Thursday, June 20, 2013

NBA Finals: Game 7 and The Overratedness of Legacy

Regardless of what happens Thursday night, legacies will not be defined. That’s right. Win or lose, nobody’s legacy is at stake.

Why? Because a legacy can’t be defined in one game. It can’t be restricted to one game because that goes against the basic principle of what a legacy is.

It’s so easy to bring up that word. It’s thrown around so much that it’s become a cliché. As such, it’s misused and abused because people forget that in a team sport, legacy is always dependent on so many variables.

Why are we so obsessed with it? Why does it matter to define? Because it’s easy and as Game 6 reminded us, one person’s story can change at any time.

I debated somebody on Twitter after Game 3. He came at me with the tired argument of LeBron’s postseason failures without admitting his successes. He said LeBron’s legacy is at stake based on his Finals performances. I responded you can’t judge a career solely based on 18 games.

We have no idea what’s going to happen after these Finals. Five years ago, people tried to define Kobe Bryant’s legacy based on how he fell short in 2006, 2007 and the 2008 Finals. Now? 2 rings, defying Father Time and reinventing his game have solidified him as an all-time great.

Legacies are something you look back on when somebody retires. Careers continue to be defined and redefined. Greatness isn’t defined by rings or success only. Consider the paradox I wrote after the 2012 Super Bowl. Tom Brady’s greatness vs. the fact Eli Manning has beat him twice there vs. Eli’s so-so regular season play.

Tim Duncan’s going to still be perhaps the best power forward ever. Gregg Popovich is still a great coach/manager/developer of talent. Tony Parker is still one of the best point guards and he’s proved the Spurs are great in his hands.

Ray Allen is still one of the best shooters of all time. Dwyane Wade might be declining in skills but he’s still had a great career. And LeBron James is still the best player in the world who’s made great strides in his game.

If they lose, you can bring up that LeBron has only one ring. Guess what? So does Jerry West, Moses Malone, Jason Kidd and Julius Erving (NBA wise). Wilt Chamberlain only has two, as does Isiah Thomas and Hakeem Olajuwon. Elgin Baylor has zero. Anybody who says they underachieved has zero idea about basketball.

Think about the many musical artists who are great despite not selling many records or winning Grammys. Christopher Nolan and Spike Lee have yet to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar. People who are great aren’t trying to worry about legacies; they’re trying to leave a mark with their craft.

It’s the same with sports. The discourse has become so legacy centered that it shows you how stupid and silly talking about it is. The literal definition of legacy? Property/money given to somebody in a will or something inherited from the past. We've morphed that into how we discuss living careers and lives and yet, it's barely applicable.

So Game 7 tonight. It’ll help reputations. It’ll make you memorable like Ron Artest three years ago. It’ll make you an icon like Willis Reed, which overshadowed the actual brilliance of Walt Frazier in that Game 7. Bill Russell never lost one. Many have lose Game 7’s to only bounce back better or, like Jerry West, played so well in defeat they became endearing.

The Spurs and Heat will have to play with great urgency. Everything is on the line the same way Game 6 was. The Spurs may not get another chance at it. Miami is one game closer to 2014 when their core might be broken up due to the luxury tax. Miami survived a Game 7 against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals while San Antonio hasn't been in a Game 7 since 2008.

Somebody adds one more ring to his resume. The Spurs will either affirm their dynasty or Miami will defend their place as champions. Pat Riley as Heat GM goes back-to-back on the 25th anniversary of doing it as a coach with the Lakers.

LeBron avenges 2007. Gregg Popovich and his brilliant system once again proves its mastery with an nearly different roster than in 2007. Tim Duncan gets No. 5, Tony Parker and Manu get No. 4. Danny Green joins the rare club of NCAA/NBA champions (his shooting clinic will be remembered win or lose).

Ray Allen sticks it to Boston, who’s on the verge of unraveling the rest of their core as we speak. Kawhi Leonard completes a 5-year journey from unknown high school prospect to California Mr. Basketball to All-American to NBA champion.

This is at stake tonight. Not someone’s legacy. Save that for when they retire and just let the chips fall where they may after a fantastic NBA series. Sure we can analyze what happens next but keep it all in perspective because legacies are continuing to be written, not just defined by one game or series.

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