History tends to repeat itself a lot; not only in sports but in all of life. However, here we're only interested in the sports history. One such thing that has been consistent in NBA history is defense winning championships. Almost every time, one of the best defensive teams will win the championship. Now of course there are a few exceptions here and there, but you have to look at the overall picture. This, however, is not about defense in NBA history, but instead great big men winning championships. The majority of NBA championships have been won by teams who are lead by a great big man (almost always one who has very good defense, if not great defense). You can go all the way back to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to see that great big men have always been able to win championships with their great post play on both offense and defense (mainly defense though).
I only bring this up of course because of this year's NBA Finals matchup: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic . Now Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are both very good big men, but neither one could come close to being consider one of the best big men in the game (on both ends of the court). Of course I am talking about Dwight Howard , who most would agree is the best big man in the NBA right now. Howard has proved very worthy of that title thus far leading his Magic to the 3rd seed in the East, being a Top 5 defense in the NBA, winning the DPOY (well deserved), and getting his team past the favorites, the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James . Without a shadow of a doubt he has been the main reason for what has got the Magic into this year's NBA Finals. Of course there are always very important role players for every great team, so Rashard Lewis , Hedo Turkoglu , Rafer Alston , Courtney Lee , Mickael Pietrus , etc. have all contributed to the team's success as well.
The last 10 years in the NBA has been dominated by big men - as far as championships go. Shaquille O'Neal has four NBA titles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006), Tim Duncan has four titles (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007), Ben Wallace has a championship ((2004), and Kevin Garnett has a championships (2008). You can argue the Pistons were led by Chauncey Billups (but he couldn't get them one after Big Ben left) and Paul Pierce led the Celtics (although he couldn't get the Celtics one without KG), but regardless the last ten years of NBA champions have been dominated by big men (Shaq & Duncan combine for 8). Will Dwight Howard be next on the list of great big men to lead his team to a championship? Or will Kobe Bryant and the Lakers break the cycle?
There are some things to point toward a break in the dominance of big men. Howard is still very young and has never been in a situation like this before. Can he step up and rise above the pressure to prove he has what it takes at this young age to win his team a title? Kobe Bryant has contributed to three championships himself (although Shaq was with him too), and is the best player in the game. He has always been a great closer and clutch player that has gotten his teams deep into the playoffs almost every year. Phil Jackson is one of the all-time great coaches who knows them game just as good as anyone. Also, even when Shaq was young and first with the Magic, he led them to the only other Finals appearance for the Magic. He was swept 4-0 by the Rockets . However, they also had one of the best big men in the game with Hakeem Olajuwon (so Hakeem was just a better big man at that point in their careers).
There have been two all-time great players who have risen above dominate big men and led their team to championships: Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Yes, both did have very good defensive big men who contributed to their teams' success, but it goes without saying that MJ and Bird were the ones who led the teams to the championships. Now Kobe has been an all time great player, but he is not in the class yet of MJ and Bird. However, if he can led his team this year and win a championships without any dominate big man (like Shaq), then I believe he could be entered into that group of the NBA's greatest wingmen (although it doesn't mean he is just as good or better). He might need to win another one to really solidify that, but I would be satisfied with just this year (but that's just me).
So this is definitely something to think about when watching this year's NBA Finals. Will we see history repeat itself again? Or will we see one of those exceptions when a great player rises above it? Will Dwight Howard be able to handle the pressure and be good enough to lead his team to the championship, or is he still too young and not enough developed offensive game? Can Kobe finally win a championship without Shaq and thus solidify his name on the list of the NBA's greatest wingmen? For me, I've always been a fan of defense and will always root for defense to come out on top. I'm a big Howard fan, but I also remain in a pact between Pistons and Lakers so I cannot officially root against the Lakers. I will be happy with who ever wins the championship this year to be honest, so I will just sit back and enjoy the NBA Finals while the rest of you argue over who is better and who will win. I just figured I'd give you all something more to add to your discussions.