This is a new experiment where I try to imagine a world in which each of the remaining NBA playoff teams goes on to win the NBA title this year. Apologies to all Sixers and Pacers fans, you have no chance and are therefore excluded from my four fantasy worlds. Without further or do, take a trip into my beautiful dark twisted fantasy.
[time traveling one month ahead]
San Antonio Spurs
And thus begins a summer where one of the biggest decisions in NBA history will be made. Will Tim Duncan choose to come back and play for the Spurs after winning his fifth NBA title on an expiring contract? The Spurs have the potential to go on another dynasty run. The championship squad loses only Danny Green and Boris Diaw to free agency, both of whom would likely re-sign at discounted prices. The rest of the team is signed for a title defense and the scary part is they could add even more pieces if Duncan took any kind of a reduction from the $21 million he earned this past season. Is it worth it though? Duncan would have the rare opportunity to walk off while on top of his sport all while winning his fourth Finals MVP. This puts him easily in the conversation for the best seven players ever to play the game. It’s no secret his body is breaking down and he struggles to recover from the long NBA schedule. The question will ultimately come down to how badly Tim Duncan wants to continue playing basketball and if he wants to edge into the conversation for top three players ever. No seriously, he could likely get to six, maybe seven titles before his body completely goes. [checks notes] Mark it down people, Tim Duncan just signed on for another three years and disrupted the championship aspirations of every young buck in the NBA. LeBron James cries himself to sleep somewhere.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant finally fulfilled his destiny and became everything America wanted LeBron James to be. The media and the bandwagon NBA fans can’t create enough cliches to describe how “clutch” Kevin Durant is and how he “gets it.” At times it’s hard to argue with the logic though as Durant hit a game-winner in game two and iced the game from the free throw line in games four and six. The final freebies in game six eventually sealed the deal on the Thunder’s first title and broke the hearts of Sonics fans everywhere. The Thunder are poised to become the next alpha dogs of the NBA after unseating the Mavericks, Lakers, Spurs, and Celtics in consecutive series, all of whom represented the last stand of the old guard in the NBA. There seems to be no reason the Thunder can’t vie for the next two NBA titles and contend for the first three-peat since the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. Their success directly led to Ray Allen’s decision to leave Boston in free agency as well as force Kevin Garnett’s retirement. Beyond this it gets questionable for the Thunder as a franchise though. Can they afford to keep both Ibaka and Harden? Harden surely could convince a team to pay him max money. Will they convince him to go the Manu Ginobli route instead of the Maurice Lucas on guys who should play second fiddle on a contender but could earn alpha dog money on a pretender? Will the infamous “Disease Of More” grab hold of this team and eventually cause Russell Westbrook to demand a trade? Lots of interesting questions surrounding these young Thunder and head coach Scott Brooks. For now, we pause to celebrate their remarkable accomplishment. No seriously, Kevin Durant is only 23 years old and already has a Finals MVP!
They did it again. They fooled us all into believing this was really their last shot and now they have us all wondering if Kobe wasn’t the only aging NBA star to go receive secret knee treatments in Germany. Can you believe the nerve of this team? We now have to consider them as an actual force that changed the history of the NBA rather than a squad that put together one random championship. Selfish! As the famous Bob Ryan quipped, “they were in a year five of a three-year plan,” and now they go off and win the freaking NBA title, defeating no less than LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the process. There’s just something about this damn team where everybody knows when it’s their turn to carry the load and responds accordingly. Who can forget the Ray Allen explosion to steal game one for 33 points, on the road no less? After dropping game two, Kevin Garnett gave a vintage KG 25-15 performance to help the Celtics win game three. Rajon Rondo did the Rondo thing to win game four with a staggering 20-15-13 line that made us all question who the best point guard in the NBA really is. Who else could it be if the young Celtic has two rings and Rose/Paul/Williams/Westbrook have zero combined? And then, of course, Paul Pierce shut it down in game six to give the Celtics the most improbable of NBA Championships. In related news, Bill Simmons broke the record for longest sustained erection and we all have to spend the summer reading his tribute columns to his latest favorite Celtics squad ever. No seriously, consider all that happened to make this possible: Derrick Rose got hurt, Dwight Howard got hurt, Chris Bosh got hurt, Dwyane Wade played on one knee, Manu Ginobli went down with an ankle injury, and Kendrick Perkins fell victim AGAIN with a knee injury in the finals. How badly did the basketball gods want this to happen? And why can’t things go like this for the Nuggets for once? With a salary reduction in order for KG after an expiring contract, are they now an outside contender to land Dwight Howard? I hate everything.
Oh my. Did we just witness the beginning of something special? Did LeBron James really just average a triple double in the NBA finals against a Duncan/Popovich Spurs squad? Are we sure that’s legal? It may have been the single most dominant NBA Finals by a single player ever, with LeBron finally proving to all his critics that he really did only need one more marquee player to win that elusive title. As Chris Bosh sat on the sidelines, LeBron and Dwyane Wade embarked on the greatest conquest by a talented duo since Jordan and Pippen simply refused to lose NBA titles to the far more talented Utah Jazz teams. And I have to admit, I find it quite poetic. For some reason it just feels right that they did it without Bosh to finally break through for the first title in the era of the super teams. There are long term ramifications for this championship. The first consequence is that every franchise in the NBA is now going to try to replicate the formula and it will likely lead to even more restrictions on player movement when the owners opt out of the CBA early, and bet the family mortgage that this happens. Another long-term implication is that the other players in the NBA are scared. Really scared. Everything these players, coaches, GMs, and owners have been taught and witnessed their whole lives led them to believe that you needed a true team in order to win a title. If two gentlemen can pair up, independent of the wishes of GMs and owners, and win the NBA title by themselves, what chance do the others have? It would be like Barack Obama getting elected back in the 1960s. Heads are spinning everywhere and no one is sure how to react. If there is anything to be thankful for it’s this. We no longer have to listen to all the LeBron banter about his unclutchness or how he has no rings. The only debate now is how many will he win in a row. Damn. How are they going to stop him if he continues to play like that????