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.
The Heat looked good in staving off the Celtics late last week, but for two years, this Miami team has played with the weight of the cosmos strapped to its back.
Meanwhile, the Thunder mostly plays with an endearing spirit.
“We're young, athletic, energetic,” Ivey said. “When guys make plays, whether it's one through 15, we're all happy for each other. That's hard to find in the NBA, that guys are legitimately happy for guys when they do well on the court, because it's a business. When we get on the court, we're competing for minutes and contracts and stuff like that. But on this team, it's a little bit different. We look at each other like brothers.”
That could change, eventually. Hard to maintain that kind of culture year after year. Who knows if Oklahoma City ever will find itself in such a time as this. Hard to stay young and beautiful.
Just ask the 1977 TrailBlazers, a wondrously youthful NBA champion that proved to be a one-hit wonder, or the 2005 and 2006 Suns, another American sweetheart that never even reached the NBA Finals.
But for now, the Thunder is all golden and light.
They have the superstar who hugs his mother and covers his tattoos and makes last-second shots, not the superstar who jilted Cleveland and staged a championship celebration before a championship was won and now gets every move microscoped, even while playing historically fabulous basketball.
“They're fresh, they're new, they're exciting,” Battier said. “They play an exciting brand of basketball. We got a bunch of old guys that people are tired of seeing.”
That's just the way it goes in this Star Wars sport that demands championships and is ready to trump LeBron and latch on to a lovable team in a galaxy far, far away on the Oklahoma prairie.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.