We never know what life is going to give us or where the glass may fall after it breaks. All we know is that its coming down and we need to be careful not to get cut by it.
The path to being great isn’t a set one and its definitely not always easy. As humans we all must grow, but the rate of growth is not a set one and how much you grow cannot be exactly projected by computers or any close-to-life simulation. We must experience things. We must feel heat to know that it will burn. That is our nature as human beings; curiosity drives us and ambition empowers the growth of those who are curious. You must want to tread the waters of the unknown to become the best at what you do.
Growth isn’t a verb, its a noun. Its a process of development from a physical, mental, or emotional standpoint. Sometimes all three of them. We’ve seen this narrative come in all forms, shapes, sizes, and lengths. There have been many moments in NBA history where a team has had to wait its turn. We’ve seen Jordan fight through the Bad Boys, we’ve seen Kevin Garnett have to switch teams to get over the hump, we’ve seen Larry Bird fight through the 76ers, and we’re seeing two great examples of this in these Finals right now.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have built a team through the institution of ineptitude that started with a 2006-2007 season record of 31 and 51 by the Seattle Supersonics who were coached by Bob Hill. The star on this team? None other than Ray Allen. Six years seems like so long ago, but all of this progress couldn’t have happened at a faster pace. In the following draft, the Supersonics were able to draft their franchise cornerstone in Kevin Durant and another key cog in their success in Jeff Green.
Durant would have a rookie of the year season the next year as Seattle had waved goodbye to their marquee players in Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen and were on the road to building a contender once again. They would go 20-62 the next season and eventually draft their point guard of the future in Russell Westbrook with the number four overall pick. Along with the move of drafting Russell Westbrook the Supersonics would become the Oklahoma City Thunder the ensuing season. The Sonics were sold for financial and political reasons and this team was about to start building its own identity.
In the ensuing 2008-2009 season the Thunder would only win 23 games but this would prove to be another sacrificial lamb in building the foundation of this potential NBA superpower. The Thunder would eventually fire coach P.J Carlisimo and hire Scott Brooks. In the ensuing draft, with the number three overall pick, the Thunder would draft the future Sixth Man of the Year in James Harden. This was arguably the most pivotal season in the early conception of the Thunder. They had brought in the final piece of their foundation and were on their way to being a competitor.
The Thunder, in the very next season after winning only 23 games, would double that win total and then some winning 50 games. Kevin Durant had proved his worth once again and averaged 30 points en route to his first scoring title. This season would prove to be a moment of growth and opportunity for the Thunder because they faced previous the previous Finals champion in the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
They ended up losing the series to the Lakers in the first round 4-2, but they learned a valuable lesson. They weren’t as good as they needed to be when defending the post. The development of previous draft pick Serge Ibaka was coming along, but he was playing out of position. During the next season, the Thunder would swing Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins and they’d have a presence down low defensively to bang with bigs like Pau Gasol–who had previously burned them–down low.
The Thunder would knock on the door to success with a run to the Conference Finals and run into an uber-hot Dirk Nowitzki. Now, though, we see all of the work, patience, and growth paying off for this team. They stuck with their plan through losing season and were persistent. The young Thunder stars didn’t lose their cool and were team first at all times. Now they’re making their first Finals appearance in Thunder franchise history after being birthed only five years before.
Miami’s path to success was a much different one and not nearly as long. Dwyane Wade had won a Finals trophy and garnered a Finals MVP himself. He had been and done what most NBA players can only dream of. After a legendary Finals performance, Wade was considered a man among boys walking around in a Heat uniform. Not too long after, though, he faced injury problems and Shaquielle O’Neal, who had helped him reach his first title, was also battered up by injuries as well. Shaq was eventually traded for Shawn Marion in Phoenix and the Heat were sent into a downward spiral. They were kept in mediocrity only by the mere presence of Dwyane Wade. They were able to stay in the playoffs every season since winning a title with the exception of the 2007-2008 season.
Though they were in the postseason, they weren’t able to beat the Boston Celtics who had formed a super-team of their own. They didn’t have nearly enough fire power and the number two pick of Michael Beasley wasn’t panning out like the Heat had expected. Meanwhile, elsewhere, LeBron James had won two straight MVPs and was booted out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic in consecutive years. Chris Bosh had never had any relative success with the Raptors aside from making the playoffs once.
In the summer of 2010, however, things would change for this franchise and all there players. Chris Bosh would announce his decision to come play with the Miami Heat in free agency and LeBron James would soon do so shortly after. Though this isn’t a widely accepted manner of creating a team, it worked. All players were willing to make fiscal sacrifices in order to play with one another and bring in other pieces that could possibly lead them to a championship. For the Larry O’Brien, it was worth it.
Now these two teams will face each other in less than three hours. It will be the equivalent of a drug haven to an addict or a Music Festival dedicated to a certain genre for a certain music fan. Chesapeake Energy Arena and American Airlines Arena will be the basketball Mecca for at least one week. This is a match-up that we’ve all been waiting to see. Though some of us may not want to admit it, it will probably be better than a Kobe Bryant match-up with LeBron James.
The infrastructure of these two teams were built in two very different ways, but each has proven to be successful. One of these teams will win the NBA Finals and bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy. Though that is of certainty in this situation, one situation is not better than the other. Each form of growth and maturity has proven to be effective and has taken each team to a certain level of success. Now lets just sit back and enjoy the show.