Tim Duncan rattled some cages when he told TNT’s David Aldridge that his San Antonio Spurs are excited to face the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals.
“We’re glad that we’re back here. We’re excited about it. We got four more to go. We’ll do it this time,” Duncan said moments after the Spurs eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.
The “we’ll do it this time” comment is out of character for the normally stoic and very bland Duncan. It just shows how much the loss to the the Heat in 2013 Finals still stings. Duncan and Co. were seconds away from title No. 5 and let it slip away.
Duncan called last year’s loss “devastating” and it was no secret the Spurs still have that bad taste in their mouths, and couldn’t wait to meet the Heat again to redeem themselves.
“We’re happy to have another opportunity at it,” Duncan said. “We’re happy it’s the Heat again.”
Duncan’s comment reverberated all the way to South Beach. During the Heat’s practice session, LeBron fired back and said: “They don’t like us. They don’t. I can sense it from Timmy’s comments. They wanted this. They wanted us. And we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
The back-and-forth jabs between James and Duncan tells you how much this championship means not only for their teams but their respective legacies.
For LeBron, a third straight title puts him in the same conversation as Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Russell’s Celtics, Jordan’s Bulls and the Shaq- and Kobe-led Lakers are the only teams to three-peat.
“It makes me relevant,” James said of winning a third title. “I’m always humbled every time I’m compared to one of the greats. Obviously, in all our eyes, Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play this game. To even be in the same breath as Michael Jordan is very humbling. It lets me know that I’ve done something right.”
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel calls LeBron “the Michael Jordan of our era,” so pulling off a three-peat puts James one step closer to Jordan’s throne.
However, another Finals loss — third time in seven seasons — knocks LeBron down a few pegs in the history books. But a third consecutive NBA championship elevates LeBron’s profile tremendously. It will validate his decision to leave Cleveland and join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It will vault him into the top 10 list of greatest players of all time — a list that includes Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Kobe, Shaq and Olajuwon.
James could very well knock off Duncan from the top-10 list should the Heat beat the Spurs for a second time.
Speaking of Duncan, a fifth ring puts the Spurs’ big man in rare company. It will cement his legacy as one of the greatest players in NBA history and the best player in the post-Jordan era. It will certainly create a great debate on where he belongs on the list of G.O.A.T.
A fifth ring would elevate Duncan over his rival Shaq, who won four championships and went through Duncan’s Spurs in two of those playoff runs. Duncan would also move up in the all-time rankings ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon (two), and Wilt Chamberlain (two), and put him on equal footing with Magic (five) and Kobe (five).
When asked about his legacy, in classic Tim Duncan fashion, he shrugged it off.
“There will be a time to look back on that once everything is over,” Duncan said Wednesday. “For right now all I’m focused on is getting another one. This is all that counts right now.”
Joel Huerto is editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.