The Making of a Golden State

It’s a bit dusty in the NBA but that could all be swept up should the Golden State Warriors run away with the Larry O’Brien trophy after Game 4. The Warriors have swept every series leading up to the Finals and currently sitting 15-0 with a 3-0 against the defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers.

The question will arise if the NBA is any competitive outside of the Warriors or Cavaliers. Both teams have at least two series sweeps in this postseason which flexes their dominance in their respective conferences. The notion of a “weak” and “noncompetitive” league will be argued this summer as the fear of Golden State becoming too great is almost a reality.

In the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NBA Players Union felt victorious as there was a settlement to finally receive a significant amount of money from the NBA’s TV deals. This also would help increase the salary cap at an aggressive rate. Take this for data, in the 2011-2012 season the Salary Cap was $54,044,000. In the current 2016-2017 season the salary cap is $94,143,000. That is a difference of 40,099,000 between the six seasons. Never before has there been such a bigger increase in the NBA’s salary cap.

The summer of 2016 was also one of the biggest yearly increases for the Salary Cap. The 2015-2016 season’s Salary Cap stood at a then high 70,000,000. As soon as July 1st, 2016 struck the $94,143,000 Salary Cap took effect. A $24,143,000 increase that has never before happened in NBA history. So what can a significant jump in Salary cap do for the NBA? It was significant enough to allow a 73-win team to sign arguably the second best player in the NBA in Kevin Durant. Cap smoothing was proposed to avoid the rapid growth over the past couple of seasons, however, declined by the players. The deal was done, the Salary Cap money high in demand would come sooner and faster to keep the players happy.

To Golden State’s benefit, they also did their homework well. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were both available to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings in their respective draft years. Instead in the 2009 Draft, the Kings took Tyreke Evans with the fourth pick. The Timberwolves passed up on Curry twice for Ricky Rubio with the fifth pick and selected Jonny Flynn with the sixth pick. In the 2011 Draft, the Kings passed up on Klay Thompson for Bismack Biyombo with the seventh pick and the Timberwolves selected  Derrick Williams with the second pick.

Call it luck or maybe it’s just Golden State and their management taking advantage of the greatest scenario at the best of times. Kevin Durant will feel the heat from media, fans, peers, and some old retired Hall of Fame players. It clearly has not distracted KD as he averages 34 points (56-percent from the field, 52-percent from three), 10 rebounds and six assists in the Warriors three Finals games so far.

The three-point dagger over LeBron James in Game 3 was one of the most defining moments of Durant’s career in taking a step towards greatness.

“Well KD is great but he’ll impact the rest.”

Stephen Curry is having the best NBA Finals of his career with Durant by his side. The two-time MVP is averaging 28.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 9.0 assists in the Warriors three games in the Finals thus far. Curry is also connecting on five threes a game while attempting 10 per game in the 2017 NBA Finals.

While it has been a rough postseason for Klay Thompson his NBA Finals has become his brightest moments in these three games. Thompson scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting in  Game 2. Game 3 was a hot start for Thompson as he rose to the occasion with 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field. Six of the 11 shots made were all from the three-point line.

The average age of Golden State’s four All-Stars is 28. A young prime and enough years left to create a dynasty without competition in sight. The concern of another Salary Cap jump like last Summer’s will be the least of the Warriors worries as it may be once in a generation’s scenario.

The confetti is awaiting its descent to the floor and Golden State fans are eagerly waiting with their brooms to clear the path to a dynasty.

LeBron James sees no issues with super-teams

Lebron James took the podium Thursday facing a 3-0 deficit to the Golden State Warriors. For the first time in his career, he states he is facing the “most firepower”. With Kevin Durant on the enemy lines, James personally couldn’t stop the difference the Warriors have this year. Durant would pull up on James with under a minute left in the 4th quarter to put the Warriors up one.

It may seem unfair to some or just a pure joy of entertaining basketball to others. Despite the Cavaliers in jeopardy of losing their title of World Champions in Game 4, LeBron has no issue with the powerhouse Golden State has become.

“It’s part of the rules,” James said Thursday. “Is it fair? I don’t care. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, who am I to say if it’s fair or not?”

