I had homeroom with Pitbull, back in seventh grade. He went by his middle name “Chris” in school, which annoyed me during roll call, since that was my name and the teacher always had to clarify which one she was referring to. We played basketball in the mornings before school; I admit, he was better than I was.
Things kind of went differently after that.
Honestly, I did enjoy his earlier music. It was definitely “Hip Hop” meets “Miami” and it was great. Then he morphed into a “quasi-Pop” performer and it just felt generic; every song seemed the same. ESPN used “Feel This Moment” as last year’s playoff anthem, which is better than this year’s promo that has him looking like he’s a movie usher.
But now that we have arrived at the NBA Finals, that song couldn’t be any more perfect.
“Aso. The point emerges.” – Beatrix Kiddo, on that introduction.
Thursday begins the rematch of last year’s Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. Seven games is what it took for the Heat to win the title. It was like an epic heavyweight fight between two great fighters. After 6 games, neither team had won on back-to-back occasions. It was punch/counter-punch, as neither team looked like it had an advantage. Even the 3 of the 4 games decided by double-digits (Games 2, 4, and 5) were close in the third quarter, until the victor went on a run to close the game out.
That series was a roller-coaster of moments. The Spurs’ Tony Parker with his crazy bank-shot to seal Game 1; LeBron James blocking Tiago Splitter on a dunk attempt, en route to the Heat’s blowout win in Game 2; Danny Green’s shooting; Dwyane Wade’s revival in Game 4, going for 32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 steals, on 14/25 shooting; San Antonio’s takes a 3-2 lead after they blow out Miami in Game 5.
Then came Game 6.
From Tim Duncan’s vintage performance – 30 points and 17 rebounds – to LeBron’s triple-double (32 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds) that bookended the madness in between. The Heat rallying from a double-digit deficit, with Mike Miller dropping bombs without a shoe along the way. Parker stole the game right back with his big shots in the final two minutes of regulation. Then came those missed free throws by Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard that kept Miami alive.
There was that final sequence of the fourth quarter that seemed to last forever. But you’ll always remember those moments. LeBron with the desperation heave from the left elbow; Chris Bosh with the greatest rebound of his life.
The Heat survived overtime, with two huge blocks by Bosh – one of which was on a Green 3-point try that would have tied the game. Exhale. How does Game 7 follow that? By being an absolute dog-fight. For much of the game, the lead for either side never got more than 7. LeBron dropped 37, Shane Battier hit 6 3-pointers, but the Heat only led by 2 inside of a minute remaining. Then Duncan missed a shot over Battier – a shot he probably made hundreds of times without hesitation – followed by the moment of the usually stoic Duncan slapping the court in frustration.
Now that we have arrived at this moment, what can we expect in the rematch? On paper, both these teams play great basketball; they might as well show highlights at basketball camps. They both use the whole court, as spacing and passing the ball around to find the best shot is the way they play. These teams were 2 of the Top-5 in assists ratio per 100 possessions (Spurs 19.1 ranked first; Heat 18.2 ranked tied for fifth). The Heat and Spurs were ranked one and two in FG% (Miami 50%; San Antonio 49%) during the regular season. Both teams love the long ball, as advance metrics has them ranked one and two in Effective Field Goal percentage (meaning that 3-pointers mean 1.5 times more than a 2-point shot) with the Heat at 55% and Spurs at 54%. True shooting percentage (taking into account every kind of shot) ranks them at, you guess it, one and two (Miami 59%; San Antonio 57%) Needless to say, they’re both pretty good.
But now the moment seems a bit larger than last year. For the Spurs, the model franchise of the last 15 years – winning 50 games in every year, except for the lockout-shortened 1999 season – are appearing in their sixth Finals since 1999. Can they win their fifth championship and lay claim to being the premier team of the post-Jordan Era? Or how much more do they have left? Duncan just finished his 17 season in the league, while Ginobili looked slow in last year’s Finals (although he has looked much better in this year’s playoffs). With teams like the Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets showing signs of improvement, the Spurs might not be able to hold them off for long. But San Antonio never seems ready to turn out the lights.
What about for the Heat? Miami can win its third title in as many years, and fourth in the last 9 years, thus carving out a dynasty of their own. But what if they lose? The crushing hammer of scorn will come their way, as some would perceive them as not living up to the hype that they bestowed on themselves in the summer of 2010. Plus the added backdrop of LeBron possibly opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent adds an extra layer for Miami. Would he leave everything the Heat have worked on behind for alleged greener pastures?
Only time will answer those questions. But we can’t worry about the future beyond this series. For the next 2 weeks, we might be on another epic journey that is ready to take our breaths away. The 2014 NBA Finals are upon us, and it’s the sequel to one of the best Finals in the last 25 years.
Feel this moment.