The 2012 NBA Finals begin Tuesday night in Oklahoma City in what promises to be a thrilling showdown with a host of electrical athletes. Much of the conversation surrounding this series has centered on LeBron James and his quest for that elusive first championship, along with his impending duel with Kevin Durant for the “title” of best player in the NBA. From a team perspective, there’s also the question of whether this will be the start of a Miami Heat series of titles, or whether OKC’s even younger core will take the kidneys and become the NBA’s alpha dog team during the next five years or more. years.

With the exception of the Heat and the Celtics, there are far too many blood rivals left in the NBA: teams that must outperform each other in the playoffs annually for the ultimate prize, opponents who relish the opportunity to end each other’s season. In the 1980s there were several of these rivalries, one of the most notable being Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers against Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics.

Surprisingly, either the Lakers or the Celtics competed in every NBA Finals played during that decade, with Los Angeles capturing five titles and the Celtics three. They faced each other in three memorable finals (’84, ’85 and ’87), and if it weren’t for the Houston Rockets (first with Moses and then with Sampson’s Twin Towers and the Dream), Moses and Doc’s Philadelphia 76ers, and the Bad Boy Pistons, the Lakers and the Celtics would probably have met a few other times with everything on the line.

The first head-to-head battle of the 1980s Finals between Los Angeles and Boston occurred in the summer of 1984, and looking back at the collective rosters of these teams in hindsight, one sees some of the greats of all. game times in the prime of their careers. The Lakers came to the Garden that year with a team that included Magic (24), Bryon Scott (23), James Worthy (23), Michael Cooper (28) all approaching their peak years, with veterans like Bob McAdoo (33). ), Jamaal Wilkes (31) and the timeless Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (37) continue to play great basketball.

The Celtics responded with their world front line of Bird (27, back still not crumbling), Kevin McHale (26) and Robert Parish (30) all in their prime, and guards and role players like Dennis Johnson (29). ), Danny Ainge (25), Cedric Maxwell (28), Scott Wedman (31) and Gerald Henderson (27) all contributed key points throughout. This clash of talents came at the right time, and each squad had its best players capable of playing at the highest level for years to come. This factor, of course, was essential to make possible their subsequent clashes in 1985 and 1987.

This brings us to the Heat and Thunder. Miami rallied its “Big 3” from LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to win multiple championships and dominate the league landscape for the foreseeable future. They probably didn’t count on the Mavs continuing their unlikely run last year, or LeBron fading under the bright lights when his team needed him to take over. He came back with a vengeance this season, and he has the Heat four games away from capturing the first of many titles this unit is supposed to win over the next few years.

After all, LeBron has been in the NBA for what seems like forever, but he is still only 27 years old and continues to evolve as a player. Considering the lack of skilled “greats” currently in the game, Boshster (28) still has many effective years left, while Wade (30) should be a high-level player for a few more seasons depending on how he maintains his body. Looking at the current state of the Eastern Conference, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Heat will be in the mix to return to the Finals for at least another three or four years.

OKC undoubtedly have the best young core in the game, and when they get going, this team is practically unstoppable. Durant (23) is a scoring machine, Russell Westbrook (23) plays with a mix of the speed of a young Allen Iverson and the power of a young Baron Davis, James Harden (22) is a smooth player who can hit anything. shot you want. at any moment, and Serge Ibaka (22) is a progressing offensive player who also happens to be a monster on defense, crushing pretty much everything near the rim. You have to think that these players will keep getting better and that this team will be the best player in the Western Conference as long as they stay together.

Will this year’s meeting be the first of many final encounters between these two clubs in the coming years? Like the Lakers and Celtics of the 80s, each team is set up with its best players in the prime of their careers (or in OKC’s case, a few years away from their best), and health permitting, everyone will have a great opportunity to return. up to this exact point next season. We were all within a KG knee injury of watching the Lakers and Celtics play each other in three consecutive Finals a few years ago, and with those two storied franchises now in the background, it’s time for the Heat and Thunders shine.

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