The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals for the third straight year.
This is not a surprise as both teams cake-walked through the playoffs with the Cavs suffering just one loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics, and the Warriors going undefeated sitting on a 12-0 playoff record.
The compelling story of this newborn rivalry started when the Warrior’s star point guard, Stephen Curry, splashed on to the scene hitting a record high of 238 three pointers in the wake of LeBron James’ return to the Cavaliers.
Curry’s shooting brilliance along with his “splash bro” Klay Thompson and the emergence of Draymond Green, the Warriors took the NBA landscape by storm finishing the regular season as the best team in the West with a 57-13 record.
Even though the Warriors were displaying video game-like dominance over the NBA, the talk of the league wasn’t over them. It was over the return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Previously, James spent the first seven years of his career as a Cavalier.
On July 10, 2010, James hosted a live production called “The Decision,” where he announced that he was leaving his hometown team to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.
James went on to win two NBA titles with the Heat.
On July 11, 2014, James officially declared that he was returning home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The main reason for his return was to end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought and bring his hometown a title.
In the dawn of his return, the Cavaliers picked up right from where they left off placing second in the Eastern Conference with a 53-29 record. They steamrolled through the playoffs right into the NBA Finals, where the rivalry was born.
During the 2015-16 playoffs the Cavs caught the injury bug, losing star point guard, Kyrie Irving, in the Eastern Conference Finals with a dislocated knee and in the first game of the playoffs, impact forward Kevin Love went down with a shoulder injury.
With his two main players out for the Finals, James had to carry the load for the Cavs against the best team in the NBA. He went on to lead both teams in every statistical category in a losing effort to MVP Steph Curry and the Warriors in six games.
Following that loss the only question that was asked was, “What if LeBron’s two main guys didn’t go down with injuries?”
Fans and analysts criticized the Warriors championship victory calling it “lucky” and a “fluke.” Those comments lit a fire under the Warriors and they wanted to prove to the world that they can beat the Cavs in the Finals at full strength.
That following season the Golden State Warriors increased their performance to a whole new level. Curry captured the new single season three pointers made record with 400, while becoming the NBA’s first ever unanimous MVP. The Warriors also finished the 2016-17 season with the best regular season ever finishing 73-9, eclipsing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, were at full strength and playing great basketball through the regular season heading into the playoffs capturing the No.1 seed in the East. Both teams once again displayed one sided dominance in the playoffs as they met up in the highly anticipated finals rematch.
This time around the Cavaliers had a full roster at 100 percent health. Irving and Love were both in the lineup and both teams were ready to go. The pressure was on James, he had everything he needed to knock off the defending champs and end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.
The pressure mounted as the high powered Warriors jumped out to a 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers with the Warriors having a chance to silence the critics and defeat the Cavs a second time in the finals.
Things turned south for Golden State when their heart and soul Draymond Green was suspended from game five for receiving a flagrant one technical foul after a scuffle with James. The Warriors had a chance to clinch a second title. Green was also suspended by the league from game six.
James and Irving smelled blood as the Warriors instantly became vulnerable, both going off for 40 points in game five and six in Green’s absence.
Those two memorable performances forced the finals to come down to a game seven. Green was allowed to play, Cleveland’s confidence was at an all time high, and both teams were at full strength. Us in the sports world got exactly what we wanted, James and the Cavs against Curry and the Warriors for the NBA championship.
As game seven began, Green made his presence felt by knocking down three after three throughout the game, but the Cavs always came back with a response.
In the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, both teams were tied at 89 and neither side could buy a bucket. But at the 3:01 mark, James made one of the biggest defensive plays in history as he chased down Warrior’s Andre Iguodala and rejected his fastbreak layup which would have put the Warriors up two.
Following that play, the Cavaliers had the ball and a chance to win the NBA championship. As time was running down Irving pulled up for three over Curry’s contested arm and drained the game winning shot for the Cavaliers. Just like that, the 52-year championship drought ended and James fulfilled his long awaited promise to bring a championship back to his hometown.
The funny thing about the story between these two teams is that it never ends. The very next year, the Warriors acquired free agent superstar, Kevin Durant, to their already loaded team.
Durant is a 6’9” star forward who played for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the season prior, James has also played against Durant while with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals back in 2012.
So, as many may know the Warriors destroyed most of the NBA, some to the point where their star players such as Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant didn’t have to play the full game.
Cleveland has also picked up some talent, not in the likes of Durant, but some solid backup players that can contribute when James, Irving and Love aren’t on the floor.
Once again both teams had no trouble taking care of business in the playoffs and here we are again. Warriors versus the Cavaliers for the third straight time. What makes this story so interesting is the one sided dominance each team has in their own respective conferences. This NBA regular season was seen by many as a waste of time because we already knew that these two will meet again in the Finals.
The compelling questions this time around is: Can LeBron and the Cavs go back to back against that juggernaut out West? And will Kevin Durant finally get his first title?
Game one of the NBA Finals will be at 9 p.m., Thursday, on ABC in Oracle Arena in Oakland.