LeBron & Duncan’s Finals Rematch: Legacy Defining

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    Updated: June 7, 2014
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    The 2014 NBA Finals will shape history in ways you might not have considered yet. Such a statement might seem obvious, from the standpoint that Miami is looking to become the first team to three-peat since the Shaq/Kobe Lakers did it at the beginning of the new millennium, but I’m referring to ‘history’ as in NBA all time history.

    I tweeted that since 1999, every NBA Finals has featured Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Dwyane Wade. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. For about 15 years, 3 players have, in some combination, been in EVERY NBA FINALS. LeBron is right there too, making his 5th Finals appearance.

    This NBA Finals will change the all-time rankings for most. If LeBron wins championship number three, it should finally solidify his standing as a top 10 player all time (if he isn’t already). IF Tim Duncan wins number 5, it ties him with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher for most NBA titles won by an active player. It would also make it really hard not to put Tim Duncan in the ‘Greatest Player of the 2000s’ talk over Kobe Bryant.

    The contrast between ‘The Chosen one’ and ‘The Big Fundamental’ couldn’t be any greater.

    Tim Duncan The Great

    The road has been a long one for Tim Duncan. He has played 17 seasons in the NBA, his Spurs making the Conference Finals nine times in that span. You read that right. NINE TIMES. Tim actually was a swimmer early in his childhood; he then later started playing basketball in high school, where he caught national attention. He would later go to Wake Forest and enjoy an outstanding collegiate career, winning several accolades, beginning the building blocks of what would become a Hall of Fame basketball career.

    Tim graduated college before declaring for the NBA draft in 1997, where he was the number one overall pick. The Spurs were coming off a dismal season that was lost mostly to injury on the part of ‘The Admiral’ David Robinson, and picked Duncan first overall, to pair with Robinson for a dynamic frontcourt duo. 

    Tim quietly fit right in; his interior defensive presence paired with Robinson’s proving too much to handle for some teams. The ‘Twin Towers’ were born, and Tim Duncan put out an impressive rookie campaign, being named to 2nd team all-defense and rookie of the year behind averages of 21/12/2/2.5. This proved to be no one time fluke, as Tim would win a total of 8 defensive first teams, and 6 second teams to date in his career.

    Tim was always quiet, reserved, and mellow. But you always felt that intensity and focus. It didn’t matter who the opponent was, Tim was always the same in press conferences and interviews. Nothing rattled Tim, not the Lakers, not Kobe, not talks of retirement later on. The NBA World seemed to beat to the rhythm of Tim Duncan’s drum.

    Tim Duncan cares nothing for your personal vendetta. Oh, he will let you know how he feels, but not with outlandish words, or some emphatic hero-ball antics. Oh no, Tim will simply smile and play his style of revenge. You never see his emotions in a play. Its like he doesn’t feel it. Like a river, Tim’s game flows naturally, and if you try an anger him? He just washes you away with his stream of focus. Demarcus Cousins learned this the hard way last year.

    If Tim wins number 5, he will be elated. He will be happy. But he won’t suddenly change. He will just go back to business as usual. That is who he is.

    The Rise Of The King

    LeBron James’ path was a bit rockier. LeBron dominated at the high school level, and as such, landed on SLAM! Magazine and Sports Illustrated. His talents were glamorized, his potential limitless, his persona unknown, and his worth, limitless. But the signs were there; he was mired in controversy even before declaring for the 2003 NBA draft. He eventually would be drafted with the first overall pick by the Cavaliers in that very same draft in spite of all that.

    James ran away with the rookie of the year award, and was the youngest player ever to be selected to an All-NBA team. The Cavs failed to make the playoffs however, and perhaps even then, the gears began to grind in the mind of LeBron James.

    LeBron would later begin his ascent from hot rookie sensation to bonafide NBA Superstar in 2006. Nearly winning (in my opinion. He should have won it) the 2006 MVP award and leading the Cavs into the playoffs, LeBron finally ‘arrived’. His Cavs would be eliminated, but he was finally inserting himself into the NBA’s true elite.

    Fast forward to the summer of 2010, where the now infamous ‘The Decision’ would take place. It ended up miring LeBron in criticism for the years to come. I don’t have to remind you of how that went over in Ohio. LeBron would be the target of constant insults, jokes and memes.

    But he played through it all, confident in his choice and his new teammates. The Miami Heat would go on to win the title in 2012 and 2013 on the shoulders of LeBron. It didn’t matter who you put in front of the Heat, LeBron would go through you. He changed minds with his numbers, accolades, and play. Unlike Tim Duncan, he didn’t win you over with his demeanor or professionalism.

    Courtesy of essence.com

    LeBron looks to be the leader of the first three-peat team since the 02-03 Lakers. His third title would bring him that much closer to Jordan. His probable third Finals MVP (if the Heat win) would put him into a four-way tie for second most all time (a feat Larry bird and Kobe Bryant cannot even boast). LeBron, his career already hall of fame worthy at the age of 29, would boast 3 titles, 4 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 10 All-star selections, and three Gold medals (two Olympic, One FIBA Championships).

    That’s not even accounting his impressive career stats. LeBron came from a rocky childhood where his Mother struggled to raise him. I can sympathize, as I too come from a tough childhood, and I can tell you, that when you do actually achieve a modicum of success, you clutch it, you don’t let it go. LeBron saw his chance in Miami, and he grabbed at it and held on like a rabid dog to a piece of meat. Guess what? It has got him two titles, on the verge of three potentially.

    You have two players who couldn’t be any more different. The quiet, professional, laid-back Duncan versus the edgy, sometimes brash James. Their individual, yet totally different paths through both life and NBA career have led them here. One seeks to elevate himself in the top ten all time discussion.

    The other wants to silence the critics and put to rest his place in the NBA all-time elite. Whatever happens, the 2014 NBA Finals will not fade into the history books like whisper in a dark forest, but will echo like the sound from a thousand thunder storms. Why? Because Spurs or Heat, one of these teams will cement themselves in the annals of NBA history as an all-time great team.

    Follow @_MatthewCAPGOD on Twitter

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