Let us, for now, refrain from analysis and predictions. Steer your mind clear of the match-ups and the coaching and GM relationships, and instead revel in the joy of what has been given to the Spurs and their fans: something really worth winning.
That may came across as heresy to Spurs fans who've spent much energy fighting the "asterisk," but not all championships are created equal. You cannot sincerely value the '99 and '03 titles equally without totally ignoring context. '99 featured a strike-shortened season and beating the 8th seeded Knicks in the finals. '03 featured the emphatic ending of the Lakers run (on their floor), a beatdown of in-state rivals Dallas and Duncan nearly posting a quadruple double in the deciding game of the finals against the upstart Nets, unequivocally proving the rightful man won the MVP.
Let's face it, another Finals triumph over the Pistons would have been sparsely viewed by general NBA fans and apathetically covered by the media. How exactly would the writers have framed the contest? A rematch of the '05 finals: a rematch no one outside of Detroit and San Antonio wanted to see. Hell, even I was at least partially dreading having to watch that series.
But thanks to Lebron (with a nod to the Pistons poor coaching, defense, effort, everything) the context for the finals has been changed. We now have a series with multiple compelling storylines:
-Pop vs. (idiot-savant) protege.
-The overwhelming, lopsided public support for Lebron and the Cavs. Seriously, what % of NBA fans will be rooting for the Spurs? 10% tops? When's the last time an NBA finals has had that clear a public favorite?
-Lebron having to go through The Best Power Forward Ever for his first title, thus trumping Dwyane Wade. Hell, even if Lebron loses this will go down as the series he "learned what it takes to be a champion."
-Dirty Bruce vs. The Air Apparent. What would happen if Bruce was to crowd Lebron and turn his ankle? What would the public outcry be like? How many death threats would he receive? Stern would have to give Bowen a Secret Service escort, right?
-Varejao vs. Oberto. Who flops more?
-Boobie. Never underestimate the public allure of a man named Boobie.
-The Spurs teams defense vs. Lebron. Does Pop double team him constantly? Does anyone get a shot at him besides Bruce?
-Does Michael Finley, one of the most well-liked and respected guys in the league, finally get his ring?
-If the Spurs win with Duncan efficiently controlling both ends of the floor and earning his 4th finals MVP, does this do anything to shift public perception of the most accurate definition of the word "dominant?" (This is an even more pertinent question in the context of Lebron's performance in game 5 of the ECF.)
The most important aspect of those storylines is the words that are conspicuously absent. Phoenix Suns. Robert Horry. Amare Stoudemire. Stu Jackson. Suspensions. Asterisk.
Lebron did something the Spurs couldn't. He's rewritten the story. He's both heightened and shifted the focus of these playoffs, and in doing so he's given the Spurs the chance to win something untainted. And for that we should all be thankful.