All eyes are set at the championship match of the 2013 NBA season with the huge possibility of a dream match between Miami Heat’s LeBron James and Los Angeles Laker’s Kobe Bryant.
With either James or Bryant appearing in the past six NBA finals, all stakes are high for both teams as they geared up their respective teams in preparation for what could be a groundbreaking event.
Many league executives are convinced of Miami’s return to this season’s finals. In a general managers’ survey of NBA.com, 96.7 percent picked Heat to win the Eastern conference, and a whopping 70 percent of the vote had Miami as their bet for a back-to-back championship. To add to this, James was the choice for 66 percent of the respondents to have another MVP award.
Both the Lakers and Heat got beefed up for this season – the defending champions got stronger during the summer and the Lakers reinforced themselves with the addition of NBA’s best big man Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, who is one of the league’s best point guards.
For Magic Johnson, a Laker’s hall of famer and an ESPN analyst, this possible matchup between the Lakers and Heat would break all the records and bring viewership off the charts.
This matchup, however, could be a James-Durant match. Thunder still has high chances of getting into the finals in the West, and the Celtics are still strong enough even after Ray Allen left the team to join the Miami Heat.
During the season opener, the Celtics got their first shot against Miami, and the Lakers opened against Dallas, where, for once, the attention in the Lakers team isn’t only on Bryant.
If the Lakers make it to the top, this would be Bryant’s sixth championship. “We’re all determined to get there for sure. The hunger from Dwight and Nash can definitely, definitely, help our energy,” Bryant stated.
America’s second straight gold medal at the Olympics of which both James and Bryant are part of was overshadowed by the finalization of Howard’s departure from Orlando.
Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only players to win the NBA championship, the Olympic gold medal, and the regular season and Finals MVP awards in the same season. This achievement of Jordan happened in 1992, and for James, this proved to be his greatest season.
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said, “I think everyone knew if he won one that it’s going to be hard for everybody… I’m hoping there’s enough good teams, and we can be one of them, that we can knock him off.”
Aside from the season after he returned from playing baseball during his first retirement. it has been known that once Jordan reached the top, he was never knocked from it, and the same can be expected from James, who is now known as the league’s best player.
It is expected that the trip to the finals won’t be as easy for the Lakers if the Thunders could keep it together. The team’s young core is a year older, and for the three-time scoring champion James Durant, “It’s a new season. Last year is over with. We’ve got to start over from day 1 and see where we’re at.”
The small market Thunder should however decide if they can devote more dollars for James Harden, the Sixth Man of the Year, and who would be a free agent after next season. It has been noted that the Thunder gave out big contracts to Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka.
James seemed unstoppable after Miami’s Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were slowed by injuries in the playoffs. Wade and Bosh should be back to their full strength this season, and James found himself surrounded with the best collection of talent when he seems to need it the least.
After beating Durant in last season’s Finals, it is quite easy to picture James in the same scenario again. But with Laker’s lineup of Bryant, Nash, Howard, and Pau Gasol, Bryant’s championship window is once again very much open.
“In a sport like this, I think the ultimate goal and the only goal is to win. You prepare to win. It doesn’t happen all the time. But that should be your mind-set. Prepare your mind each and every night to win.” James said.
TNT’S Shaquille O’Neal kept expectations high as he stated his assumptions of a great year ahead and his hopes of having the Heat making it to the Finals.