Who would have predicted Memorial Day would have had so many great sporting events to choose from? A near full slate of games in the MLB, a Western Conference final in the NHL, and a highly anticipated Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals in the NBA. Monday’s Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat had a particular intrigue because of the possible historic ramifications.
After heading out to a 3-0 series lead, Miami allowed the Celtics to tie the series at three games apiece heading into Monday’s game. No team in NBA had ever gone down three games and won a best-of-seven series. As of today, that’s still the case with the Heat winning the deciding game and setting up an NBA Finals matchup against the Denver Nuggets, and it has no shortage of storylines. A league MVP looking to make his mark on NBA history, a head coach looking to make a name for himself in the second stage of his career.
Training camp is right around the corner for the Cowboys, but the NBA Finals is the big sporting event now. Two teams on the cusp reaching the pinnacle of their sport, something Cowboys Nation has been waiting a long time for.
What If we were to bring the NFL and NBA worlds together? To be specific, which Dallas Cowboys and coaches compare favorably to members of the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat that will take center stage in this year’s NBA Finals?
Dak Prescott x Jimmy Butler
Stepping out from the shadow of fan favorites, Jimmy Butler and Dak Prescott share a lot in common. The pair are defined by their tireless work ethic and exceptional leadership while having a prominent vocal presence for their respective teams. If something needs to be said, you can be assured that Dak Prescott and Jimmy Butler won’t be shy or mince their words. Despite not winning it all, each of them has been mostly a very good performer in the postseason. Dak Prescott has a 92.3 QB rating in the postseason and has thrown eleven touchdowns versus five interceptions in playoff games. Meanwhile, Butler has averaged nearly 28 points per game in the playoffs over the last two years.
Resilience is the trait that makes them so comparable, but also embodies what has propelled them among the best in their field. The pair were selected with marginal draft capital in their sport and began to flourish once the established star of their team sustained an injury. Their toughness between the lines of play speaks for itself. Butler and Prescott have shown they are willing to do whatever it takes to progress and neither player is hesitant to leave it all on the field.
Mike McCarthy x Erik Spoelstra
When you consider it, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra are alike in a few ways. The two have experienced success in the past with arguably the top players of their coaching generation (Aaron Rodgers and LeBron James) and are known for their ability to motivate and lead their teams. Also similar to one another, they are tasked with having to prove their independent greatness as coaches without those said all-time great players on their team.
McCarthy and Spoelstra have had success for a sustained length of time largely due to their longevity and stability. The coaches have had their team in constant contention to make the postseason and neither struggle to return to the postseason for an extended period if they should fail to qualify in any given season.
The two have a winning percentage of near or better than sixty percent. McCarthy and Spoelstra have demonstrated they are adept at player development and creating a strong team culture, with both understanding the importance of adapting their systems to their players. Players speak glowingly of each coach and how they can create a rapport with their players.
Leighton Vander Esch x Aaron Gordon
Cowboys’ linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Denver forward Aaron Gordon hold a reputation as rugged defenders who have above-average athleticism for their singular positions. Vander Esch can make plays from sideline to sideline, play the Mike linebacker, or rush from the edge in certain sub-packages. Plus, Vander Esch has very good football instincts to defend the run, making him a valuable asset for the Cowboys’ defense. Meanwhile, Gordon is skillful enough to guard multiple positions and provide a shot-blocking and rebounding presence. His defensive abilities make him a valuable component of the Nuggets’ defensive scheme.
Vander Esch has the athleticism to cover ground quickly. Similarly, Gordon’s physical traits allow him to excel in transition, score near the basket, and contribute in various facets of the game. Because of how varied the two players are, their coaches can be creative with the personnel surrounding them. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can design exotic fronts and coverages around Vander Esch, while Nuggets coach Mike Malone can deploy several different lineups thanks to Gordon’s vast assortment of traits.
CeeDee Lamb x Jamal Murray
CeeDee Lamb is notorious for his premier route-running ability, precise hands, and agility on the field. He has shown a proclivity for making acrobatic catches and is a certified dynamic playmaker in the NFL. His creativity in how he gets separation from defenders is truly unique. Jamal Murray is a highly skilled scorer. He is recognized for his scoring versatility, with the ability to shoot from deep range, finish at the rim, and create his own shot off the dribble. Both are famously known for their ability to contort themselves in midair to either make a highlight reel catch or a spectacular bucket.
Lamb and Murray are still young players, with significant potential for further growth in their separate fields. They have already showcased impressive skills and will continue to develop into impactful players for their teams. Lamb and Murray can take over games with their offensive output, create opportunities for their teammates, and provide a scoring threat anytime they touch the ball.
Jayron Kearse x Bam Adebayo
Size and craftiness personified, Jayron Kearse and Miami Heat Center Bam Adebayo use their diverse set of traits to aid in anchoring their team’s defenses. Kearse and Adebayo have the talent to be impact players on a regular basis. Standing at 6’9” with a strong build and excellent athleticism, Adebayo compares favorably to Kearse. Their length and technique for their positions allow them to contribute in several different ways.
Kearse, as an NFL safety, also possesses ideal physical attributes. At 6’4, he can match up against taller receivers and contribute to both pass coverage and run defense. Kearse can also defend smaller, quick players as well. Adebayo is notable for his defensive utility. He can guard multiple positions, ranging from guards to centers. Akin to Kearse, Adebayo’s defensive talents contribute to the Miami Heat’s ability to switch personnel and disrupt opposing offenses.
Micah Parsons x Nikola Jokić
When you say the word “Unicorn” in sports, it defines these players. Adjectives like “special” or “unique” don’t begin to tell the story of the unreal talents that are Micah Parsons and Nikola Jokić. Jokić, dubbed the Joker, has a profound impact on the game. As the centerpiece of the Denver Nuggets offense, he orchestrates the team’s playmaking and scoring, averaging triple-double numbers as a center. Jokić’s passing, scoring, and rebounding abilities make him a dominant force and a matchup nightmare for opponents.
Ditto for Micah Parsons. In his brief career, Parsons has showcased remarkable aptitude to play in many areas on defense and has drawn comparisons to some of the game’s best to have ever played. He has the athleticism and speed to excel in both coverage and pass-rushing situations. It’s not just speed however, Parsons’ understanding of the game at such a young age puts him in advantageous positions.
Nikola Jokić is similar in that dynamic. His IQ of the game has vaulted him into the record books. His elite production since 2021 rivals the all-time greats of his sport. Both Parsons and Jokić have the innate skill to create opportunities for their teammates based on the sheer threat of them being able to take over games. They don’t have to be directly involved in a play to force the opposing team to account for them. Both players are effective communicators that demand the most from themselves, with an insatiable hunger to improve and dominate. The way Parsons can rush the passer with an arrayed arsenal, Jokić can score near the basket with an assortment of go-to and counter moves. Whatever mythical creature you want to characterize Jokić and Parsons, it’s not like anything you’ll see for a long time after their time comes.