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Miami Vs Oklahoma City: The NBA's Next Great Rivalry?

June 12, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 189

The 2012 NBA Finals gets under way Tuesday night in Oklahoma City in what promises to be an exciting matchup featuring a host of electric athletes. Much of the talk surrounding this series has centered around LeBron James and his quest for that elusive first championship, along with his impending duel with Kevin Durant for the "title" of the NBA's best player. From a team perspective, there is also the question of whether this will be the start of a Miami Heat run of titles, or if OKC's even younger core is it going to take the reins and become the NBA's alpha dog team for the next five plus years.

With the exception of the Heat and Celtics, there are too many blood rivals left in the NBA - teams that must go through the other in the playoffs on an annual basis in order to achieve the ultimate prize, opponents that relish the opportunity to end the season of the other. In the 1980's there were a number of these rivalries, one of the more notable being Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers against Larry Bird's Boston Celtics.

Amazingly, either the Lakers or the Celtics competed in every NBA Finals played during that decade, with LA capturing five titles and the Celtics three. They squared off in three memorable Finals ('84, '85, and '87), and if not for the Houston Rockets (first with Moses and then with the Twin Towers of Sampson and the Dream), Moses and Doc's Philadelphia 76ers, and the Bad Boy Pistons, the Lakers and Celtics would've likely clashed a few other times with everything on the line.

The first 1980's head to head Finals battle between LA and Boston occurred in the summer of 1984, and looking back at these teams collective rosters in retrospect one sees some of the game's all-time greats in the prime of their careers. The Lakers arrived in the Garden that year with a team that included Magic (24 years old), Bryon Scott (23), James Worthy (23), Michael Cooper (28) all approaching their peak years, with veterans such as Bob McAdoo (33), Jamaal Wilkes (31), and the ageless Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (37) still playing great basketball.

The Celtics countered with their all world frontline of Bird (27 years old, back not yet falling apart), Kevin McHale (26), and Robert Parish (30) all in their primes, and guards and role players such as Dennis Johnson (29), Danny Ainge (25), Cedric Maxwell (28), Scott Wedman (31), and Gerald Henderson (27) all contributing at key points throughout. This clash of talent met at just the right time, with each roster having its best players capable of playing at the highest of levels for years to come. This factor of course was paramount in making their subsequent clashes in 1985 and 1987 possible.

This brings us to the Heat and Thunder. Miami brought together its "Big 3" of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to garner multiple championships and dominate the landscape of the league for the foreseeable future. They probably didn't count on the Mavs going on their improbable run last year, or LeBron fading under the bright lights when his team needed him to take over. He came back with a vengeance this season, and has the Heat four games away from capturing the first of many titles this unit is supposed to win in the years ahead.

After all, LeBron has been in the NBA for what feels like forever, but is still only 27 years old and continuing to evolve as a player. Considering the lack of skilled "bigs" currently in the game, the Boshster (28) still has many effective years left, while Wade (30) should be a top level player for a few more seasons depending on how his body holds up. Looking at the current state of the Eastern Conference, it's not a stretch to say that the Heat will be in the mix to return to the Finals for at least another three of four years.

OKC without question has the best young nucleus in the game, and when they get going this team is virtually unstoppable. Durant (23 years old) is a scoring machine, Russell Westbrook (23) plays with a mix of a young Allen Iverson's speed and a young Baron Davis's power, James Harden (22) is a smooth player who can get off any shot he wants at any time, and Serge Ibaka (22) is an improving offensive player who also happens to be a monster on defense, swatting away practically everything near the rim. You have to think these players with continue to improve and that this team will be the top dog in the Western Conference for as long as they stay together.

Will this year's matchup be the first of many Finals meetings between these two clubs in the years ahead? Like the Lakers and Celtics of the 80's, each team is set up with their best players in the prime of their careers (or in OKC's case, a few years away from their primes), and health permitting each will have a great chance to return to this exact point next season. We were all a KG knee injury away from seeing the Lakers and Celtics play against each other in three consecutive Finals a few years back, and with those two storied franchises now being cast to the background it's the Heat and Thunders time to shine.

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Source: EzineArticles
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