There's no shortage of intriguing storylines stemming from the 2011 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. A rematch of 2006, it pits the Mavs, who notoriously blew a 2-0 series lead, against the League's most-hated team following "The Decision" and the excessive July celebration. A former MVP, Dirk Nowitzki or LeBron James, will either win the title and forever alter his respective legacy, or come up short in the Finals for the second time.
For Kings fans, there is a much smaller-scale, but perhaps more sentimentally meaningful outcome: regardless of which team wins it all, either Mike Bibby or Peja Stojakovic will become the second member of the unforgettable and beloved 2001-02 Sacramento team to finally win a ring (backup center Scot Pollard won one with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and understandably wears it all times).
It's been simultaneously sad and rewarding to watch the two ex-Kings, now in their thirteenth NBA seasons, reach the Finals for the first time in their respective careers, and impossible to enjoy their success without getting nostalgic about Sacramento’s glory years in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
It's also just as easy to forget how spectacular Stojakovic and Bibby (the top two three-point shooters in Kings franchise playoff history) once were while watching them struggle on the tail end of their remarkable careers.
After all, Stojakovic was a serious MVP candidate as recently as 2003-04 (when he finished fourth in the voting, ahead of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal) while carrying the team in Chris Webber's absence, and ranks first in three-pointers made (1,070; 1,760 for his career, fourth all-time) and free-throw percentage (.893); and second in points (9,498) and three-point accuracy (39.8%) in the Sacramento era. Bibby is, of course, responsible for hitting the greatest and most memorable shot in team history, and ranks first in assists (2,580), third in three-pointers (775) and steals (584), and fourth in points (8,384).
This season, however, each player suited up for three different teams after being traded to and subsequently bought out by lottery squads—Bibby as a Washington Wizard and Stojakovic as a Toronto Raptor will never cease to look strange—and then signing with contenders for the stretch-run. Bibby even gave up his guaranteed $6.2 million salary for next season for his best (and perhaps final) chance at a championship since suiting up in the purple and black.