Everyone’s shooting their mouths off with ideas of what the Heat need to do to keep LeBron James in town. Because even if they pull out another title with this crew, they’re saying, the writing’s still on the wall; Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade aren’t what they’re paid to be, anymore, and if James truly cares about collecting rings, to chase a greater legacy, he’s got to arm himself anew in this pool of sharks, chomping at the bit for their chance to hoist the O’Brien. Chicago, Indiana, OKC—perhaps even Houston, if things go well this off-season, or the Clippers, if they find a suitable coach—are as real about glory as San Antonio is, and see their door opening wider with every big possession that Wade—whose body might have finally collected too many injuries—half-heartedly plays, and every time Bosh hovers around the perimeter, seemingly afraid of what lies down low.
This, of course, could easily revert back to cries of anguish, from the same folks, over the monopoly that the Heat are, in less than one week. Less likely things have already happened: Gary Neal has become an NBA Finals legend. We’re in very uncertain ground, and this is the thrill of such an evenly-matched terminal round: “anything is possible,” as Kevin Garnett once so emphatically told us. Easy as it is to feel sure of outcomes after, and sometimes even beforehand, the not knowing of the present, on this grandest of stages, is a feeling fans hope for all season. We should be so lucky to have it, now.
And we should be even luckier to use these playoffs as the symposium they are, seemingly built to prove that there really is parity in this league, and that outcomes really aren’t known ahead of time.
There’s an unfortunate tendency in NBA culture, to believe in the unlikelihood of surprise, and the inevitability of the overdog’s dominance. How many more Danny Green three-pointers do we need to see, to put this idea to rest forever?
Sure, the Heat may have won the East three years in a row, but they’ve gone two straight, now, without facing a Derrick Rose-infused Bulls (who was only 22 when they last squared off in the ECF, in which Chicago started Keith Bogans at the 2). And now the health scale could be tipping against Miami’s fate, as Wade looks potentially dinged-up in a permanent way. More can happen in next year’s playoffs than I’m even capable of imagining.
I call for a media that speaks to this; that speaks to the multiplicity, the diversity, the expansive possibilities inherent in every NBA season. But it seems that such a thing is far, far from coming, as we seek singular, monolithic, superhuman, celebrified stories in our coverage (all elements which are packed, ostensibly, into each minute new LeBron James happening)—a perverse failing of readers, watchers, and listeners, and one I too am guilty of.
I’ll have my rooting interests for the rest of these finals, and certainly going into next year, too. But predictions have never been very fun—and isn’t fun why we’re here?—so long as they’re loaded with the implication some are better than others; with the implication that the proving ground we all tune so excitedly into is predetermined by various sources of unfairness. Since that kind of theory keeps suffering, I’m abandoning it. And I can’t wait to keep not knowing.