Take a second and think of the greatest upsets of all time. The single game David vs. Goliaths like the 2001 Patriots or 2007 Giants. The season-long triumph of an out-of-nowhere team like Leicester City. The improbable comebacks like the 2004 Red Sox or 2016 Cavaliers. The rare seven game series where an on-paper inferior roster overcomes overwhelming odds to defeat the Super Team across from them, think 2007 Warriors, 2011 Mavericks, and, out newest entry, the 2017 Golden State Warriors.
Against all odds, the team that won 73 games last year and added Kevin Durant has won the championship. But honestly, I think most people saw this coming. They reduced the Cavs, last year’s champion and a Super Team in their own right, to scrappy underdogs who were happy to win one game. In a weird way, this series was both closer than it seemed and not as close as it seemed. The Cavs played well! At least, they did in games 3-5. LeBron was ridiculous, Kyrie got out of his funk and started painting an oeuvre of layups and crazy finishes that I’m not sure anyone who has ever played can match, and Iman Shumpert only hit the side of the backboard once a game. And they lost two out of three. Outside of game 3, the Warriors wins were wins. They completely wiped the floor with them in games 1, 2, and 5. No contest. The scores don’t even come close to reflecting how dominant they were. When the Cavs completely gagged game 3, I thought the Cavs would roll over. But, to their credit, they blew out the Warriors in game 4, then turned around an predictably lost in game 5. Now, of course, as with all things NBA and LeBron, the next question is what does this all mean?
LeBron should get out of this relatively unscathed. While he can’t blow his nose without someone questioning what it means for his legacy, he was amazing again this series. Did everything short of actually shooting the ball in clutch moments. First guy to ever lead both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in a seven game series. That’s insane. LeBron is still LeBron, no matter who you think holds the fictional torch. In my mind, Kyrie didn’t really change his place in the league, either. He had a perfect Kyrie series: absolutely no defense whatsoever (except when he knows everyone is watching him guard Steph, so he actually tries a little), long stretches where he stinks, but the same number of stretches of utter brilliance. I don’t think anyone’s opinion of him really changed after this series. All the fools who think he’s a top ten player or the second best point guard in the league or better than Steph will stubbornly hold on to that until the day they die. The h8trs, like me (I think I might like him better if he was named, like, Robert or something), still will find places to criticize him. Like on defense. The truth is somewhere in between: offensively, he’s (just a disclaimer here: if you’re in the “80s/90s were better and basketball was real then and this new generation sucks and is watered down” crowd, you should probably stop reading this right now. It’s only going to get worse for you) pretty much the upgraded Allen Iverson: immaculate handles, best finishing around the rim for a little guy ever, much better shooting. Defensively, he’s worse than Steph, who everyone loves to point and laugh at. He is what he is at this point, which is obviously a great player. But unless he suddenly starts caring about defense, I don’t know how much better he can get. Then I gained a lot of respect for Kevin Love this series. His shot wasn’t always falling, but he was battling for his life on the glass and was playing the best defense of his career. He never quit, even when nothing was going down and he was stuck on island after island guarding Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, mostly because Ty Lue is a moron who doesn’t know what he’s doing. He was what Tristan Thompson is advertised as being. Everyone else on the Cavs SUCKED. J.R. got hot the last two games but was nothing before. Shumpert shouldn’t be in the league anymore. Deron Williams has made the “DWill or CP3?” debate seem like it was in another lifetime. Tristan Thompson should get a Depends sponsorship. Richard Jefferson was okay, but you need to use carbon dating to find his age. Kyle Korver was bad. In typical LeBron fashion, he threw subtle shade at his teammates during every postgame press conference. He seems to forget he’s acting GM of the team. And, of course, the classic quote:
But, like I said, LeBron is still LeBron.
