Did LeBron James and company create a monster? Consider the lightning...
It's not good news for LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and coach Eric Spoelstra, but it seems the champion Heat is making its rival OKC Thunder better--and paying the price. NBA history books are filled with teams that battled an adversary over and over before finally coming into their own. The "Bad Boy" Pistons vanquished the Larry Bird-led Celtics before later being toppled by the Jordan-fueled Bulls in days of yore. The OKC Thunder has memorized this script. An elite team that succumbed to the Heat in a 2012 finals duel (and missed the chance due to injury last year), OKC now looks poised to overtake the two-time champion Heat. (They ripped the Heat in Miami in their last meeting, 112-95.)
What's special about this rivalry is that it all falls in line with science, which the Thunder roster--one of the brightest in the league--has doubtless noted. Rather than fight the very idea of the Heat, the Thunder has learned to be grateful for its nemesis. Sports historians like to point out how great rivalries contribute to the determination and strategy that ultimately pushes an underdog to the top spot. Muhammad Ali has said there'd be less to his story without rival Joe Frazier, and Michael Jordan probably wins fewer championships if Joe Dumars doesn't defer his dream a few times in Detroit. But the Thunder is a special case, because its rivalry creates a beautiful metaphor. In the earth's atmosphere, thunder is literally created by heat. If there's no heat, there's no thunder at all. Derek Fisher, the great veteran and multiple champion, currently playing guard and sage in Oklahoma, definitely knows that "Thunder is caused by the rapid heating (and then cooling) of the air from lightning. Lightning is exceptionally hot so when it passes through the air, it heats up very rapidly. This causes a rapid expansion of the air column followed immediately by rapid contraction due to the air cooling back down. This sends out a shockwave through the atmosphere." In the NBA they call that shockwave Kevin Durant.
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