The NBA has been blessed with a number of intriguing championship finals through the years.
Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers featured the likes of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls in their first final took on Magic and the Lakers back in 1991. Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks in 1994 and a return trip for Olajuwon and company against Shaq and the Magic the following year show there are no shortages of marquee player matchups in finals.
The NBA’s prayers were answered last year as another incarnation of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers rivalry played out in the finals, with the contemporary edition seeing Bird and Magic replaced by Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant.
That final series drew great ratings, and in fact, according to numbers from yourentertainmentnow.com, the sixth and deciding game of last year’s NBA final drew 16.88 million viewers as opposed to 15.71 million who tuned in the last time there was a Game 6 (in 2006 between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks).
Fast forwarding to the present, the 2009 playoffs are about a week old and while the combatants for this year’s final won’t be known until June, and the NBA’s brass would never admin it, you can be sure they’re is hoping for a final featuring the teams with the two best regular season records—the Cleveland Cavaliers (66–16) and the L.A. Lakers (65–17).
“Kobe vs. LeBron. LeBron vs. Kobe. It’s a dream NBA Finals matchup that could eclipse the nostalgic Lakers–Celtics series of a year ago,” says CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger wishfully.
And Berger is right—a Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers final would be a final that would certainly keep sportswriters busy.
As accomplished as both are, a championship would cement either player’s status as one of the era’s best.
Bryant has been compared by some to Michael Jordan and there are comparables.
In his 12 years in the NBA, Kobe was named MVP in 2008, led the league in scoring twice (2006 and 2007), has been named an NBA All-Star 11 times, has been named to the All-NBA’s first team six times and the same number of times to the All-Defensive first team, and has three NBA championship rings to boot. However, all three titles came with Shaquille O’Neal as a teammate.
The Kobe and Shaq Lakers did lose a title to the Detroit Pistons but Bryant has not been able to win a championship since O’Neal left in the following offseason (2004), leading to the notion that Shaq was the reason the Lakers won and Kobe would definitely shut the naysayers up with a title this year.
LeBron James doesn’t quite have the resume that Kobe has but it is still impressive nonetheless.
Since his 2003–04 debut, five-team NBA All-Star James has a rookie of the year award, two All-Star game MVP awards, and a scoring champion award from last season on his mantle as well as being named twice to the All-NBA first team.
King James and the Cavs made the NBA finals in 2007 but were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Opportunities to win championships can come once in a lifetime, as they say, and that time might be now for the Cleveland Cavaliers as there is a distinct possibility that James could leave after the 2010 season, making it all the more important for the team to at least make it to the finals this time around
The NBA got its wish with a Lakers–Celtics final last year but can it happen in two consecutive years?
Lighting can strike twice.