What is fair is that nobody can blame the Warriors for all the teams that passed up on drafting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement blessed the Warriors in an odd way. A 73-win team, no significant draft position, and a team that was up 3-1 in the NBA Finals. The odds there was for Golden State not to achieve anything close to signing a star player yet alone arguably the second best player in the NBA.

On Thursday, James would make a final statement prior to walking off from his media availability.

“I’m not one to judge and say if it’s fair or not if guys are adding players to their team,” he said. “It happens. It’s sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it.

“Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody.”

Source: NBA.com

Warriors take 2-0 lead and move to 14-0 in the postseason

The talk of Game 2 was how is Cleveland going adjust and come to better prepare for Golden State and their new guy. Yeah, the former MVP and four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant.

It was only a three-point lead with the score at 67-64, advantage Golden State at the half. It was a better game already from the Cavaliers supporting cast. LeBron James poured in 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds at the half. The hope for a more competitive Game 2 was in sight until the fourth quarter.

Golden State was led by Durant who finished with 33 points, (13-of-22 from the field), 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and five blocks. Stephen Curry was the runner-up behind Durant as he finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Both members of the Warriors continue to dominate their opponents as the Warriors are now 14-0 in the postseason.

While Klay Thompson struggled in the postseason Game 2 was a bit of a coming out party. Thompson finished with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. He would connect on 4-of-7 three-point attempts.

The Warriors biggest lead was 22 points as they held the Cavaliers to 45-percent shooting (27-percent from three). The ironic part of Game 2 is that the turnover battle was won by Cleveland who finished with only nine turnovers. The Warriors finished with 20 turnovers but connecting on 18-of-43 three-point shots helped negate the mishandling of the ball.

Cavaliers Guard, Kyrie Irving struggled in Game 2 as he finished with 19 points on 8-of-23 from the field. Kevin Love finished with 27 points and seven rebounds. The Cavalier bench was able to score 30 points tonight with Kyle Korver leading all bench players with eight points. J.R. Smith continues to struggle as he only played 13 minutes and was held scoreless after shooting 0-of-2 from the field.

Coincidently, the Cavaliers were down 0-2 heading back to Cleveland last year on June 5th, 2016. Fast forward to present day and the Cavaliers are now going back to Cleveland, advantage Golden State in the same fashion.

Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr returned to the sidelines Sunday night after missing most of the postseason due to complications from his back surgery.

Game 3 is in Cleveland on Wednesday night. Tip-off is at 9 PM EST on ABC.

Baseline Times NBA Staff: Finals Predictions

It’s a rubber match between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Our writers make their predictions for the NBA Finals, which tip off Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 in the Key Podcast Episode 41: NBA Finals Preview

Chevy, Gabe, and Markus from the Baseline Times Media NBA Team join in a discussion about the 2017 NBA Finals. The trio previews the Finals and sounds off about the match-ups. Tune in now to find out who they are rolling with!

Find us on iTunes!

Stephen A. Smith: Wrong Six Years in a Row

Normally I would tell you to ignore every word that comes out of the overly obnoxious and unbearable ESPN Analyst Stephen A. Smith. I realize that he’s arguably one of the better NBA journalist and his persona on the show First Take is merely a character to rile up audiences and increase ratings, (hello Lavar Ball) but his ridiculous hot takes are too much for me on a daily basis. However, if you’re a gambling man, you might want to perk up those ears for Stephen A. Smith’s latest prediction.

Well there you have it – Golden State Warriors will be taking home the Larry O’Brien Trophy… Or will they?

Did you know that LeBron James has made the NBA Finals seven years in a row? All your co-workers and friends will love telling you that stat, and why not? It’s an impressive streak that hasn’t been accomplished in over 50 years since the Bill Russell era as the Boston Celtics went to six straight. But, if you really want to impress your peers with some great water cooler talk you can tell them about a similar and also impressive (depending who you ask) streak. Stephen A. Smith has now wrongly predicted the NBA Finals Champion for SIX STRAIGHT YEARS!

Don’t believe me? Peep the video below and see for yourself.

Please excuse me while I go find my bookie.

2017 NBA Finals: Five Fast Facts

The 2017 NBA Finals is set to start this coming Thursday, June 1st. There are a few unique circumstances that surround this year’s Finals than of the norm.

