Both unstoppable in their own ways, one player is battling the demons after self-anointing himself as a savior while the other has exceeded every expectation since coming to America.
The only difference is for one, the championship opportunities are just beginning, for the other, this might be the final opportunity to capture that elusive first title.
The Mavericks weren’t supposed to be the best team in the Western Conference.
With an aging roster and season-ending injuries to its two best shooting guards, Dallas was barley favored to win its opening round series against the Trail Blazers.
For everything the team lacked, Nowitzki’s brilliance on offense made up of any deficiencies.
Just .2 points behind Kevin Durant for the league lead in playoff scoring average, his 28.4 points per game matches a career-high in the post season and is even better than his previous championship campaign in 2006.
Although he isn’t rebounding at the same rate, averaging a staggering 11.7 rebounds per game, leading the league in post season rebounds five years ago, Nowitzki has teamed with Tyson Chandler to form one of the most dominating rebounding duos in the league.
With Chandler to focus on protecting the rim and dominating the glass has enabled Nowitzki to light up opponents on offense.
Submitting one the finest playoff performances of his career, the seven-footer proved from anywhere on the floor, with any type of defender on him, he is deadly.
Shooting 51 percent from the field and three-point range along with his nearly flawless performance at the free throw line, opponents have no choice but to surrender astronomical point totals to the 32-year-old.
A victory would solidify Nowitzki as more than the greatest European player of all-time. A title would make coach Rick Carlisle’s claim of Nowitzki being one of the 10 greatest players of all-time not so outlandish.
Dubbed the Chosen One before earning his high school diploma, the latest controversy surrounding James is the possibility of becoming the greatest player of all-time.
Greatness in the NBA is measured by titles over nearly everything else. Jordan carried his team to three-straight championships on two separate occasions, constantly refining his game and generating motivation from perceived slights.
By joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, James may have skirted around carrying a franchise to the title but the journey to the title has been just as treacherous as any other previous champion.
Vanquishing the Celtics in the second-round, the same team that knocked him out of the playoffs a year ago and triggered his departure from Cleveland, James drew plenty of negativity for celebrating the advancement of his team to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Already surviving against the two toughest defensive teams in the league, a date with the same team it won its first title five seasons ago awaits Miami.
Only four more victories stand in between both Nowtizki and James from becoming a legend.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat
Season Series: Dallas won 2-0
Game 1: Tuesday 9 p.m. ET on
Key for Dallas
The Mavericks have thrived this post season by throwing out multiple defenders on each superstar it faces. Limiting Kevin Durant to 43 percent shooting last series was a total team effort. Throwing five different defenders to stick him one-on-one, along with some zone defense allowed the Mavericks to confuse the Oklahoma City offense and never let the top scorer in the NBA feel comfortable on the floor.
Key for Miami
Surrendering an average of 47 rebounds during the two regular season meetings, the sizable rebounding advantage Dallas held led to a regular season sweep. Miami has been out-rebounded in each of its losses. Incredibly, against Chicago last round, the Heat were able to advance despite winning the rebound match-up just once throughout the series.
Serving essentially the same role for both teams, the team with the best play from its center will likely claim the 2011 championship. Both are expected to block shots, give their team the rebounding advantage and play exceptional help defense to shut down high scoring opponents.