After five weeks of intense playoff basketball, the 2024 NBA Finals are finally set. The top-seeded Boston Celtics will be duking it out with the surging Dallas Mavericks, who, like a classic case of a surprising finals team, got hot at the right time. 

Even if we forget team standings and streaks, though, it’s a matchup that’s rich in storylines, perhaps richer than any other matchup in recent memory. 

So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

Kyrie Irving vs. The People of Boston

It’s only right that we open things up with the most compelling of all, be it for the casuals or the diehards. Kyrie Andrew Irving is Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston – a city filled with absolute fanatics that hold grudges pretty good.

As we all know, the Celtics traded key players and picks for Irving in 2017, only for him to leave after just two seasons with one playoff series win. However, what truly made it worse is he publicly declared that he will re-sign with the team – a mere nine months prior to signing with the Brooklyn Nets.

What followed was a whole lot of nasty back-and-forth (one fan even got banned for life for throwing a water bottle at Irving), although at the end of the day, it’s still 1-1. Irving and the Nets booted the Celtics in the 2021 playoffs, 4-1, while Boston emphatically returned the favor the following year with a clean sweep.

We have one of the most talented players in the history of basketball getting motivated by a rageful city heckling him mercilessly. This face-off is bound to be a doozy

The Celtics finally facing a fully healthy team

First off, I really hope I am not jinxing the Mavericks here. Please, basketball gods.

Many are lukewarm to the Celtics’ run as they faced one undermanned team after another. In the first round, the Miami Heat didn’t have star leader Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier; in the second round, the Cleveland Cavaliers had no Jarrett Allen all series and All-Star Donovan Mitchell in the last two games; while in the conference finals, the Indiana Pacers lost All-Star Tyrese Haliburton in Games 3 and 4.

Obviously, none of that is the Celtics’ fault, and injuries are part of the game. Also, as the league-leading 64-18 team, they did what they’re supposed to do, and will now head into the finals boasting a 12-2 record in the 2024 postseason.

Another also: Porzingis (calf) has been injured since the first round and has only played four games in the playoffs. There’s belief that he may be available at some time in the finals

Nevertheless, this is among the list of things that make things intriguing. Will Boston get exposed, or will the critics get silenced?

Battle of the Exes

The carousel of stars teaming up basically made this possible. This is like a storyline for a soap opera that’s also tailor-made for sports fans.

Irving and Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum were supposed to be an explosive tandem in Boston, but it didn’t work because of a myriad of reasons. Interestingly enough, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis were also expected to be a marquee duo during their time in Dallas, but they failed too due to chemistry issues.

Now, Irving and Porzingis have traded places, and both are thriving, with each very much eager to show up their former teams. All four parties have each received blame for things not working out, yet they’re here together, competing on opposite sides. 

The coaches

Being a point guard in their playing days and a coach now are not the only similarities that Mavs HC Jason Kidd and Celtics HC Joe Mazulla share together. Both also have a chance to achieve unique feats.

Kidd is looking to be just the sixth man to win a championship for a team as a player and a head coach, a list that includes Rudy Tomjanovich (Rockets), KC Jones (Celtics), Billy Cunningham (76ers), Tommy Heinsohn (Celtics), and George Senesky (Philadelphia Warriors)

Mazulla, on the other hand, hopes to be the youngest coach to win an NBA championship in 55 years. He’s 35 (turning 36 on June 30th) and it will tie what the late Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell did in 1969 at the same age, coincidentally for the Celtics too.

Luka Doncic vs. Jayson Tatum

Pretty self-explanatory if you’re an NBA fan. It’s two of the best players in the league today–both named First Team All-NBA in each of the last three seasons–going mano y mano in the finals stage. Heavyweight vs. Heavyweight – plain and simple.

Check out their duel from 2022:

They can get points anywhere, have moves for days, and could punish defenses every which way. One will run out of adjectives to describe them as scorers, athletes, and competitors. 

Both have also had a couple of shortcomings in the postseason, for which they’ve been rightfully called out for, so it’s exciting to think that one of them is now going to win his first NBA championship. It’ll be a big-time redeemer.

Some say they are battling to be the “next face of the league.” It’s a somewhat questionable take, but whoever wins this has an opportunity to be an official top dog.