Your Guide to Picking a Team in the NBA Finals: Miami Heat or Dallas Mavericks

Tuesday marks the beginning of one of the most anticipated NBA Finals matchups in recent memory. Miami vs. Dallas. The Heatles vs Dirk and The Boys. Pat Riley vs Mark Cuban. The Rematch Series (even though it’s really not much of a rematch considering how much the teams have changed since 2006).

Rarely are championship contenders as easily differentiated as the Heat and the Mavericks. They are complete opposites. Like tofu and steak.

Yes, the Lakers and Celtics had the whole bitter rivalry thing going on last season. But at their core they were more similar than they were different: two talented, versatile teams filled with veterans. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom against Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Pretty even, right?

The same can’t be said for Miami and Dallas. They are different in almost every discernible way, from the way their talent is distributed to the styles of their offenses to their general world views.

This makes it difficult to pick a favorite in this series (personally, I’m going with Dallas in 6) but easy to choose a team to root for. If you’re not from Miami or Dallas and have yet to decide on a rooting interest, here’s your guide to picking a side:

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Most Media Members Don’t Deserve to Praise LeBron if Miami Heat Win it All

The Heat open up their series against the Dallas Mavericks at home, and they’re in a place many doubters did not expect them to be: the NBA Finals. People prayed, dreamed, wished, and hoped that the Heat would fail this season, and they took pride in ridiculing them at every downturn. But now Miami has reached the Finals and they are four victories away from proving their critics to be absolute fools. The unjustified and hypocritical hatred spewed to them by media professionals gets us to the point where most media members do not deserve to congratulate the Heat, and specifically LeBron, if they win the title. And it’s all because a silly notion regarding a few ounces of molded metal.

In our sports society, we judge athletes based on one thing: rings. We don’t measure NBA players based on point totals, All-Star seasons, or even MVP awards. Nope, the media has trained us to believe that NBA players are only worth their weight in 20 karat gold rings.

It doesn’t matter that Darko Milicic has a ring and that LeBron James does not. It doesn’t matter that Robert Horry has seven championships while Michael Jordan has six. Nope, nope, nope. All that matters is our star players must have rings in order to validate their careers. I’ve said for a long time that’s garbage, but I’ve been mostly alone in my beliefs.

Here’s why the “rings to validate a career” is pure idiocy.

Most NBA observers can agree that Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest players of all time. Anyone watching basketball from his college days to 1993 could have told you that The Dream was supremely talented and one of the best players in the game. But consider this for a moment: Had Michael Jordan not walked away from the game for two years, Olajuwon’s Rockets may never have won a title. If Hakeem had never won a title, would he be considered as great as he is now? Definitely not. But was Hakeem’s game, talent, and skill any different from 1993-1995, or did Jordan’s absence allow Olajuwon a chance to win the (gasp!) elusive championship ring?

My point is that winning championships is based on several factors, many of which are circumstantial. How good are your teammates? How good (or stacked) are your opponents? These factors should be taken into account when we measure the greatness of a player. Rings shouldn’t be the end all discussion.

And that leads me to the predicament of LeBron James.

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Steve Nash Says Gay NBA Player Would Not Be an Issue

The issue of homosexuality in sports has recently become a hot topic.  Homophobic slurs by players and coaches like Joakim Noah, Kobe Bryant, and Roger McDowell have been accompanied by a load of negative publicity and almost sparked a rallying cry in support of the gay community.  While many will argue the aforementioned people did not intend for the terms to be hateful toward gay people, their actions show a lack of awareness toward a sensitive issue.

On the flip side, we have had athletes like Sean Avery speak out in support of the gay community while teams like the San Francisco Giants joined the “It Gets Better” gay movement with a support video.  Former Villanova star Will Sheridan also recently revealed he is gay. He also revealed that his homosexuality was not an issue for any of his Wildcat teammates or coaches.  According to Steve Nash, NBA players would react to a gay teammate in the same way Sheridan’s teammates reacted.

“If a player in the locker room came out, it would come and go quickly, too,” Nash told the NY Times via CBSSports.com. “I really don’t think it’s a big issue anymore. I think it would be surprisingly accepted, and a shorter shelf life than maybe we would imagine. I think the time has come when it should happen soon. I think it will be something that won’t take on this life of its own. It won’t be the O. J. trial.”

