Big 3 vs. Big 3.

Who’s gonna stop LeBron James?

Ditto, Tony Parker.

These are only a few of the questions and comparisons involved in breaking down the NBA Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. On paper, it’s compelling. Once played out on the hardwood itself, the sky really could be the limit.

The very nature of these two teams going up against each other makes for fascinating story telling. The Spurs are perennially an under-the-radar entity, mainly because of their San Antonio setting and head coach Greg Popovich’s near-maniacal abhorrence of press coverage of any sort. The Heat, on the other hand, have been an in-your-face PR machine played to a salsa beat since the day Mr. James brought his talents to South Beach and joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Years from now, this series could be looked upon as one for the ages. Future Hall of Famers abound when considering the lofty credentials of James, Wade, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Popovich.

But don’t be surprised if a Kahwi Leonard, a Gary Neal, a Mario Chalmers or a Chris Andersen ends up being the deciding factor in who holds up the Larry O’Brien championship trophy. Both teams supporting casts and bench players are that talented and influential in contributing to their respective runs of success.

So, who’s going to win? With the defending champs holding home court advantage, an edge must be checked off on their side of the ledger. Then again, the 2-3-2 Finals schedule setup does throw a monkey wrench into that thinking if the Spurs — despite their long layoff entering the championship round — are able to steal one of the two opening contests in Miami.

San Antonio is big in the paint with Duncan and Tiago Splitter, but that duo doesn’t pose the rim protection on defense that Indiana’s Roy Hibbert so dominantly did in the East Conference finals.

Will Neal, Danny Green and Matt Bonner prevail from 3-point range, or will it be the always dangerous from downtown Allen and Shane Battier?

And, then there’s that little matter of LeBron and Tony P. San Antonio’s Leonard and Miami’s Chalmers — understatement of understatements coming up — will have their hands full hoping to slow down the engines who motor their respective Heat and Spur offenses.

In trying to pick this thing I can go either way, and for a multitude of reasons. With gun firmly to my head, though, I’ll go with the Spurs in 7 games because they can play any style of basketball, whether it’s a run and gun affair in the 100s, or a slow-down defensive struggle in the 80s. They just play better as a team, while the Heat really do rely on King James to rule the roost.

No matter what happens though, one thing is certain. As opposed to what occurred in their first regular season meeting last November — when Popovich found himself $250,000 lighter in the wallet after holding Duncan, Parker and Ginobli out of the lineup in Miami — and then late in March when Eric Spoelstra rested LeBron and D-Wade in the Alamo City — all of the stars will be aligned and playing as much as possible in the ultimate quest for a championship.

And for that, all of us will be the beneficiaries.


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