There are two things you can count on every June: The NBA Finals, and the same old boring stories about the NBA Finals. Here are the top seven crappy story lines you're probably already sick of.
1. The Veteran's "Last Shot" At A Title
It's a well known fact that NBA players spend their time away from basketball sleeping on large piles of money, lounging in swimming pools filled with hookers, and dining on the souls of the unborn. In other words, they're living The Life. But we're still supposed to feel sorry for them if they haven't won an NBA championship. To that end, the Miami Herald is running a 4-part series about the Heat veterans (Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, and Jason Williams) who are desparately striving to win it all after a years of suffering the indignity of making hundereds of millions to play a game. I will now drown in a river of my own tears.(I'm going to pull a Bill Simmons here and write an entire paragraph within parentheses. Has any team ever had a group of veterans who were less deserving of a title than these guys? I mean, it was hard enough to watch Glenn Robinson win a trophy with the Spurs for basically filling an open roster spot. But a championship would only justify a lifetime of trash talking by Payton, two careers' worth of bad shots and wild passes by Walker and Williams, and a decade of screaming and flexing by Mourning. I'm telling you, if Miami wins it all, Mourning may become the first person to ever flex so hard his goddamn head explodes. You've been warned.)"I wants the Ring, precious...yeeessss precious..."2. The "Coach Story"
We have two different variations of the "Coach Story" in this year's Finals. On the one hand, we have the legendary coach (Pat Riley) who took over a veteran team and is looking for redemption (after his last dreadful seasons coaching the Heat) and a return to his former glory (four titles with the Lakers in the 80s). On the other hand, we have a rookie coach (Avery Johnson) who finally got a perennially successful team (Dallas) over the hump. It's experience versus exuberance! It's age versus youth! It's composure versus passion. It's...making me want to throw up.I'm actually happy for Avery. He's a great guy and deserves the kudos, even though it's hard to take someone seriously when they're three feet tall and sound like a chipmunk with a speech impediment. But Riley's a different story. Here's a guy who got sick of coaching a bad team, so he quit during 2003-04 preseason, giving the odious job to Stan Van Gundy...who actually ended up doing a pretty good job. But then the team got Shaq, and you just knew it was only a matter of time until Van Gundy got the cement shoe treatment. It's a shame, too, since he was two injuries (to Shaq and Wade) away from leading the Heat to the Finals last year. Anyway, Riley's a douche. I'm just sayin'.3. The "How are they going to stop that guy?" Debate
Despite a few obvious exceptions (namely the 2004 and 2005 Detroit Pistons), you can't get to the NBA Finals without having at least one nearly unstoppable scorer. This of course leads to the eternal debate of "How Do You Stop [Whoever]?" That, in turn, leads to the typical inane quotes from Coach X and Players Y and Z: "You can't stop [That Guy] one on one. We're going to need team defense. We want to limit his touches, make him work for his shots, and make him play defense on the other end." Ssssssssnnnnoooooooooorrrrreee!!What happened to the good old days when Cedric Maxwell said of Bernard King (who was at that time the league scoring champ) "We're gonna stop the bitch"? Look, if nobody says anything interesting, I say don't run the story. I'm sorry if my gigantic brain is showing, but I already kind of figured that Udonis Haslem couldn't guard Dirk Nowitzki by himself. And if I thought even for a second that Dampier or Diop could contain Shaq, I'd be wearing an adult diaper and blowing spit bubbles in some assisted care community.
4. The Determination Of A Legacy
Last year, everybody said that Shaq's legacy would be decided by whether or not he could lead the Heat to the Finals. He didn't, but David Stern was nice enough to let Shaq keep his one lonely MVP award and his three championship rings. In fact, Stern was so gracious that he didn't kick Shaq out of the league and gave the Diesel another crack at making it to the Big Dance. That's the same soft-hearted sentimentality that makes you ask your grandparents questions you don't really care about, like what it was like fighting the Nazis during the Korean War.My point is, the Finals are big time, no question, and you never want to squander an opportunity to get a title (or a shot at a title). But the media makes too big a deal out of a player's legacy, or a team's legacy for that matter. The Pistons made it to the Conference Finals the last four years, made the Finals twice, and one the championship once. That, my friends, is a legacy. But when they lost to the Heat -- hell, even before they lost to the Heat -- everybody wanted to question the legitimacy what the team had already done. "Does this tarnish all they've accomplished over the last four years?" Or course it doesn't, you idiots. Do we wonder whether Obiwan throwing Darth Vadar into a pit of lava is tarnished by the fact that Vadar later cut Obiwan in half and then defecated in his empty robe? Okay, maybe that's a bad example.
5. What Happens To The LosersThe teams that don't win the NBA title get treated like lepers. And I'm not just talking about the runner-up. This way of thinking also extends to the guys that lost in the Conference Finals. No matter how or why you lost, the mere fact that you did obviously means there's something fundamentally wrong with everything about you. The Spurs barely lost to an incredibly good Mavericks team in a series for the ages. So of course the Spurs suck and they need to be completely rebuilt (around Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli of course). The "blow it up and start over again" articles inevitably lead to an angry string of editorials about how the team shouldn't be blown up and only a few minor changes are necessary...like Ben Wallace hitting a few freethrows or Manu Ginobli not fouling a guy who's dunking the ball.I propose something entirely different. When a team loses, I think they should be kidnapped and taken into a secret underground government laboratory. There they will be given bionic implants and be forced to undergo radical radiation treatment and genetic manipulation. If that doesn't improve the team's chances of winning next season, at the very least we'll have an army of unstoppable supersoldiers ready to take on the alien invasion that is currently being planned by an evil cabal consisting of Big Foot, Elvis, and Jack Bauer.6. Anything Involving Mark CubanYeah, we get it. He's a rich guy who bought a pro basketball team and plays by his own rules. If I was worth $1.8 billion dollars, I'd be playing by my own rules too. Of course, my rules would involve at least a dozen beautiful female escorts covered in baby oil, all of whom would be expected to refer to me as El Conquistador. Oh, and all of my enemies would be brought before me to grovel before I shot them in the head. That's just how I roll.7. Dwayne Wade's Rise To StardomThe kid's dynamite. He defers to Shaq, and yet leads the team. He can score with anyone but also sets up his teammates. He's humble, hard working, and well-spoken. He's everything that's right about basketball. But he is not Michael Jordan. I repeat: he is not Michael Jordan. Wade's had a stellar first three seasons. And he's had a lot of success the last two seasons...playing with Shaq. Mike never got to play with Shaq. And Lebron James doesn't get to play with Shaq now, which makes all the Wade/Lebron comparisons a little misleading. He isn't the unstoppable Shaq of four or five years ago, but playing with Shaq makes everything easier. Just ask Kobe.