  • This will be Lebron James’ seventh straight NBA Finals appearance. The last time James failed to make an NBA Finals was in 2010 when the Boston Celtics eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • For the first time in NBA history, the same two teams will meet in the NBA Finals for the third straight time. Yes, this is correct. Even the Lakers-Celtics rivalries did not produce a trilogy in the 1980’s.
  • There will be seven players who made the All-Star team this season playing in the NBA Finals. Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson will represent the Warriors. Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love round out the final three for Cleveland.
  • Although the Cavaliers are the defending champs, the Warriors are favored in Vegas. Lebron clearly brushed off the notion by saying, “I only play blackjack in Vegas anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
  • These two teams don’t go without a bit of trash talk. Last year’s Halloween party for the Cavaliers featured decorations that threw much shade at the Warriors. A band named “3-1 Lead” make a special appearance. Let’s not forget this footage from earlier in the season where Draymond Green advised that he would like to “annihilate” the Cavaliers.

Lebron James: It’s Time to Appreciate

Photo by: Keith Allison

Here it is. A calling to fans in distaste for the “The King”, “the kid from Akron”, or LeBron James. Please do not close the link and consider that you watch sports for greatness right? Who wants to watch bad basketball all their lives? Take it from me, I HATED Lebron! Hate is a strong word depending on how you look at it. Every chance to see Lebron lose was like Christmas Day with an abundance of presents under the tree. Another Lebron failure was another win in my book. I know what you’re saying, however, there is no way you can persuade me. I’m sold he’s not worth a damn respecting!

I was a young teen attending Lebron’s first summer league game in the summer of 2003. It was the few times summer league was opened to the public in Orlando. The last game of the first night included the 18-year old kid from Akron, Ohio. Freshly drafted out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Of course the hosting city, my Orlando Magic would be up against the number one pick. The Magic were debuting Rookie Reece Gaines out of Louisville whom they selected with the 15th pick in the 2003 draft.

Now mind you, I hardly believed in the hype of Lebron James. The buzz for this kid just was purely ridiculous. The arena cheered loudly for Lebron as he took the floor. There was a buzz for the other team which I took extreme distaste for since we’re talking about my hometown team not having much the frenzy. Right in front my face I witnessed the start of a career for Akron’s hero. Today, I now realize why the loud cheers in the summer of 2003 were all for James.

Lebron had a bad taste in my mouth since I felt like he caused a summer crowd in the then TD Waterhouse Centre to turn on their hometown team. Yes, I HATED this Lebron James. I rooted against James, even the point the Detroit Pistons became a team that needed to knock LeBron out of the playoffs in 2007.

In 2010, most of us may have disagreed with his “decision” show although proceeds went to a Boys and Girls Club charity it didn’t matter. Who did Lebron think he was important enough to have an announcement show to say where he’s headed next? To make matters worst a super team would form with the in-state rivals Miami Heat.

From a basketball standpoint given the opportunity, I believe we may have all made the choice James made. Why not? A President in Pat Riley who sold a dream but made two championships a reality. Yeah, so it wasn’t five, six or, seven but it was a span in the NBA where Lebron and his super team ruled for a short time. The Miami Heat made a Finals visit in each of the four years LeBron spent there. A record of 2-4 in the NBA Finals as James would repeat.

A good friend of mine says that Lebron James is the MOST scrutinized athlete that ever existed. I’ve slowly started to realize this as there is some sort of criticism in every way possible for Lebron. I get it, many see Michael Jordan is the God of basketball and it should not be questioned. For once can we look at the accomplishments and consider the kid from Akron, Ohio, ONE of the greats?

Here is a brief reminder of Lebron’s career awards.

 

  • 3× NBA champion (2012, 2013, 2016)
  • 3× NBA Finals MVP (2012, 2013, 2016)
  • 4× NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
  • 13× NBA All-Star (2005–2017)
  • 2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008)
  • 11× All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008–2017)
  • 2× All-NBA Second Team (2005, 2007)
  • 5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2009–2013)
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2014)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2004)
  • NBA scoring champion (2008)
  • 2× AP Athlete of the Year (2013, 2016)
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year (2012, 2016)
  • USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (2012)
  • 2× Mr. Basketball USA (2002, 2003)
  • Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2003)
  • McDonald’s All-American Game MVP (2003)
  • 3× Ohio Mr. Basketball (2001–2003)

By no means, I’d like to sell you on, “Hey LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan” today however if we consider Jordan as the great of all-time let’s measure James against him.

