One look at the Oklahoma City three years ago and you knew this day was coming. You weren't sure when, but something suggested that it might be sooner rather than later. And sure enough, here we are — the young Thunder will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
From a historical perspective, only the 1981 Celtics and 1991 Bulls could rival the Thunder's feat. The '91 Bulls had similar journey when they had to defeat what was left of the Bad Boy Pistons before vanquishing Magic's Lakers in five. In what has been an up and down, inside-out season, the Thunder have dispatched of the reigning NBA Champs in four, the Lakers in five, and Spurs in six to be crowned the kings of the West.
Is it too soon? The average age of the Thunder's starting lineup is just 23 years old. Their coach, who was once considered the weak link, is just 46 and is only in his fourth season. Each season he was the focal point of criticisms, yet much like his young team he also needed time to grow. In a matchup against the best coach in the league, Scott Brooks played the ultimate chess game. He countered every move Gregg Popovich with an equally tactical move of his own.
Usually all greatness is forged from loss. And while the Thunder haven't had a traumatic loss to bind them closer together, they proved Wednesday night on their home court they can give as well they receive. San Antonio threw every punch they could think of, and though the Thunder found themselves heading into the locker room saddled with an 18 point deficit, OKC outscored the Spurs 59-36 to close out the series.
Some thought Sam Presti got a bit too cheeky when the Thunder acquired Derek Fisher in a buyout from Rockets. However, he was exactly what the Thunder needed: a Yoda-type who could help corral what at times seemed like a disjointed OKC team and help Brooks create a natural hierarchy between its three young stars.
Kevin Durant, without equivocation, is now at a level we haven't seen a basketball player get to since Duncan's playoff run in 1999 or Kobe's in 2001.
The Thunder right now are operating at MAXQ. Kevin Durant's fourth quarter performance in game four wasn't just brilliant, it was prophetic. Every so often we get witness a performance when we can point to it and say "That was it. That's when he turned into (insert name here)." Brady's two-minute drive against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Randy Johnson's performance out of the bullpen in the 1995 ALDS after pitching two days prior, or Mario Lemieux’s eight-point performance in 1989 against the Devils. Kevin Durant, without equivocation, is now at a level we haven't seen a basketball player get to since Duncan's playoff run in 1999 or Kobe's in 2001.
The Thunder, like the Spurs, built a team with patience, shrewdness and little luck. And while no one should count out the Spurs as contenders next year, it's clear the who the new kings of the Western Conference are.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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