The Dawn of a New Era in the NBA
In 1998 one of the greatest dynasty teams in the history of sports, the Chicago Bulls, won their last championship. You could say that was when their era came to an end. Since then there have been 13 NBA finals. Three teams from the Western Conference have appeared in all 13 and won 10. If you don’t know what three teams I’m talking about, its the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. Those three teams have ruled the western conference and the NBA for the least 13 years. In the last month, the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken all three out of the playoffs on their journey to the NBA finals. Who would have thought four years ago when the Seattle Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City and they went 23-59 in their first season, that they would be here now. We’ve seen Kevin Durant out shine and out shoot Kobe Bryant in clutch moments. We’ve seen Russell Westbrook mature and evolve from a good shooter who plays point guard to a point guard who is a good shooter and there is a big difference between the two. We’ve seen Scott Brooks, a young coach who only five years ago few people had ever heard of, out mastermind Gregg Popovich one of the greatest coaches this league has ever seen behind Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. I don’t know if the torch has been passed in the Western conference so much as the Thunder have ripped it out of the hands that were carrying it but either way it is now theirs.
This is a special team. I don’t care if you love them or hate them, they are special. This team has everything it takes to be the next dynasty team. They’re athletic, talented, hardworking, determined and young. They have a great coach in Scott Brooks, who’s adjustments (for example making the move to put Sefalosha on Parker) during the conference finals were key in their turning the series around after going down 0-2. They have a special leader in Kevin Durant, who at 23 became the youngest player to win three strait scoring titles (and the first since Michael Jordan). To put that into some perspective, Kobe Bryant in 16 years has only won two and right now is fifth on the list of all-time leading scorers so that puts Kevin Durant on pace to become one of the all time leading scorers before he retires. He’s improved every one of his five seasons in the league and has vastly improved his defense. He’s shown a poise, calmness and confidence in these playoffs thats almost frightening for someone his age. He’s shown that he’s not only not afraid to take the big shots on the big stage, but he’s shown he can knock them down no matter what situation he’s in. He’s shown he can put his team on his shoulders and will them to victory.
But that is not all that makes this team special. What is one thing almost all dynasty teams have in common? Answer: a dynamic duo. For example; Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Braynt, Micheal Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabarr, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a dynamic duo in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. This season they were the highest scoring duo in the NBA even outscoring Wade and Lebron. Just like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook has also improved every season he’s been in the league. He’s a two-time all-star, was selected All-NBA Second team this season and is also only 23 years old. If you’ve ever watched these two play, you know they feed off one another. They have all the talent and potential to be the next great dynamic duo in the NBA and lead their team to multiple championships. In addition to these two, the Thunder also have James Harden who at 22 won the sixth man of the year award, Serge Ibaka who at only 22 came in second for defensive player of the year and lead the league in blocked shots (he had over 100 more the than JaVale McGee who came in second), Kendrick Perkins a great defensive presence who has championship experience (he won a ring with the Celtics in 2008), and Thabo Sefalosha the defensive specialist (a 2009-2010 All-Defensive second team selection) who came up with some big plays these last two series and was key in slowing down Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker. If the key components of this team stay together (and healthy) they are looking at multiple runs to the NBA finals.
However, the thing that impresses me most about this Oklahoma City Thunder team is how hard they fight and this is the reason I believe they will win multiple championships. They have zero quit in them, its almost as if the word quit just isn’t in their team’s vocabulary. It doesn’t matter how many points they are down, how much time is left in the game or who their opponent is! They have shown their willingness to fight throughout these playoffs and especially in game 6 against San Antonio, down fifteen at halftime to the veteran team who was favored to win the series. They don’t back down and they never say die. They also never lose confidence in each other. They fight until the end and aren’t afraid to leave their hearts out on the floor.
All year they have heard people saying that their team is “too young” and its “not their time yet” but they are proving the world wrong. In the face of adversity they’ve grown stronger and closer together. Together this young Thunder team is proving that their time is NOW and it is just the beginning. We are witnessing the dawning of a new era in the NBA.