Courtesy of landofbasketball.com

Courtesy of landofbasketball.com

Here is a brief glimpse of LeBron James vs the Basketball God. As you can see there are many career totals that LeBron passes Jordan in. James has played in more playoffs games which has allowed him to finally pass Jordan in all-time scoring the playoffs. It is correct that if perhaps Jordan did not take a year off in 1993-1994 that he may still have the number one spot today.

Although LeBron James has taken fewer shots than Jordan we’ll keep it at that. This is a visual comparison to show you that you’re watching a player who is challenging the great Michael Jordan.

Where we can give Jordan the absolute edge is on the global impact he’s made across the world. A global icon and a face that everyone can recognize. Sure, the NBA has more marketability in other countries today, however, those may have no come forth if not without Jordan.

I know some of you are cringing and probably ready to click the exit button, but hold on!

I get it, but LeBron is a “flopper”, “crybaby”, “always travels”, or “trying to be like Mike”. You can’t flop or cry your way into passing Jordan in multiple categories. For the record, just this past week James admitted that it was “like Mike” he wanted to be.

“I wear the number because of Mike,” James said. “I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you’re watching Michael Jordan it’s almost like a god. So I didn’t think I could be Mike.”

This is about levels of appreciation although he may have beaten your team, draws in Jordan comparisons, or irks your last nerve.

“But LeBron rests, Jordan didn’t.”

Take this for data, from Owen Phillips at fivethirtyeight.com.

“Since entering the league in 2003, James has never sat out for more than 15 percent of a season (regular and playoffs combined). Among players of his caliber, past and present, that’s unprecedented. Stephen Curry had ankle issues at the start of his career; both Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant experienced late-season injuries that forced them to miss the playoffs in, respectively, 2000 and 2013; and Michael Jordan broke his foot in his sophomore season. Then there’s James. He’s never missed a playoff game, and even though he has the sixth-most regular-season minutes of all time among players at the same point in their careers (within their first 14 years in the league), the most severe injuries he’s incurred are a sore back and knee and some untimely cramps.”

Are we really going to criticize a guy that took a couple of games off in the season? What about in the midst of current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver advising the schedule needs to accommodate more rest? Did you know that the 2017-2018 NBA Season will start early in October and the Preseason will be cut short for the resting accommodations in the schedule?

I interviewed a few Jordan fans this past week and asked them, “do you respect LeBron James more than you did 2-3 years ago?” One replied, “Always have, just don’t like him, like Kobe, don’t like him”. He later followed up and said, “he’s the best since MJ, they are both amazing, goats, but my old ass loves MJ”.

If you hate LeBron James, what was your reaction when he chased down Andre Iguodala’s layup in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals? “That’s goaltending!” Today, is there any appreciation that the man chased down a block that set-up a Kyrie Irving game winning shot? “He didn’t hit no basket, Kyrie won them that championship”. See, these are real actual responses from real life anti-Lebron folks.

Let’s also foolishly ignore the fact that LeBron James played in a league against Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Greg Popovich, the Golden State Warriors, all which are future Hall of Famers.

The excuses always will pour on for LeBron James and the data speaks otherwise. Trust me, I’ve tried to discredit LeBron many times and years in the making. It worked for a while especially all the way through the 2011 NBA Finals. All of a sudden it became a must difficult task to do as James’ career progressed.

If you made it this far I’d like to thank you personally. I believe that Jordan still holds the top spot but a close challenger is in his rearview mirror. The mind boggling part of this great debate is that 14 years ago who knew that I’d have a small bit of appreciation for LeBron James. I’m telling you all now, it’s ok to say, “yeah he’s pretty damn good and up there close to Michael”. I promise you will not melt nor be hell sent.

Sometimes, people, it doesn’t hurt to appreciate a little rather than express hate. Pass it on!

As James heads to his seventh straight NBA Finals next Thursday, he yet again joins an elite company with this accomplishment. If you’re as much of a hater or appreciate then, either way, you will be witnessing.

 

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineChevy

Golden State: Thine Kingdom Come

Death, Taxes, and a Lebron James NBA Finals appearance are the only three things you can’t avoid in this world.

Lebron James is one of the top 3 players ever, a certified GOAT contender, and when he’s unstoppable it’s magnificent. This is not one of those times. The 2017 GSW are the best team in the NBA. Lebron James is the best player in the NBA. One of these bests must give coming next week, and it’s going to be Lebron James.

