The NBA Finals are finally here with the matchup being between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two of the top NBA teams going at it from their respective conferences but its time to reflect. Not only on the two teams themselves but the fanbase, the cities and more specifically Steph Curry and Lebron James. Both mean so much to their teams and cities but only one will able to have that perfect ending.
Lets start off with Steph Curry. The current MVP this year who lead his team to 67 wins in a tough conference. Arguably, the best shooter in the league and a top flight PG. Now his path to this point wasn’t all that favorable. Before the NBA, he wasn’t scouted too heavily. Not just at the NBA level but at the college level. You would think being known as the son of Dell Curry, a pretty good player in his heyday, would help a bit to atleast get some looks but it doesn’t work like that. Didn’t get recruited to any of the top colleges in the nation and also only offered as a walk-on at Virginia, so he settled for Davidson. From then on, he started making a name for himself. During those two years at Davidson, he became a scoring machine, continue to carve out his PG skills year by year and led them to a NCAA Regional Finals. In the end, of his Davidson College playing days, he averaged 25 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.7 assist and 2 steals. Hmm…not that bad.
Then the Draft of 09 arrives. While Steph had a impressive showing from his College career, it still didn’t give the scouts to see his true rising potential as said here:
Hindsight 20/20 but you know what I mean. While that video sounds like a player who was more fit to be a nice role player or a secondary player, he still managed to get drafted within the top 10 even before my New York Knicks(1 pick away!). From the start of the season of 2009, Steph continually was proving the doubters wrong year by year. Placed more of a priority over Monta Ellis who was the guy at that time and earning the role as eventually being the franchise player. His first couple of years was worrying. The most injuries he would endure would be due to his ankles. The moniker “glass ankles” would hang around quite a while but it didn’t stop. Before this historic season, Steph already carved out a 50 win team with running buddy Klay and Coach Mark Jackson, breaking his own highest 3pt shooting within the season back to back and he comes becomes the third player not named Lebron to win the MVP within 7 years. Something no one probably thought would happen. Probably not even Warriors fans themselves.
I can relate to Warriors fanbase in certain aspects as a Knicks fan. A team that hasn’t seen a championship since the 70s in a big market area. Yeah, within these 4 decades we seen exciting Warriors teams like the Run TMC days, seeing Chris Webber win his Rookie of the Year having a outstanding rookie season and underdog 07 Warriors(Low key, that team was kind of stacked with talent). While these were great times, it never amounted to getting to the big stage until now. The city have been recently enjoying championship success with the Giants for 3 out of the 5 years they’ve won but the Warrior fans are now ready for their turn. To be honest, they deserve it. Warriors have one of the best, if not, the best fanbase in the NBA. Even when this team had its down years, they’ve continued to support the team. If I’m not mistaken, Warriors fans was at the forefront with this T-shirt craze with the “We Believe”. Now more than half of the league has copied this trend. So yeah I said it. They deserve it but there is another fanbase/city just as deserving…
Then comes Lebron James. The “Chosen One”, 2x NBA champion, 2x finals MVP, 5x MVP…basically the best player in the world. I remember the time watching the Cleveland/ Celtics back in 2009 and after defeat, Lebron James walks through the tunnel and takes off his Cleveland jersey in the process. From that point, I thought he was gone. Seriously I did. People told me “why would Lebron leave his home team and a 60 win team!”. In response I would say because he was simply tired of losing and not having help. Yes, they had a 60 win team. Yes, Lebron James literally dragged that 2007 team to the finals but throughout those 8 years in Cleveland, he never had that consistent second guy. Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, a over the hill Shaq, “Boobie” Gibson and a nice ROLE player in Mo Williams just isn’t enough. I just didn’t know where he would end up. Low and behold he joins the Heat with Wade and Bosh. Instantly better than anything Lebron had in prior years but that move set the world on fire. Not only did a MVP leave a team with enough wins that most of the league can dream of, he left his home team. In one swift move, everyone turned their back on Lebron especially Cleveland and rightfully so.
