Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said that, "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical." Notwithstanding the humor of Berra's quirky math, his statement applies to sports well beyond the diamond. This year's NBA Finals is certainly an example.
The Heat had a 15 point lead with 7:15 left in the 4th quarter of game two after Wade buried a corner three. Dallas called time out and Wade kept his follow-thru hand raised as he walked to the bench while James gazed into his eyes and then gave him a few playful jabs to the chest. LeBron later denied that they were prematurely celebrating but it may be tempting for LeBron James haters or anyone annoyed by last summer's vainglorious antics to see a pattern of premature celebrating and gloat at the 4th quarter collapse of the Miami heat in game two and their larger collapse in the series.
Perhaps James and Wade really weren't celebrating after Wade's three-pointer and perhaps in their mutual stare expressed their understanding that, to quote Yogi Berra again, it ain't over till it's over -- and that they needed, more than ever, to be focused and mentally tough and keep clawing like they were being by 15 points.
But they didn't do that.
It was the Dallas Mavericks who showed focus and mental toughness throughout this series.
It was the Mavs who maintained their game faces, even through the last moments of their game six closeout victory last night (at least the Mavs on the court did that).
Poise and perspective and restraint are the skills of veteran players. Disappointment and frustration and outright embarrassment teach them well. In that respect, the Miami Heat should be a tougher Finals opponent next time.
For now James and the Heat may have owned top billing on the most spectacular highlights of the finals but it was the more experienced veterans -- Dirk Nowitski, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry -- taking control, dominating the pressure moments of this series.
And come to think of it, when was the last time a really young team won an NBA Finals?