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Jason Terry Will Get Championship Tattoo Removed if Mavericks Don’t Win

On Thursday we passed along the story of Mavericks guard Jason Terry who got a tattoo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy before the season began. Terry got the tat in October despite his team being lower in the preseason odds to win it all than a handful of teams. Even his teammates thought he was somewhat crazy for getting the tattoo despite never having won a championship. Now he’s saying he’ll reverse course if the Mavs don’t win it all.

Before the Mavericks left Dallas for Miami Sunday, Terry told reporters he’ll get the tattoo removed if they don’t win it all. His reasoning? “It means it was bad luck. I’m very superstitious.” Terry also said “I definitely know it’s going to hurt worse if I have to take this thing off.”

I don’t know about you, but the whole thing sounds a bit wacky to me. Why get a tattoo if you plan to have it removed a year later? Aren’t there simpler ways of generating motivation? What about putting placards in the bathroom, won’t that suffice? Sorry to say it Jet, but I think you’ll have to start looking for a tattoo remover sooner than later.

LeBron James: I Have Long Way Before Being in All-Time Great Conversation

LeBron James responded to the controversial comments Scottie Pippen made on Friday with a touch of modesty. Pippen riled folks up when he said that LeBron could get to Michael Jordan’s level someday. Most fans felt the comments were ludicrous because MJ won six rings while LeBron has yet to win a title. Bulls fans were particularly upset because Pippen played alongside Jordan and earned his titles and accolades thanks to MJ. Even though Pippen was including LeBron in the best of all-time conversation, LeBron is not ready to go there just yet.

Responding to Pippen’s comments Saturday, James said “Michael is an unbelievable player. I got a long way, a long way, to be mentioned as one of the all-time greats. Not even just Jordan. It’s a lot of great players that have played in this league — Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”

James did the admirable thing by remaining modest and saying he’s not only not in MJ’s class, but also far from several of the other greats. He added “All these guys with multiple rings. Bill Russell, all these guys that have pioneered this game for me and [ Dwyane Wade]. So I’m gracious, humbled by Scottie’s comments, especially with him being a teammate of [Jordan’s] and seeing Michael on a day-to-day basis. As far as me, I don’t know. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m better than Jordan or I’m not better.”

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LeBron James Played Superb Defense on Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose had a sub-par series in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Though he averaged 23.4 points per game for the series, he needed 24 shots per game to get there, and he only shot 35% on field goals and a brutal 23.3% on threes. Rose improved his outside jumper in the offseason to add an extra dimension to his game, which helped him win the MVP award. Though you could argue that Rose was off for the series, the unbiased fan has to give proper credit to Miami’s defense for shutting down the MVP.

At the end of Game 4 and Game 5, LeBron James switched onto Derrick Rose to play one-on-one defense. He kept the Bulls point guard on the perimeter and forced him into contested jump shots. Per ESPN Stats & Info via SB Nation Chicago, Rose went 1-for-15 (6.67%) with three turnovers when guarded by LeBron. LeBron held Rose to the lowest shooting percentage of anyone who guarded him at least five plays during the playoffs.

While any viewer can see that LeBron caught fire at the end of Game 5 and recognize that he’s truly “closed out” several games these playoffs, it takes a much more discerning eye to realize how good his defense was. LeBron is not just an elite one-way player; He may also be the best defensive player in the game. The mind-blowing stats prove it.

Scottie Pippen: LeBron James May Be the Greatest Player Ever

UPDATE: Naturally, Scottie Pippen has backtracked a bit now that he realized how much attention his comments are getting. “Don’t get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest,” Pippen said on his Twitter account Friday afternoon. “But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday.” Yeah, maybe after about four championships. Sometimes it’s just too little, too late, Scottie.

UPDATE II: LeBron James responds to Pippen saying he’s not in the conversation.

Talk about a bomb being dropped to begin the long weekend. As we kick off this Memorial Day holiday weekend, let us be reminded of how seriously Michael Jordan takes being considered the greatest player of all-time.  Jordan is a man who won six championships and five league MVP awards.  He’s also a man who strongly believes he could score 100 points in a game with the way it is played today.  On top of that, he took the liberty of blasting LeBron James for joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, saying he never would have dreamed of teaming up with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

The egotistical M.J. is likely not going to be pleased when he finds out his sidekick, Scottie Pippen, went Judas on him Friday morning on Mike and Mike in the Morning.  As SI Hot Clicks pointed out, Pippen made some comments on the show that will likely infuriate Jordan and the entire city of Chicago.

“Michael Jordan may be the greatest scorer to ever play the game, but I may go so far as to say LeBron James is the greatest player to ever play the game,” Pippen told Mike and Mike.

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