beauty

The beauty of Butler vs. LeBron is that there’s an encore coming

The beauty of basketball comes often from its flow and form, with offensive players moving in unison to create a good shot, the ball zipping from one side to the other until it somehow finds the open shooter, the players on both sides seemingly attached by a string.

It can be a dance and, at its best, it can be a gorgeous thing.

But sometimes it’s boiled down to a basic form, me against you, my best against your best, stop me if you can.

That may be the enduring image of the NBA Finals, now headed to a Game 6 on Sunday night.

Jimmy Butler vs. LeBron James, with a bunch of other guys on the court. Stars being stars, big shots followed by bigger shots and, as James said after Butler and the Miami Heat beat him and the Lakers on Friday, “that’s the beauty of the game.”

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model

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat challenge the LeBron James superteam model

When Leonard made his power move last offseason, signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and convincing Paul George to force a monster trade to join him, the two-time Finals MVP was hailed as the competitor who balanced the league. He had no interest in joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis to form a superteam with the Los Angeles Lakers. He wanted to battle them, for L.A. and the Larry O’Brien Trophy. But his merge-with-a-peer approach was actually more of the same in this NBA era of nomadic superstars. Meanwhile, Butler was just an oddball, roving franchise player in search of something indecipherable.

Well, you can decipher what he was searching for now.

Butler left a young, star-studded cast in Philadelphia for a gritty Miami squad that didn’t make the playoffs in 2019. It seemed to be change for the sake of change. In reality, it was the genius decision of

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