The Warriors and Cavaliers are two superpowers built in different ways and will write their next chapter on Christmas day.
It’s finally here. Christmas!
Let’s be honest, the best thing about Christmas is the all-day hoops marathon. What makes this Christmas even better is the fact that my favorite team is playing the prime time game at 2 o’clock, a rematch of last year’s Finals. This game is the game I’ve looked forward to the most this season, and now that both teams are (relatively) healthy, I expect this to come down to the wire.
Since the Warriors beat the Cavs in the finals six months ago, I’ve gotten into more “If Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin Love were healthy the Cavs would have won” arguments then I can count. This obviously isn’t a playoff game, but with arguably the two best teams going head to head in the national spotlight, this game is as close to a post season game you can get in December. Both of these teams have championship aspirations, but the Warriors and Cavs have gotten to their elite statuses by taking two different paths. Let’s take a look back.
Most of you already know how the defending champion Warriors got to this point, so I’ll keep their portion short. At 27-1, the Dubs are on pace to top the regular season win record set by Jordan’s ’96 Bulls, on their way to chasing their second straight title. It all started with the drafting of the reigning MVP in ’09, and from there, everything kind of fell into place.
December 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Bucks 121-112. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The next season Chris Cohan (I know you shuttered reading his name. I also did), sold the team to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and the rest is history. The Warriors drafted Klay Thompson in ’11, traded Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut (sorry for booing you, Mr. Lacob) and then went on to hit the 2012 draft jackpot by inking Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. The Warriors signed Andre Iguodala in ’13 and hired Steve Kerr to be their new coach the following year and BAM…the Warriors raise the Larry O’Brien trophy in June of ’15.
Cue: “If Kyrie and Love…” protestors.
When I think of “The Decision,” not only do I think about all the depressed Cleveland fans that burned LeBron’s jersey on national TV, but I also think about the way one man changed the entire course of a franchise. “…I’m going take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
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Everybody knows where they were and what they were doing the whole hour as LeBron had our undivided attention, announcing he’d be headed to the sunny skies of Miami. The good thing about LeBron leaving the Cavs was that they were so pathetic they got the No. 1 pick and drafted Kyrie in ’11. This ended up coming full circle as LeBron would finally have a suitable second option, something he never had in his first stint with the Cavs. LeBron immediately flexed his biceps and authorized a trade that sent the Cavs’ #1 pick of the ’14 draft Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Kevin Love. We saw a different Love in his first season with the Cavs. Long gone were the stat stuffing days of the husky Love we saw in Minny.
Now we saw a slim, clean-shaven, spot up shooter who had to learn to play with above-average talent for the first time in his career. The Cavs made a few trades at the deadline that really pushed them into elite status, and by the end of the regular season you knew the Cavs would be representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals.
After Bron retires and we look back and analyze the story that has been his career, Curry and the Golden State Warriors will no doubt have a chapter to themselves. What’s “written” in the chapter remains to be seen, but it will likely go one of two ways:
LeBron Returns to Cleveland, but is Unable to Bring the City the Championship it Starves For.
Premise: LeBron is on the wrong side of 30 and has played a ton of minutes in his career. His team mows through the playoffs every year on its way to the NBA Finals when he comes back to Ohio, but they’re taken down repeatedly by Curry and the Warriors on their way to a dynasty throughout the 2010s.
Curry dethrones the King as the face of the NBA earlier than expected, and James and his crew are never able to overcome the Warriors similar to the way the Jazz could never take down Michael Jordan at the tail end of his prime.
Jun 16, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa (19) during the second quarter in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron Returns to Cleveland, and Brings Cleveland its First Title in 60+ Years.
Premise: LeBron comes back to his city and wins three out of four championships as he rides off into the sunset (or should I say snowstorm…it is Cleveland) cementing himself as the greatest small forward of all time and the best player of his generation. He was able to fight off one of the (statistically) best teams in NBA history further cementing himself as one of the all time greats. LeBron kills a dynasty in the making and grants the Cleveland fan base their first title(s) in over 60 years.
The hottest debate in the NBA universe right now is “LeBron vs. Steph.” There’s no doubt that James still has the bad taste in his mouth from last season’s finals and he knows the only team stopping him from getting more jewelry are the Golden State Warriors.
LeBron will get buckets on Christmas. Steph will get buckets on Christmas. Can’t wait.