Thunder-Heat Finals: what we all want to see

The NBA got what it was looking for when the Miami Heat took down the Boston Celtics in Game Seven, which delivered a 9.1 television rating: the highest ever for an NBA game on cable, according to the Nielsen ratings.

The league can now expect even higher ratings in what will be a highly anticipated NBA Finals.

While basketball is indeed a team sport, history has shown that fans care most when the stage is filled with the biggest and brightest of stars. A series that includes the last five regular season scoring champions should attract attention.

In fact, with the Heat and Thunder each sporting their own “Big Three,” this year’s finals may be the most star-studded since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were hoisting trophies. However, not since the classic battles of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird has the finals matched up the two best players in the game.

Like him or hate him, LeBron James returns to the finals for his third shot at a ring. Despite a laundry list of haters, James was unstoppable against the Celtics, producing the best playoff series of his career.

James averaged more than 33 points and 11 rebounds per game in the Eastern Conference Finals, while also shooting higher than 52 percent from the field. Say what you want about his clutch genes, hairline or The Decision, but only Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar produced those numbers in a seven-game series in NBA history.

ESPN analyst Skip Bayless has made a living hating on James ever since he stepped foot in the league. Designating Dwyane Wade as “Batman” and James as “Robin,” Bayless needs to quickly change his words if he wants to save face. James has been “Batman” during these playoffs and everyone else “Batboy.” How else can you explain James’ 45-point performance to prevent elimination in Game Six?

However, even James knows that no prior performances will hold any weight if the Heat fail once again to raise the trophy. But he is not the only star in this series who has never hoisted one themselves, mainly because of their youth.

The Heat currently have the most famous “Big Three,” but all of that may change if Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can bring a title home to Oklahoma City. The Thunder’s trio may not have the hype, payroll or league experience of the South Beach version, but they certainly pack a similar punch — if not a better one.

Durant, the league’s best scorer three years running, averaged 29.5 points per game in the Western Conference Finals, taking down the red-hot Spurs, who had won 20 games in a row after Game Two.

Harden contributed 18.5 points per game, including the dagger in Game Six with 28 seconds to play. Westbrook, who received a great deal of criticism for last year’s playoff elimination, added more than 18 points and seven assists per game in the series.

While this combo is young (average age of 23 between the three), defeating the Western Conference elite in the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs has shown us one thing: They are young, but they are definitely not scared.

This series will truly be the best NBA Finals of the last decade, which can only make NBA Commissioner David Stern sit back and smile. It will be a battle of good versus evil. Who will get their first ring: the league MVP or the scoring champ?

Only a fool would not tune in to find out.

Derek is a senior in Media.