As the Miami Heat dispatched of a veteran Boston Celtics team in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night, NBA executives and their sponsors must have been jumping for joy. Because the showdown looming between the Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder is dripping with story lines and drama that will surely boost TV ratings. The people’s choice seems to be the Thunder (except perhaps in select and overly-bitter neighborhoods in Seattle). Their youthful exuberance, fun-loving and likeable stars featuring league scoring champ Kevin Durant, and the charm and fervor of their basketball-crazed mid-market city is a breath of fresh air for all to see. Then you’ve got the Heat, who have become akin to the New York Yankees since the LeBron trade in that fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em. If you respect the way LeBron plays or are simply a devoted fan, you want to see him silence his critics and finally win an NBA championship. If you disrespect the way LeBron left his hometown Cavaliers, or you felt The Decision was tacky, or you feel it was too easy for the Heat to simply assemble their talent as they did without doing it largely through the draft as the Thunder have, then you will be rooting hard for OKC. But here’s the thing…love or hate move the needle because they move our emotions. They make us care. And we also like seeing things happen for the first time. Be it LeBron’s first ring or a group of young fun-sters that don’t know any better. Either way, it’ll be a great show. Don’t believe the Heat move the ratings needle? Consider that: – ESPN earned an 8.2 overnight Nielsen rating for Thursday night’s Heat-Celtics NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game Six, marking the best overnight ever for an NBA game on cable TV (with records dating back to 2003). The 8.2 rating surpassed the previous overnight record set by Game Four of the same series. – For the 2011 NBA Finals, the Heat-Mavs averaged a 10.2 Nielsen rating. So as the Heat arrive at the Finals yet again, the interest by folks on both sides of the LeBron James fence will be even more intense. Furthermore, the OKC Thunder are a more compelling story than the Mavericks were last year. Sure, it was fun to see outspoken owner Mark Cuban in the mix. Sure, it was nice to see the great Dirk Nowitzki finally receive recognition as the great player he is. But Dirk simply doesn’t have the same “it” factor that Kevin Durant possesses. He’s not American, and he doesn’t have the same sleek and cool demeanor. Sleek, cool, and familiar move the ratings needle.