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Everyone, well, except for Florida and Washington state, is in love with the Thunder

Thunder benchwarmer Royal Ivey said: “Guys in a small market. We play the right way. Like a brotherhood. How can't you like us?”
by Berry Tramel Published: June 11, 2012

Evil vs. Evil is a standard NBA Finals plot. Celtics-Lakers. Mark Cuban-Heatles.

But Good vs. Evil makes an appearance, too. Dwight Howard, back when he wore a white hat, and the starless Pistons, both against the Kobe Lakers.

But in this Star Wars Finals that comes to Oklahoma City, it's not just Good vs. Evil. It's Lovable vs. Evil. It's America's sweethearts against the Galactic Empire.

It's the Thunder skywalkers — these barely grown guys who let out war whoops after big buckets and grow funky beards and wear shirts straight out of Urkel's garage sale – against the Darth Vaders. Miami Heat? Miami Hate is more like it.

The Thunder is the team America loves to love. The Heat is the team America loves to see lose.

In ESPN's poll of fan preference, the Thunder carried every state except Florida (home of the Heat) and Washington (home of Seattle). No surprise.

“We're the college team,” said Thunder benchwarmer Royal Ivey. “Guys in a small market. We play the right way. Like a brotherhood. How can't you like us?”

Meanwhile, the Heat has committed crimes against the sport. Superstar collusion, with LeBron and Chris Bosh taking their talents to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade and doing so with little decorum.

Few like the way Pat Riley constructed the Heat. Miami drafted only two players on its current roster (Wade and Dexter Pittman) and traded for only two more (Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole).

Meanwhile, Sam Presti built the Thunder the old-fashioned way. Every player came via draft or trade, except Derek Fisher and Ivey.

Basketball fans cheered the Mavericks' title a year ago and will do the same if the Baby Boomers can ruin a Heat Finals for the second straight year.

Miami swingman Shane Battier played at Duke, which long has worn the villain's cape on college hardwoods, and signed on to be a heavy with the Heat.

“It's very similar,” Battier said. “I go back to the thing Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) always told us. When you're invoking emotion — whether it's hatred, love, whatever — you're doing something. You have to worry when people are apathetic about you or your team. Probably means you're on your way out.”

The Heat certainly doesn't seem on its way out, even though two games ago there was talking of breaking up the Miami Round(ball) Machine.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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