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Saturday, April 20, 2024

NBA Finals were great without the usual suspects

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Dear NBA faithful: It’s over, and if you didn’t see it, then I’m here to inform everyone that you definitely missed one superb championship series. Yes, despite the fact some of you suffered from the type of withdrawals that may have occurred from not seeing the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant on your television, the NBA Finals were indeed entertaining.

It’s time for many of you to come clean. Basketball fans have been spoiled for years when it comes to the NBA Finals. After all, it’s the biggest stage on which a superstar can distinguish themselves and further develop their financial brand to boot if they can capture the coveted title.

In the past 30-plus years, we’ve been treated to the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, James, Stephen Curry and Durant. While that’s truly a Hall of Fame yardstick to measure finals greatness with, I’m old enough to remember Kareem and Magic battling Bird and can even tell you about Rick Barry putting the Golden State Warriors on his back and sweeping a heavily favored Washington team with Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. Yeah, I get it.

The NBA Finals are the personal playground for big-time superstars and household names, so when the highly anticipated Lakers vs. Nets series didn’t materialize, many basketball purists cried foul.

How could we end up with Phoenix vs. Milwaukee? Well, thank goodness we did because the matchup we just saw provided both some spirited basketball and a sorely needed change of pace for the NBA and those who actually paid attention to the regular season this year.

First and foremost, there was the official postseason coming-out party of Giannis Antetokounmpo. While his phenomenal regular season accolades speak for themselves, could a two-time league MVP who just so happened to be a former Defensive Player of the Year lead his team to a championship? All he did was drop 50 points and 14 rebounds on the Suns in a decisive Game 6, along with five blocked shots for good measure. His gaudy finals averages of 35 points and 15 boards can leave no doubts about him being both the best and most versatile player in the game at the age of 26. As he has stated numerous times, the Bucks were not a one-man band as both Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday also came up big for Milwaukee in these finals.

On the Phoenix side of things, we saw a budding superstar in Devin Booker and a sure Hall of Famer in Chris Paul combine to make things more than interesting in the postseason, proving their regular season success was no fluke. While it was probably the only shot Paul will get at a championship ring, his guidance of an otherwise mostly young Phoenix team had him in the regular season MVP discussion, and combined with Booker gave NBA fans a ton of great moments in the finals.

Clearly this championship series had plenty of star power, and for the closet haters who will point to the likelihood of reduced TV ratings for fuel to further stoke the the debate that LeBron vs. Durant would’ve been better, just stop it. These NBA Finals were indeed great and while a Game 7 would’ve been exciting, no one can legitimately complain about the tremendous level of play that occurred. For those who claim they didn’t enjoy this series, I’m thinking you really don’t understand the NBA today and how much we should appreciate what we witnessed from both teams.

It’s OK to be an old school fan who’s accustomed to the established stars, but just don’t tell me these guys weren’t hooping like there was no tomorrow. I’m not buying that, and you really shouldn’t either.

Danny Bridges, who can still recognize great basketball when wearing his glasses, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or bridgeshd@aol.com.

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