Although it may sound like it, this is not a public service announcement from the National Basketball Association. It's merely a gesture of respect and admiration from a self-admitted, basketball junkie. It is Christmas in May and the Association has gifted us with some phenomenal basketball. So gather round the flat screen with some pizza and beer and enjoy! You'll be glad you did.
If it's drama you want, the first four games of the Conference Finals so far have been decided by a total of seven points! The remaining games promise to be just as exciting. This is the ultimate reality television.
What's intriguing about this final four (Denver, Los Angeles, Orlando and Cleveland) is that three of the teams, three of the four head coaches, and three of the four megastars have yet to win a championship. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are all heavyweights who want a title BAD. Whoever wins will cement his legacy among the NBA's elite.
So for those of you who don't already have the back of their basketball cards memorized, here's a brief explanation of why you should tune in.
Superstar: If you can't pick Kobe Bryant out of a lineup, then you need more than a sportschump.net refresher course to bring you back to planet earth. He's the face of the league and arguably the greatest player in the game. He's already won three championships, all with Shaquille O'Neal, but has not won a title since the big man's departure. Some argue he needs to do so to confirm his greatness.
Supporting Cast: Pau Gasol, the lanky, seven-foot Spaniard, whose addition last year put the Lakers back on the map. Lamar Odom, the inconsistent and often under-achieving small forward who can get you seven points one night and twenty-seven the next. Andrew Bynum, the big-man-in-waiting. Some believe L.A. could have won a title last year had he not been injured.
Superstar: Many think LeBron James has the potential to become the greatest player ever. He's a freight train. His range is from basically anywhere inside the gymnasium. He is this year's Most Valuable Player and he better make room on his mantle for more. He is Cleveland's savior and is poised to bring that city its first sports title in fifty years.
Supporting Cast: The rap with the Cavs in recent years is that James didn't have enough help to win the big one. That is no longer true. The addition of Mo Williams at point guard gives Cleveland another scoring option. Foreign-born Anderson Varejao and Zyldrunas Ilgauskas shore up the middle.
Superstar: The baby-faced Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to championships. He won a title at Syracuse as a freshman. While not mentioned in the same breath as Kobe or LeBron, he's quickly proving he belongs in that conversation. In his first two games against Los Angeles, he's scored 73 points from all over the floor. No Laker has been able to contain him.
Supporting Cast: The Nuggets would be nothing without Chauncey Billups, who one sportschump.net contributor has accurately dubbed the most underrated player in the league.' He has appeared in seven consecutive conference finals, six with Detroit and now one with Denver. With 45 points and only two turnovers in the first two games, Mr. Big Shot is just the acquisition Denver needed. Kenyon Martin, the former number one draft pick from Cincinnati, is finally healthy and a force in the middle. Denver starts four top ten draft picks and are solid top to bottom. And if you don't follow basketball as religiously as me, you'll undoubtedly get a kick out of Chris "The Birdman" Anderson's latest hairdo.
Superstar: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Dwight Howard. Most of you may remember Howard from his Superman impression during the dunk contest. Not only can Dwight jump out of the gym, he dunked the ball so hard in Game One against Cleveland that he tore down the shot clock. He was the league's Defensive Player of the Year and led the league in rebounding. If he brings a title to Orlando, he may become more popular than Mickey Mouse.
Supporting Cast: When clicking, the Magic can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu can score at will and Rookie Courtney Lee is doing more than holding his own, including dunking on LeBron James in Game One.
The NBA is all about legacy. The league measures its legends by championships won. In just a few weeks one of these four superstars will have cemented his name in NBA lore and will have the hardware to prove it. He just hopes you're watching.