You just get the feeling that this is neither the beginning nor the end of what is shaping up to become the greatest rivalry in sports history. The calamity from a pure spectacle perspective is almost unlike anything we have ever seen before. It pits the greatest player of all time outside of that guy in Chicago against the greatest collection of talent and team in history on the other side.
This isn’t a matchup between one historical figure or symbol against a nonexistent, soon-to-be erased from our memory banks team. Both sides have won, and done it often enough to the point where everyone can retire tomorrow and the books written on their careers worth much more than just your time and money.
We all know how the table is set. The storylines are richer to write and talk about than anything we’ve seen so far in the postseason.
The Cavs come in rightfully confident, as the defending champions, and thinking they have the type of mental edge that afforded them the legendary ability to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They have a Kyrie Irving built for the brightest of lights. There’s Kevin Love who hasn’t shown up across the last two Finals but looks poised to come crashing into this one. There’s the supporting cast of snipers more lethal than the Warriors as a whole. Then the King himself is the singular force that no matter how many MVPs the Bay Area possesses, is as worthy as an adversary as anyone can possibly dream about.
Then the Warriors are on the other side, and a team mentally different from the 73-win iteration. The ones that went up 3-1 despite several subpar performances is gone. There is no mockery of the Cavs. There is no lambasting of anyone, no outward need for recognition, no letting us know they’re going for the record that would make them holy in NBA lore. There is no wild locker room celebration after a Western Conference Finals berth. Instead, the one that trots into Oracle Arena is calmed and reserved as ever before. They were veterans then, but are veterans to these Finals now. They understand there’s nothing gained from letting their goals consume them. There’s a calm and killer driven-ness never before seen amongst this KD-infused group. There’s a bit of that joy they so publicize missing, but they’ve replaced it with a maniacal focus and respect of the moment that’s about to swallow everyone up.
From the pettiness, to the arrogance, to the talent, and the constant need to one-up each other, these two teams deserve each other. It’s got the entire league shaken to the core, stumbling at the processes of what has transpired, and unable to compete. For the next two weeks, basketball belongs to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. For the next half decade, basketball is geared up to rightfully belong to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Take out parity and the constant need to feign sympathy towards teams lesser talented and less smartly created. These are two organizations simultaneously at the top but built on opposite sides of the spectrum.
The Cavaliers were projected to mire below mediocrity until LeBron James returned to his hometown for a storybook homecoming. Under his stead, the Cavaliers are a group of specialists, yes even Love and Kyrie, all pushed upwards and onwards by his singular powers. The Warriors, on other hand, took the longer route to its pinnacle. They built the culture not with Steve Kerr but with Mark Jackson, with the leadership of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, and the franchise-changing trade of Andre Iguodala. From there, the individual growths from their 3 All-Stars have pushed them to heights unforeseen even from the largest Warrior homers. And to cap it off, they added a player of LeBron’s caliber on the strength of their culture, the potential of a dynasty, the structure of its offense and defense, and the leadership of one Stephen Curry.
This series, and the overall war, isn’t the decision for which is the better way to create a team, to lead a franchise, or even playing styles. It’s the dichotomy between these two organizations on the floor that make this even more fascinating — the way their fans are perceived and the inherent behavior of the Bay Area and The Land. For Cleveland fans, this is about family, childhood, maturity, and the growth of a hero. For Warriors fans, this is legacy, greatness, and the constant need for something better and more.
On June 1st, 2017, the third volume of this rivalry tips off: a team with the most powerful singular force and his battalion of handpicked specialists against a legion of versatile, smart, and lethal superstars. We can appreciate the greatness that the series is going to give us now and until it ends this month.
But take a step back and we start to realize that the 2017 ring will foreshadow but another battle in basketball’s greatest historical showdown: Warriors and Cavs.