The last time LeBron James lined up opposite Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in an NBA Finals, it didn’t end well for the King.
That was 2007, when James, still a Cleveland Cavalier, was still in the process of becoming a member of the basketball elite. Something tells us the NBA odds will play out a little differently this time around.
When James last faced Gregg Popovich and company, he hadn’t yet established himself as the most imposing physical threat of our generation. He hadn’t won four MVP awards (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) and he hadn’t won a ring. The result? A humbling four-game sweep in which the San Antonio franchise added its fourth championship in nine years.
This time around, the Miami Heat will take to the championship series with a level of confidence that the young Cavs didn’t possess. As the reigning NBA champions, they know what it takes to be the ones hoisting the trophy, and they’ve got odds on their side — sitting atop the NBA futures more or less consistently for the past three seasons. Currently the Heat — despite their showing signs of mortality against the Indiana Pacers — hold -210 odds of winning the series outright.
While it was once San Antonio who fans, critics and odds makers alike penciled in to the NBA Finals at the onset of any particular campaign, the Heat have inherited the title of perennial contender and the expectations that come in tow. Until the Big 3 collapse, that’s likely where they’ll stay.
In this rendition of LeBron James versus San Antonio, fans will get to see not only how far the King has come, but also how much the Spurs have improved.
Under the trusted tutelage of Popovich, the Spurs have transitioned from their once-heavy reliance on Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to a more balanced attack that allows the squad to maximize the contributions of its veterans, while integrating the skills of supplementary youth.
In addition to Parker’s emergence as a legitimate MVP candidate in his own right, San Antonio — marked as the +175 underdog on the moneyline — has thrived with wings Kawhi Leonard (13.0 points per game) and Danny Green (9.6 points per game) helping to round out the Spurs attack.
James may be bigger, stronger and more mentally prepared to handle the rigors of a best of seven chess match against some of the wisest minds the NBA has ever known (look no further than the improved field-goal percentages that best encapsulates his rise — .476 in 2006-07, a super-humanly .565 in 2012-13), but to assume that a Heat victory is all but inevitable would be foolish.
Consider the series not simply a rematch then, but a full-fledged remake.
This post is presented by Bovada.