On the Warriors side, obviously it’s all good for everyone, except, of course, the haters. This was a perfect playoffs for my newly re-adopted favorite player, Steph Curry. I withdrew during the popularity and backlash, but now that he’s Back, so am I. He was great in pretty much every facet of the game. He’s never played better, and, more importantly, he’s never played better in the postseason. He proved once again that he’s a top 4 player in the league, and (hopefully, but probably not) shut up the people who are very vocal with their belief that Kyrie is better. All the tough guys always love to say “He doesn’t guard the other team’s point guard.” Honestly, who cares? He’s not a strong defender. He’s become underrated because the likes of Russell Westbrook (who will never make another NBA Finals, let alone win his second in three years) love to openly mock him, but he’s still not great. Klay Thompson is. If the other team’s backcourt is Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, and one of your guards is an elite perimeter defender, why the hell would you not have him guard the opponent’s best player? The Warriors are smart. They aren’t coached by Ty Lue, so typical positional matchups don’t dictate who is going to guard who. Kyrie guarded Steph every time in the early games because they were point guards. Steph dominated and Kyrie got tired out. LeBron guarded Kevin Durant. Durant dominated and LeBron, despite what he says, got tired out. You’d have to be a complete idiot to keep those defensive matchups more than you need to. Why should Steph be penalized for having a great defensive teammate? I really don’t get it. As for my man Klay, like Kyrie he stayed pretty much the same. Once he got hot, he was the same old Klay. Draymond could never get it going offensively, but he did so many little things on defense that lead to multiple blowouts. Somehow Zaza and Javale McGee are now champions. Somehow James Michael McAdoo is a two-time champion. David West’s insatiable thirst may finally be quenched. Iguodala showed why he’s the sixth man of the year. The fact that Shaun Livingston can even walk, let alone be a contributing member of multiple championship teams, is an accomplishment. Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark were there.
But, obviously, there’s only going to be one man’s name on everyone’s lips: Kevin Durant. What does this mean for his legacy? Did he ruin basketball? Is this title lessened because he had the gall to join an already stacked team? No, it really isn’t. Listen, you can feel however you want to feel about him. The hatred people feel is so deeply ingrained I don’t think there’s anything I can do to sway people. Seriously, you’d think he murdered everyone’s family or something. People call him a coward because he was a free agent. He’s soft, he’s a bitch, whatever. One guy I follow on Twitter tweeted, completely unprovoked and not replying to anything, to Kevin Durant that he was weak. At like, 3 pm today. As if saying that will make him feel bad about himself. You think he cares now? This was a business decision. He used the Warriors just like the Warriors used him. The accomplished their mission. He doesn’t give a damn what you say about him. Would people have been happier if he signed with the Nets? Why are you so mad that he left Oklahoma City? Because they had a good team? Well, the Warriors are good, too. Better, in fact. The whole point of free agency is that players should have some say in where they play. He didn’t want to be in Oklahoma City anymore. He spent nine years there, that’s way more time than anyone needs to spend there. Ever think he was just tired of it? That maybe, just maaaaaaaaaybe, he didn’t want to play with Russell Westbrook? Think about how awful it is to be a Thunder role player. You’re held hostage every game and have to bend over backwards to accommodate the world’s biggest temper tantrum throwing toddler. Now imagine you’re one of the five most naturally gifted players to ever play basketball and you have to do the same thing. Sounds pretty horrible to me. So, he left for an all time great team that knocked him out of the playoffs the year before. Who cares? It’s his choice. What if someone told you you weren’t allowed to leave a job you hate because a bunch of hardos on the Internet would yell at you? If you’re really that upset about him, get up, go outside, and take a nice long walk. Clear your head. Calm your nerves. Then come back and start firing off your tweets. Just don’t you dare say he’s just riding the bandwagon. He was the best player on the floor for either team. It was shocking when he missed a shot. All of a sudden, he’s Theo Ratliff on defense, too. The did more than pull his own weight. He dragged the Warriors over the finish line with his play. This didn’t “ruin basketball.” The Warriors are playing at a level few teams ever can match. Appreciate it while it’s here. The way these things work out, it won’t be permanent. Someone will get hurt, someone will want more money, someone will want their own team. The NBA isn’t closing up shop anytime soon, don’t worry. The Celtics and Bucks are rising in the East. The Spurs, Twolves, and Rockets are coming in the West. LeBron is getting older, and, assuming he gets his wish, the Banana Boat Super Team that comes together in a few years is going to stink. Now isn’t forever. The sun will still rise. The draft is next week. Even more incredibly talented players will join the league, making the “the league is watered down” crowd look worse by the day. The NBA has never been in a better spot. But maybe I’m just more optimistic than most. Maybe I can just look past my own outrage and see the bright future ahead. Maybe I can just see what other people can’t see: a home grown Celtics Super Team on the horizon. So, please, if you’re one of the people who are Mad Online, take a breath. Think happy thoughts. Think of whatever inferior era of basketball your nostalgia is telling you is the best. And listen to the official anthem of the Boston Celtics, the 2018-19 NBA Champions.