Nos bras meurtris vous tendent le flambeau, à vous toujours de le porter bien haut.
To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.
The above passage is from the poem In Flanders Fields and is the Montreal Canadiens motto that is painted on their dressing room wall. But it just as well could have been written about this year's NBA Finals matchup. The upcoming Oklahoma City Thunder-Miami Heat series has an indisputable "new era" feeling to it, and for good reason - regardless of the winning team, it will mark a new age in the NBA.
While every NBA Finals have a historical feel to it, this year it is amplified for a couple of reasons - the teams and the players involved.
In a few weeks, either LeBron James or Kevin Durant will win their first NBA championship. And with it their legacies will be cemented - either positivily or negatively - for all eternity. The winning superstar will be welcome with open arms into the "greatest player of all-time" discussion, while the other (assuming it is LeBron), will continue to carry a scarlet letter. And with the ages of both superstars and their supporting casts, the winner could be on his way to a - gasp, dare we say it - dynasty.
But it's not just the players involved that make this feel like a historic NBA Finals. The way that both of the teams got to this point is the biggest indicator that we are turning the page on a new era in the NBA. Only six different teams have won the NBA championship since 1999 (San Antonio, Lakers, Detroit, Miami, Boston, and Dallas) and in the course of this year's playoffs, the Heat and the Thunder have knocked off four of these squads themselves. Durant, Russell Westbrook and company sent Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan home early from the playoffs. LeBron and the Heat took care of Boston's Big Three plus Rajon Rondo. For Boston, San Antonio, the Lakers, and Dallas, this is more than just a bump in the road - it has an End of Days feel to it. There's no way these teams will be back to the pinnacle of the league in their current configurations built on their aging stars. And the youth of the Thunder and Heat make it seem like they will be the guardians of the NBA thrown for years to come.
Dirk, Kobe, Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have passed the torch (well, not really passed it - more like had it ripped from their cold, dead hands). Which young buck will hold it high?