Let’s look back to last year’s finals and that now infamous blown 3-1 lead against the King, specifically games 5 and 6 the most pivotal. Game 5 saw Draymond Green excuse himself from playing in the finals and Bogut go down. In game 6 we see Iggy get debilitated for the rest of the finals. Lebron started smelling blood, and just like one of the GOATs he is, he took advantage of it and made history for his city and team. However, that’s not happening this year and for a few good reasons. The main of which is an import from a small town in Oklahoma.

This isn’t 2016 Golden State. The Warriors have four defensive answers to Lebron James. Not to say Lebron will be stopped, he’s the King for a reason, but this series will be difficult for him like no other this postseason. After having a run embarrassing big men in the East, Lebron is going to have to go against a team built defensively around great rim protection. Kevin Durant has been swatting shots this season like he doesn’t pull up from 30 feet on the other end of the court. Javale McGee has turned into the new Marcus Camby from the bench, and his protection of the bench is going to be vital. James isn’t going to have the free reign of the paint that he had against Boston. The length, athleticism, and team defense of GS aren’t going to allow it. Golden State is going into this series with the best defense in these playoffs with opponents averaging 99.1 pts per 100 possessions. With it being lower at 94.1 with Draymond on the field, Golden State has to be feeling good with their defense heading into the finals.

Who’s guarding Kevin Durant on the perimeter? Kevin Love? Not really. Lebron is most likely to be tasked with guarding KD and this is going to weigh heavily on the series. I think KD is mentally prepared for the finals this time, unlike in 2012 (being on arguably the best team ever eases a lot of qualms). With Golden State abusing screens, Cleveland is going to need to be sharp on all their rotations. Tristan Thomspon is going to be key in this aspect. Thompson has been able to hold GS to .86 points per screen when he picks up the defender afterward. If Thompson is kept out of foul trouble, a vital role this series for him, he’ll probably be tasked with hedging defenders the whole series. Iman Shumpert is also going to be needed in this series to try to keep Klay’s quiet playoffs in check.

Something that people overlook is Cleveland’s three-point shooting ability. Last year Lebron was able to collapse the defense around him so well that Love, Frye, and Smith were able to keep burying their opponents on the perimeter. That’s not likely to happen this year. Cleveland is somewhat normal behind the line these playoffs. Love is going to need to help force that issue in the finals. With Golden State being so good defensively, Love is going to have to spread the floor more reliably. Love is going to have to be more aggressive in general in the finals. Kyrie just had his best game of the playoffs being aggressive and just like last year, it’s going to take him being able to take over for Lebron if they want to repeat as champions. Because on the other end of the floor if KD is slipping, which for him would probably be two missed shots in a row, who’s next in line to pick up from there? Just Steph Curry.

2016 saw a stacked 73-9 Golden State team collapse to Lebron James who was on a mission. This year’s Warriors team is even better than that team. Lebron is going to have to play at a level that we’ve all seen, but this time he’s going to need to never drop from that grace. There’s just too much on Golden State this time. Last year was one of the most magical, storybook NBA finals the league has ever seen. We saw a King put on the ropes and then conquer the champions. This isn’t last year.

Prediction: Golden State in 4.

Markus Murden
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@MXMurden

2017 NBA Finals: A First Time Trilogy

“Best 2 out of 3.”

It’s a concept we’re all familiar with. As kids, we all played rock, paper, scissors, and if you lost the initial round, you would always yell out “best 2 out of 3!” in hopes of getting a rematch.

In Major League Baseball, the regular season is made up of short series between teams rather than one game match ups. Most series are 3 games long, so the team that manages to win 2 out of those 3 games is the clear victor. Even professional wrestling has a history of the “2 out of 3″ concept. A ” Best 2 out of 3 Falls” match isn’t as common anymore, but in the old territory days, it was used as a blow off to end long feuds and determine one ultimate winner.

With the exception of the NFL, all the major American sports have a best of 7 series to crown a champion, and that’s the way it should be. A 7 Game series minimizes the chances of a fluke upset, ensures that the better team comes out victorious, and leaves us with an undisputed top team for that particular year. How do we determine the top team of an era though? This last three-year span of NBA history has been an interesting one, to say the least. We saw LeBron James return to Cleveland, the rise of Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant’s unexpected departure from Oklahoma City.

