilgauskas, though seeing him hoist that trophy as a member of the Heat would cause some bitter tears for Cavs fans.
How about Wade, though? That multiple rings club is exclusive, and it puts you at another level. That's why the Celtics were so determined to win more than one. Winning two is a really big deal and puts him at another level. Everyone kind of forgets that Wade's a champ because he came in-between dynasties. But winning this title means he's really one of the greatest players of all time, and he's still got a lot of years left.
Dallas: Dirk. Duh. But then there's Kidd. Kidd's been here before. Kidd's tasted so much success and he's worked so hard. This would be such a huge payoff for him, especially with it being with the Mavericks. He wins a ring, that changes his entire career storyline. He's HOF, but this makes him a lock. It changes so much about his legacy and puts his career in a different light.
Miami: I don't think there's any doubt at all LeBron has the most to gain. A lot of what he did in the offseason would immediately be validated and all the talk and bashing would chill for the most part. LeBron James would now be "LeBron James: NBA champion." All the talk about rings and what he's accomplished would have to take on a new perspective.
I really think though quietly Chris Bosh could make a pretty important career statement. He's already rehabbed his reputation pretty well as the the third wheel during this postseason but with a matchup looming with Dirk, Bosh could remind people that at one point he was considered by most to be the best or at least one of the best power forwards in the game.
The last person with a ton to gain? Whoever the guy was that planned the summer welcome celebration in Miami after The Decision. That whole thing has been made fun of to no end, but it might not look quite as bad if Miami wins this. It'll just look more like foreshadowing. Still completely ridiculous, but at least it was backed up.
Dallas: When a roster is older like the Mavs is, a lot of people have a lot to win, or lose in this type of situation. It's very likely this could be their last shot at a trophy. The window could very well shut after this run. So every player -- Dirk, Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion even Tyson Chandler -- this is a massive chance for them.
One guy though that's been overlooked is Rick Carlisle. He's always been consistently one of the best coaches in the league. Always produced winning teams. But never has gone to the next level. He was a winner in Minnesota, but couldn't finish with a championship. He won in Detroit, but faced the same fate. Now he has an opportunity to really establish himself as one of the league's elite coaches with a title. It's one thing to win, it's another to win it all. And if Rick Carlisle can attach a championship to his name, he'll instantly become one of the league's top coaches.
Miami: Am I looking forward to no longer being able to criticize LeBron James if he wins a ring? No, I'm not. I'm dreading it. But if he pulls it off, it will serve as a validation not only of his basketball skill but also his roster-building philosophy and new-age approach to the NBA. And let's be real: he's already gained a lot in this year's playoffs. We just spent a week debating "Is LeBron as good as MJ?" without breaking down immediately in laughter or rolling our eyes. Sure, true NBA fans know it's still a ridiculous comparison but it made a big leap from "completely and totally not worth discussing" to "barely worth discussing but at least it will rile people up."
Other than James and Chris Bosh -- who will become a much less funny punchline -- let's not forget about Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. This is what they signed up for, like so many veterans desperate to get one ring. But how often does it blatant ring-chasing actually work out? Both consummate professionals and good people. We're all winners if they become winners.
Dallas: I'm shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that Mark Cuban's name wasn't the first one mentioned here. The career arc potential for Cuban is like the ownership version of James' situation. He goes from being one of the most recognizable, hated, and ridiculed figures in the game to a champion with the ultimate ammunition to fire back at his critics. He gets validation for his methods -- big spending, modernizing facilities, making splash trades and free agency signings -- and his huge capital investments. He completes the turnaround of a franchise that was once regarded as a perennial loser and then mocked as a perennial choker. He'll have done it all on his own terms. That's a ton to gain. (Now that I think about it we could all be in huge danger here. If you think he's insufferable now...)
Miami: I feel like Bosh can't win here, though. If he wins, unless he dominates, it'll be said because of James and Wade. If he loses, it'll be on him. On a "can't win" team, Bosh is the can't-win-ingest. He's just in an impossible situation. On the other hand, you realize Udonis Haslem would become a two-time NBA champion and a guy who beat Dirk twice? MONSTER CRED.
Dallas: What about DeShawn Stevenson? NO REALLY, WHAT ABOUT DESHAWN STEVENSON? Greatest player to ever have a neck tattoo, edging out KMart because of his rings? Plus, he beats LeBron to a title?
Miami: For whatever reason I'm stuck on coaches because I think Erik Spoelstra could really be looking at the beginning of a really charmed NBA coaching career. He could put a title away in his fourth season at the helm of an NBA team and at the age of just 40. And with that roster, if he can get this one, he could be the man in charge for a number of championships. Just like that, we could be talking about Spoelstra as a championship coach and maybe one of the best in the game.
Dallas: Don't forget Peja Stojakovic for Dallas. So close in Sacramento, then he bounced around and played a part in New Orleans' run a few years ago. He's sort of the forgotten great international player because of the seven-foot German on his team, but a title would certainly be sweet for Peja. One of the all-time great 3-point shooters and as we tend to forget, one of the league's best scorers for a lot of the last decade.
Miami: I agree that Bosh can't win. His entire persona seems to be constructed of being cool with that fact. His body language screams "I know that I will never be able to prove myself to you but I'm OK with that.
Dallas: Last but not least, I think we can declare stat nerds big winners either way it goes. The Mavericks have been pouring over numbers forever trying to gain an extra advantage. The Heat, and Spoelstra in particular, have cited plus/minus figures, lineup combinations and the like as being important drivers on their way to the Finals. The NBA is continually getting smarter and here are two teams -- management, coaching staff, even players -- that take the intellectual side of things very seriously. For like-minded fans and media members, that's a great development.
NBA Finals: Who has the most to gain?
Posted on: May 31, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 4:38 pm
Tags: 2011 Finals, 2011 Heat-Mavericks, 2011 Mavericks-Heat, 2011 NBA Finals, 2011 NBA Playoffs, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Chris Bosh, Corey Brewer, Dallas Mavericks, DeShawn Stevenson, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Erick Dampier, Erik Spoelstra, Finals, Ian Mahinimi, Jamal Magliore, James Jones, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jason Terry, Joel Anthony, Jose Barea, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Mark Cuban, Mark Cuban, Miami Heat, Mike Bibby, Mike Miller, NBA Finals, NBA Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, Pat Riley, Peja Stojakovic, Rick Carisle, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas