I'm convinced that the NBA should create named awards to honor the legends of the game AND provide tangible rewards for specific accomplishments. This is the first in a series of suggestions in that vein.
I think Bill Russell should be honored by naming the NBA Finals Trophy after him. The Bill Russell Trophy seems like a great idea to me.[i] There is already precedent for this since the trophy used to be named for Walter Brown then was changed to honor Larry O’Brien. What player, coach or fan cares about Larry O’Brien? I appreciate that Bill Russell has had the NBA Finals MVP Trophy named after him; it makes a little sense as an honorific. However, the award didn’t start until 1969 so Russell didn’t have the opportunity to win the award himself. And more appropriately, this would be the team award. Who exemplifies team more than Bill Russell?
Naming the trophy for Bill Russell would recognize his place as the greatest champion in American team sports history. It would also connect the trophy to an important figure in the way the Lombardi Trophy does. It happens regularly that football players talk about winning the Lombardi Trophy because that very name resonates with the NFL’s concept of winning. No one ever talks about winning the O’Brien Trophy. Winning the Russell Trophy? That’s got cache.
This change would mean that Bill Russell would have two Finals Trophies named after him which seems odd. Tomorrow, I’ll give you the perfect solution to that dilemma.
[i] Even if the NBA goes a different route, O’Brien needs to be dumped anyway. David Stern has been much more important than O’Brien.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat: The Summer Storm Series
I have no idea what’s gonna happen in this series.
There, I admitted it. No one else seems to be able to acknowledge how confusing these playoffs have been but I think the shifts in momentum and pressure have been extraordinary and difficult to anticipate.
Just consider that 2 weeks ago, many folks in the media were openly wondering if the Spurs could go through the playoffs undefeated[i]. The Thunder were too young and Russell Westbrook too egotistical, Scott Brooks couldn’t make in game coaching moves and the post combo of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka didn’t score enough. Remember all that talk? Now, Charles Barkley is openly asking Tim Duncan to retire and the Spurs are being written off (again) as championship contenders going forward. The Thunder are being ordained as a likely dynasty and Kevin Durant is being anointed as the true heir to Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s next great winner.[ii]
Last week’s primary dramas centered on the Heat’s failings. Many pundits questioned which of Miami’s Big Three would be sent packing this summer, along with Coach Erik Spoelstra. Falling behind 3-2 to the Boston Celtics apparently meant that the Heat’s team building model was fatally flawed and the Heat would suffer accordingly. LeBron James’ Game 5 fiasco[iii] continued to reveal him as a “master of panic”[iv]. That all changed when Miami won two incredibly impressive victories and appear to be clicking as at no other time in the playoffs.
All this is to say that over the course of the last 4, 5, 6 or 7 games of this NBA season, we’re likely to see an amazing variety of twists and turns. In basketball more than any other major American sport, change happens abruptly. One half, one quarter or even one shot can transform a game. That’s part of the joy of basketball!
To my way of thinking, there are more Heat players who can transform a game. In a series with rough equalities across the board, I think that matters quite a bit. Combining that with an edge in experience, desperation and the one player who can do everything on the court, I anticipate a Miami victory. Perhaps the end of the Thunder’s season will mirror last year’s as they lose to the eventual champs on the road. That means I’m gonna ride with Liam’s Mum[v] and predict Miami winning in 5 games.
I’m not sure I believe it either.
[i] I tried to link to the discussion on ESPN’s First Take but the video’s been removed. Should I feel surprised?
[ii] I think Tim Duncan should feel offended by this whole line of reasoning. Duncan has been the best player for 4 championship teams. Kobe’s been the best for 2 titlists.
[iii] His game high 30 points and game high 13 rebounds would be considered extraordinary for anyone else.
[iv] Shaq’s derisive comment about his former coach Stan Van Gundy has been applied to James numerous times.
[v] It’s an ESPN’s Mike and Mike joke.