So how will it ultimately be remembered? Will these last three years be seen as just an extension of the “LeBron Era?” Will Golden State finish one of the most dominating three-year runs of all time with another NBA Championship, making it the “era of the Dubs?”

Regardless, we’re going to get the most perfectly unique way to answer that question. For the first time in NBA history, the same two teams will square off in three consecutive Finals. Each team has already claimed victory and hung up a banner at the other’s expense, so the revenge factor is there on both sides. Add in that these two teams aren’t particularly fond of each other, sprinkle some of Draymond Green’s unpredictability on top, and you’ve got the recipe for yet another classic and entertaining Finals match-up.

Reaching the NBA Finals is not an easy task to accomplish. Going back the next year requires a grueling and exhausting effort. Making it three straight times is extremely uncommon. As a matter of fact, only six NBA franchises have ever reached the Finals three or more consecutive times. The Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls both did it twice. The New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, and Miami Heat each accomplished the feat once. While the Minnesota/Los Angeles Lakers have reached three or more consecutive Finals a whopping five times.

That list will add two new entries on June 1st. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have accomplished the rare feat It will be the 7th straight NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James (and James Jones), putting him behind only Bill Russel, and a handful of his Celtics teammates, for most all time.

That in it of itself is an amazing accomplishment. Just like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume most of us (hey millennials) actually witnessed Bill Russell reach 10 straight NBA Finals. So just like Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, LeBron’s seven consecutive Finals will be the defacto record going forward. Another feather in the King’s cap.

On paper, these are the two teams that should be playing for the NBA crown. They were the two best teams all season long, and most experts have been predicting this matchup since Kevin Durant decided to make the switch to Golden State. However, from a historical standpoint, neither franchise has any business taking part in the NBA Final’s first Trilogy. Would you think all the Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird talk would have produced three straight Lakers-Celtics Finals right?

With all due respect, The Cleveland Cavaliers were nothing before June 26th, 2003, when they drafted LeBron James. As for the Warriors, before winning the whole thing in 2015, the Bay Area didn’t know about being NBA Champions since the 1974-75 season. Not exactly models of consistent success.

Logic would indicate that if any two teams were going to face off in three straight Finals, it should’ve been the Lakers and Celtics. They’re the NBA’s winningest and most recognizable franchises, and the Magic/Bird rivalry of the 80’s would have been the perfect backdrop for such a historic occurrence. However, logic doesn’t always apply in basketball, and now, two teams that were once entrenched in the lower echelon of the NBA’s hierarchy will play in what’s likely to be the most anticipated NBA Finals of all time.

Both teams combine for a total of seven All-Stars and seven MVP awards. The star power is off the charts for this match up, and the plot reads almost like a Hollywood script. Last year, Golden State became the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the Finals, pouring their record-breaking 73-win season right down the drain. Kevin Durant was signed away from Golden State’s biggest competitor over the summer in attempts to right that wrong. His former partner in crime, Russell Westbrook, was fueled to an MVP-worthy season by what he saw as the betrayal on the part of Durant. If he and the Warriors are hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season though, then all the scrutiny and criticism was worth it.

While over in Cleveland, you have a King and his court, chomping at the bit to defend their crown against a Warriors team that many say they “can’t beat.” An aging LeBron has shown us all that he’s still got plenty left in the tank. The NBA’s young stars might be ready to take the league into their hands and run with it, but that doesn’t mean that LeBron is ready to hand it over just yet. That’s what makes this particular Finals so important, especially for LeBron. If he wins, that’s 2 out of the last 3, and 4 out of the last 7. That’s huge for a man that constantly has to defend his standing in the sport. However, if he loses, then you can already hear the rumblings. “Is LeBron’s time over?” “Can the Cavs still win with LeBron?”

With so much riding on this series for each team, we might be in store for the hardest fought NBA Finals ever. We should truly appreciate what we’re about to see. In hindsight, so many stars had to align perfectly for us to even get here, but we’re literally on the doorstep of it. We’ve had 67 NBA Finals, 19 different NBA Champions, 13 NBA Finals rematches, but as of this year, only one trilogy.

The 2017 NBA Finals tip-off Thursday, June 1st on ABC.

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NBA Contributor