Monday concluded the Eastern Conference finals with the Miami Heat finishing off the Indiana Pacers in an incredible Game Seven fashion. I have long been a fan of the competitive display of basketball and have even played the game myself. What struck me about this matchup between Miami and Indiana is a deeper indication that the old NBA traditions are giving way to a new movement.
In times past, the NBA was about team loyalty and avoiding the limelight. Why? Because the emphasis was on the court. There was an unspoken rule that players should keep their focus on what is happening during the time of play. As we can see, times have changed. Due in part to the global domination of social media, the NBA has become a tremendous brand that generates billions on a worldwide scale. Now that games are streamed live, every country on the planet can watch their favorite team in ‘real time’. Jerseys can be purchased along with gear and is being sported by kids in Lithuania as well as Los Angeles.
The clash between the Heat and the Pacers aptly represents this shift. The marquee of LeBron against the younger team from Indiana had drama written all over it. LeBron, who has suffered his own issues of popularity in the past, seems to be sitting atop the world with a championship from last year. But as he said at the start of the season, winning the NBA championship only means there’s a bullseye on their backs. And this season, the Pacers came gunning for the crown.
This year, unlike many from his time in Cleveland, James was poised and full of leadership. His team mates struggled through the first three games, but James seemed to be the glue to hold it all together. Whether keeping calm during press conferences after a loss or motivating his team during half time, James was the constant leader. Coupled with unmatched play on the court, it is beginning to look like the Heat are on a road to destiny.
The cards have yet to be played for the Heat and a repeat from last year. Between them and another celebration are the San Antonio Spurs who have been resting for over a week. Tim Duncan and his crew have been watching and waiting to see who they will play. And many analysts are forecasting the game seven push from the Pacers may serve to cause fatigue for LeBron and company. At this point however, it looks like nothing will be able to stand in the way of the passion the Heat have to relive the celebration they brought to South Beach Florida last season. We shall see.
Written By: Cherese Jackson