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The Thrill Is Gone

Posted By Dave Leonardis On Jun 2 2010 @ 12:32 pm In NBA | 3 Comments

The NBA Finals will be kicking off tomorrow night, with the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Boston Celtics for about 1,537th time(give or take a few). Truthfully, I couldn’t be less excited.

In order to have a compelling championship, be it a series or a one-game showdown like the Super Bowl, you need to have a intriguing story. What’s so compelling about a Finals we saw two years ago? Kobe going for his 5th ring? “The Big Three” going for their second? Phil going for #11? Please. When the two teams faced each other in the Finals back in 2008, there were plenty of interesting storylines. You had Kobe Bryant looking for his first championship without Shaq. You had Kevin Garnett finally getting over the Conference Finals hump and attempting to take home the Finals trophy that had alluded him his entire career. You had beleaguered Celtics coach Doc Rivers, one year after one of the worst seasons in Celtics history, staging a comeback and bringing his boys to the Finals. It was the rebirthof Celtics basketball. The rebirth of the famed Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

Now? It’s old news. The Lakers and Celtics have a combined 32 championships. They are 1-2 on the list of titles won by an NBA franchise, with Boston leading with 17 and the Lakers with 15. The next closest are the Chicago Bulls. They have six, and all of those were won under current Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Watching the Celtics and Lakers compete yet again for a NBA championship is like watching Bill Gates and Donald Trump playing poker with each other.

Two years ago, the Celtics had the luxury of being the underdog everyone outside of L.A. could cheer for. This year, they trounced three solid championship contenders in Miami (who many had sweeping the Celtics), Cleveland (the anointed East favorite when the playoffs started) and Orlando (last year’s Eastern champs). The Celtics are two years removed from a title. They aren’t underdogs anymore. As for the Lakers, this is Kobe’s 8th Finals appearance. This is Phil Jackson’s 13thas a head coach. With the exception of Ron Artest (signed in the offseason) and Andrew Bynum (injured two years ago), everyone is here from the team that faced Boston two years ago. On top of that, Kobe isn’t well-liked enough outside of Los Angeles for people on the outside to care about his chase for another title. Some still hold grudges from that mysterious night in a Colorado hotel room. Some just think he’s a Jordan clone, except more arrogant and pompous. Phil Jackson has worn everyone so thin with his media head games that he, too, is hard to root for in this series. The Celtics aren’t much to root for either. How can you stand behind a team that dragged through the regular season without a care in the world, robbing ticket holders of an inspired performance, only to turn it on in the postseason? Plus, this would be their 18th championship. That kind of gluttony doesn’t endear itself too well to fans still waiting for their first in Phoenix and Orlando.

That was the beauty of rooting for a Suns-Magic Finals. Two teams looking for their first franchise title. You would’ve had Steve Nash, playing the Garnett role from two years ago, just four wins away from finally being able to punctuate a Hall of Fame career with a ring. You would’ve  had Grant Hill, once a huge star in the NBA before a myriad of career-threatening injuries robbed his potential, battling back so he can ride off in the sunset with a championship. For Orlando, there was Dwight Howard showcasing his skills once again as the game’s best center. You would’ve had Vince Carter, forever dogged by his inability to lead or come up big in big games, starting his first NBA Finals and trying to prove the doubters wrong with some spirited performances (OK, I know, that’s wishful thinking). We could have had another Finals series of Stan Van Gundy quotes.

Instead, we get Boston vs. Los Angeles once again. We get a movie we’ve seen 11 times already. It would be like a movie studio re-releasing Gone With The Wind every few years. Eventually, it loses its luster and becomes stale. That’s what we have now. This isn’t just a re-run. It’s a re-run on a continuous loop.

Just wake me up when it’s all over.

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