Bookmakers and fans alike want to see the Heat and Thunder face-off in the NBA finals. Why? To watch the world’s two best players compete head-to-head.
As the NBA playoffs come closer to the final showdown between the winners from the Eastern and Western Conferences, one contestant looks mostly decided while its opponent is still up in the air.
The first is, you guessed it, the Miami Heat led by undisputed best player in the world Lebron James and his trusty sidekicks Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. While they haven’t yet finished off the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, I will personally buy you dinner if they don’t win the series. That’s a promise.
In the Western Conference, things are currently at a stalemate between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder (yes, its surprising that two of America’s smaller media markets have arguably its two best NBA teams).
While the Thunder feature 2014 Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and the breathtaking Russell Westbrook, the Spurs are perennially that strange team that looks old and slow but no one can figure out how to beat.
While American gambling laws restrict most forms of betting on NBA games, Canadian and British bookies are stepping in to fill the void. And for all the respect that the Spurs deserve, bookies (and most fans) really don’t want to see them win the series. This piece will explain why.
What the Spurs represent
The boys from Central Texas have been a perennial powerhouse since they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997. Led by legendary coach Greg Popovich, over that 16-year span they haven’t missed the playoffs once and have won four championships.
Given all that success, they are also one of the league’s least popular teams. Why? NBA fans tune in for entertainment more than fundamentally perfect basketball. They want to watch exciting stars with larger-than-life personalities do outrageous things both on and off the court.
The Spurs have absolutely none of that. The word “boring” doesn’t even begin to the describe it. Despite being a star player, Duncan has about as much personality as a can of tuna. And that’s tuna in water, not olive oil.
The Flying Frenchman Tony Parker was once a brash young phenomenon, but as he aged and broke up with Eva Longoria he became a by-the-book player and personality. Even Manu Ginobili, the Latin sensation from Argentina, has become a cog in Popovich’s basketball machine.
The Spurs are in it to win it, not have fun. If that means beating their opponent 2-0, then so be it. You can’t argue with their record of success, but there is a reason that fans don’t get excited to watch them play.
What a Heat-Thunder match-up would mean
For that reason, most fans as well as online sportsbooks in Canada and the UK want to see the Thunder win the series and face the Heat in the finals. The Thunder are an exciting, young team with two superstars who are unpredictable both on the court and off of it.
A Thunder-Heat series would also mean a rematch of 2012, when Lebron’s bunch of veterans abused an inexperienced Thunder squad to win the series four games to one. But fast forward two years and the Thunder have matured immensely. Durant is now the second best player in the world, and some argue that the aging Heat squad is not quite what it used to be.
The tantalizing tale of Lebron vs. Durant
All that teamwork stuff is fine and cute, but individual match-ups are really what make the game exciting. A Heat-Thunder finals means a face-off between the two best players in the world who also happen to play the same position.
• While the Miami Heat are likely to win the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference is stuck in a stalemate between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder
• Most fans and all bookmakers hope that the Thunder beat the Spurs to advance to the NBA finals
• The Thunder feature 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, so there is no question that a Lebron-Durant matchup in the finals will be more exciting
While they employ different styles, they’ll be guarding each other most of the time. It’s likely that whomever of the two has a better series will take home the championship trophy. Lebron still seems to be a better overall player, but this would be Durant’s chance to prove everyone wrong.
What really makes bookies salivate? Imagine all the prop bets fans will make with online and mobile betting sites. Who will rack up more points, assists or rebounds in a given game? Will the two stars get into an argument, or better yet, a scuffle? While Durant/Westbrook score more points than Lebron/Wade?
The possibilities are endless. That’s much more entertaining than a Heat-Spurs series in which the prop bets would be: will Tim Duncan or Shane Battier give the more boring post-game interview?
More so than other American sports leagues, the NBA puts a premium on showmanship. Fans want on-court excitement and off-court drama. Remember the Knicks-Pacers matchups of the 1990s? That was a level of entertainment not seen in the NBA since.
A Heat-Thunder finals, or better yet a Lebron-Durant finals, would be a treat for basketball fans. But given that it would cause a serious spike in sports wagering, bookies are really the ones getting excited.
Sports bettors can place wagers with great international sportbooks like BetVictor, Bet365, Ladbrokes and Bodog. With all due respect to the Spurs, lets hope that the Thunder advance to the 2014 NBA Finals.