The last three Finals series have been a wellspring for NBA fans, regardless of where your allegiances lie. But I’m not going to waste time trying to convince anyone why you should be excited for yet another Cavs-Warriors showdown. It’s a futile endeavor best left to the Mike Greenbergs of the world.
I get it. Watching Golden State shimmy their way to another Larry O’Brien trophy won’t be fun for anyone outside of the Bay Area. Our collective tolerance for the Warriors’ monolithic reign is plummeting toward its nadir, a fact rendered even more unpalatable after the Rockets had them on the ropes in the conference finals, only to have the fates intervene on their behalf in the form of Chris Paul’s hamstring.
And that last point underscores something that should inspire awe in even the most jaded and disaffected among us. Despite the dreadful specter of inevitability lingering over the proceedings, it took several acts of god to get both teams here. As with the 2007 version of the Cavs, future generations will look back on this Cleveland roster and marvel at how LeBron was somehow able to drag a dusty old bag of bones back to the Finals for a fourth straight year.
Let’s also not forget that he had several opportunities to mail it in and get an early start on the Summer of LeBron Redux. And who could’ve blamed him? He had little help from his teammates, and the only thing waiting for him at the end of a grueling gauntlet through the Eastern Conference playoffs was a likely beatdown at the hands of the Warriors.
Yet here we all stand at the terminus, and it’s hard not to feel like the circuitous and unlikely routes both teams used to get here are the canary in the coal mine, that they signal the curtain call of the Cavs-Warriors saga, the final chapter in what’s been the most compelling rivalry in modern NBA history and perhaps the best rivalry in all of pro sports in the last two decades.
Again, this isn’t a pep rally for the Finals. However, as a basketball fan, the past three championship series have blessed us with many timeless gifts. A miraculous 3-1 comeback that defied all logic. A sea-change in how the game will be played from here on out courtesy of the Splash Brothers’ historic shooting. Kyrie Irving’s championship-sealing step-back three-pointer in Steph Curry’s face. Kevin Love’s improbable lock-down defense on Curry. Andre Iguodala winning Finals MVP coming off the bench. Sad J.R. Smith leaving the arena on a hover-board after a loss. Draymond Green’s suspension. Kevin Durant’s legacy-defining three-pointer in LeBron’s face. LeBron’s incomprehensible chase-down block on Iguodala. Matthew Dellavedova playing so hard he ended up in the hospital. The Cavs’ gloriously petty Halloween party. J.R. Smith refusing to wear a shirt for an entire summer. CHINA KLAY. Eight consecutive Finals appearances for LeBron. A super-team ideology that has altered the NBA landscape, probably forever. RILEY CURRY. NBA Champion JaVale McGee. I could go on.
Just as in life, we have to take our meager pleasures wherever we can find them. So even if this Finals series is a lopsided anti-climactic affair, there should be plenty to keep us satiated for at least 4-5 games. For starters, LeBron’s superhuman performances up to this point have even his most ardent detractors wondering whether he has a legitimate claim to the title of Greatest of All Time.