So now comes the storyline David Stern was praying for.
The Heat. The Thunder. LeBron 'n' them vs. Durant 'n' them.
If the NBA Finals can't pull heavy numbers with this matchup, even in the middle of June, they oughta pack up the whole business and ship it across the pond -- where the pro game is huge, and no one, being worldly Euros, thinks less of LeBron James for being the quintessential American capitalist.
The man did what every team owner who ever lived has been doing forever: He had leverage and he used it. That he did it as badly as you could do it only says he was clueless, not evil.
At any rate, here we are. Heat vs. Thunder crowds the League's most electric stars right now onto one stage, which is exactly the formula the NBA lives on these days. And if public sentiment sides with humble Oklahoma City, it also forgets that humble Oklahoma City bogarted Seattle's franchise because David Stern wanted to teach that city a lesson about refusing to finance another of his owners' new-arena scams.
So, there are villains everywhere here, if you know where to look. And which of them wins?
I'm saying LeBron.
I'm saying that because he's having a playoff run for the ages, and there's a grim purpose about him right now that's nothing like what we saw a year ago, when he was confused and worn down by all the hate and unready for the moment. Now he looks very much like a man on a mission, and, with Chris Bosh back, Miami's Big Three finally seem poised to do what they were supposed to do last year, and apparently every year.
As for the Thunder .... their time is coming. Durant's the best player on the planet whose name isn't LeBron James, Russell Westbrook is unstoppable when his head's screwed on right, and the Thunder's bench is yea deeper than Miami's.
But the young Thunder will have other chances. The Heat may not, and the Heat knows it. And I think the best player on the planet is in a special place right now.
And so: Heat in six.
Let the hooting and ridicule begin.