When the abbreviated, NBA lockout-compressed 2011-2012 season finally began on Christmas Day, many predicted that the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder would meet in the Finals. After one of the most compelling and intriguing conference finals wrapped on Saturday, the Basketball Gods have delivered the matchup fans worldwide have eagerly anticipated.
Miami is back in the Finals for the second consecutive year and the Heat’s Big Three (All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) will be looking to avenge last season’s upset to the Dallas Mavericks. The OKC franchise has not made it this far since 1996, when the club was still the Seattle SuperSonics. The matchup between the Thunder and the Heat will be hyped as a series defined by the teams’ two superstars.
The best-of-seven series will shine bright on arguably the NBA’s top two players. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant has developed into one of the league’s best players– and most beloved. While LeBron James, who remains one of the game’s premiere-yet-polarizing figures, has been cast as a villain since announcing his decision to take his talents to South Beach. The headlines for the two All-Stars’ showdown have already been written. ESPN analyst J.A. Adande took to Twitter to weigh in on the highly anticipated Finals matchup and wrote: @jaadande: Before you automatically cast LeBron as the villain, would you rather have a player leave town or an entire franchise bolt? An interesting perspective, but before we debate said question, let’s examine how the two superstars square up.
Several weeks before this truncated season started, James and Durant were competing against each other in a four-day series of intense workouts, coined it “Hell Week.” Neither was playing at the level they are now when LeBron first invited KD to his hometown of Akron, Ohio to train. Both suffered losses to the Mavericks during last year’s playoffs and they equally accepted the blame for their team’s defeat. But their shortcomings last season was inspiring, and the two juggernauts pushed each other to the limit in those sessions– resulting in the best statistically performances of their respective careers this season.