Orlando Magic NBA Finals Guide: Leaders push their team to new plane

LeBron James was able to keep the Los Angeles Lakers in the lead and hold off the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
LeBron James was able to keep the Los Angeles Lakers in the lead and hold off the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s in-state rivals are back in the NBA Finals and matching up against arguably the best player of all-time in the sports first bubble NBA Finals.

It is almost October and the NBA Finals are here.

A team from Florida is competing for a championship but it will not be the Orlando Magic.

The Miami Heat led by Jimmy Butler and a young athletic gritty Heat team with the type of three-point shooting that can dismantle a defensive game plan. They meet arguably the best player of all-time in a NBA Finals unlike any other coming from the NBA’s campus at Disney with no fans for the ultimate bragging rights.

The Magic too were a team that no one expected to make a run, yet they failed to have a star like Butler who can infectiously motivate younger guys to play passed their potentials.

Nikola Vucevic turned into a star during his tenure with the Magic, but he could not get his younger players (like Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba) or second and third options to play to the level that Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson have risen to.

The Magic had a better playoff showing. But they are clearly missing an element of talent and leadership on the roster to reach the heights the Heat have quickly reached.

Now Jimmy Butler has morphed his supporting cast into a championship level squad who is trying to prevent LeBron James from his fourth NBA Finals victory.

These teams are playing for something more. But both Butler and James have done wonders pushing their teams — throughout their careers really — to another level. The Magic can watch these Finals and the Playoffs, in general, knowing they need team leaders who can elevate their team from within.

Both James and Butler seem to be on a mission to erase the doubters from the last previous seasons.

Butler had played on three teams in three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat. Butler kind of built a narrative in the media he was not tolerable in organizations for whatever reason, whether it was his drive or the way he approached the game was making players feel uncomfortable and have a look in the mirror about what they really were there for. Or if he really spoke to the core players on teams differently.

Butler wants to erase that notion, and really already has because no one picked the Heat to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals. And if you did someone would have every right to ask you to get drug tested due to how the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics looked in the regular season. But yet they are here and Butler is the unquestioned leader of the team. He wants to upset James.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But James has different plans.

A win would add another title to James’ legacy, something he very much wants before he retires. Not that this will happen any time soon — James has reached the Finals in nine of the past 10 seasons. An additional title will inch him closer to “the ghost in Chicago” as he says who has six Finals MVP’s with no losses or Game 7 games to decide championships.

A win for Jimmy Butler would put him in the arguably top-5 player in the NBA with a win over LeBron James in an underdog role like how Dirk Nowitzki did back in 2011 against this same organization.

A loss for James would all but eliminate him from the GOAT conversations in the mind of the Jordan fans because he would be 3-7 in Finals matchups, with two upset losses.

This seems like destiny for James. He has the Lakers as the top seed in the vaunted Western Conference. They had their own difficult path to the Finals having to take on a streaking Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, the offensive maelstrom that is James Harden and the Houston Rockets and a difficult and confident Denver Nuggets team.

In the end, though, the Lakers have dominated the competition. They are 12-3 entering the Finals. They avoided the LA Clippers thanks to their second-round collapse. But if anyone knows how to dial in for the playoffs, it is James. He has always pulled his teams along to the title. This team is no different.

James has proven not only to be the best player in the game but arguably the best to ever play this well at this point in his career. To this day no player in NBA history has been the best player in the NBA in their 17th season. James has evolved, but he showed in Game 5 against the Nuggets he can still take over and put a team to rest.

But that is not enough for James, judging by his emotional-less reaction to winning the Western Conference Finals. A title is the only thing that will suffice.

And he will get that title in my opinion.

dark. Next. Evaluations: Nikola Vucevic's game continues to evolve

But the lesson is how much these leaders have cemented their legacy by pulling teams and players to a higher plane. A lesson the Magic are surely observing.