Within his time with the Heat, he goes on to win 2 titles, 2 more MVPs and becomes all around that much better of a player than he already was. A downright dominating Heat team that would destroy teams in the East. Meanwhile during the Heat 4 year run, overnight the Cavs became one of the worst teams in NBA. For their troubles, they were able to get top lottery picks within the 4 years which resulted into drafting Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett. A young and upcoming team but their past records constantly put them in the place to watch the playoffs home. While enjoying that personal success, people still didn’t like him. If you wasn’t a Heat fan, chances are you didn’t have Lebrons back. The Lebron haters did get their shining moment though.
In the 2014 finals, Lebron and the Heat gets beat down in their matchup with the Spurs in 5 games. They didn’t look dominating as they once were. Looked a lot more vulnerable especially against the team that wanted retribution for that finals lose the year before to the Ray Allen 3. Spurs were such a machine during that 2014 run…anyway. Lebron James was set to become a free agent that year. This time, I didn’t think he was leaving and realizing I turned into the person that tried to tell me 4 years about Lebron leaving the Cavs. “Why would Lebron leave the Heat!? He will stay have Wade and Bosh. They can make another run and it’s Miami! Pat Riley won’t ever allow the best player leave his team”. At least that’s what I thought. Free agency starts and I was firm that Lebron is going back to Heat but a slew events started unraveling during that 10 day period. From Lebron becoming more distant from the Heat specifically Pat Riley to moving trucks loading Lebrons cars to be taken away from his mansion in Miami.
Fast forward to the day of July 11th, almost till the date he sign with the Heat back in 2010, Lebron announces hes going back home and signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another move that shocks the world. A move where all the hate, all the people who turned their backs on him disappear. Overnight and as the season went on, he started winning the hearts of fans and media again. I didn’t expect Lebron to sign back with the Cavs while still in his prime years and it doesn’t stop there. Kevin Love is also brought along the team via trade with the Cavs last #1 pick, Andrew Wiggins. Once the season began, it started off slow similar how the season started with the Miami Heat in 2010. Their record in a couple of months become 19-20, Varejao suffers a season ending injury and the team looks like this mediocre ride will go on longer. They acquire Mosgov, J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert by the trading deadline and go on to finish their regular season record together at 51-29. The playoffs came around and they go out and sweep the Celtics, beat in the Bulls in 6 games and sweep the Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately for the Cavs, Kevin Love wasn’t involved in most of the games because of a MMA move done to his shoulder in Game 4 of the Celtics/Cavs series resulting in being out for rest of the playoffs but it didn’t stop the Cavs from reaching the NBA Finals. The city must be ecstatic at this point because they surely needed it for years…or more like half a century.
The City of Cleveland now gets the rare chance of watching the possibility of seeing a championship. Something that didn’t happen for 50 years in any of their sports team. That last team able to win a championship in Cleveland were the 1964 Cleveland Browns. Before the Superbowl even came about and before that, The 1948 Cleveland Indians. I said got damn! This is another city that deserves a championship because they’ve been through a lot of heartache throughout the years. Lebron leaving them the first time around, losing the Browns to Baltimore in 95 and Michael Jordan crushing their dreams. This city has story driven quotes for decades of their misfortune. “The Shot” “The Fumble” “The Drive” “The Catch”. The greatest thing is throughout all these troubles, they’ve stuck out out. In recent memory, when Lebron James left the first go around, the City of Cleveland was certainly shell shocked. From the cries and groans to literally burning his jersey on the streets, the fans were embarrassed, hurt, disappointed, angry and in disbelief. Fast forward 4 years later to witness Cleveland and Cavs fans go from that to now happiness, excitement, joy and hope since he returned. If the Hometown Hero Lebron James is able to bring a title back to Cleveland after 50 years of misfortune, this would be one of the greatest stories in the history of all sports. Now thinking about it, this is like a easy 30 for 30 story in the making regardless of the results. Get up on it!
In conclusion, watching specifically these 2 players stories over years has been fascinating to say the least. On one hand, a team wants to finish their historic season with the cherry NBA title on top. One they haven’t seen since 1975. On the other hand, a team on the road to try to win their first championship in their franchise history and erase the last 50 years of Cleveland Sports misfortune. I’m not going to do the whole *insert team* wins in X amount of games. I have no horse in this race. As a basketball fan, I will just sit back, analyze and enjoy what a great series it will be between two teams looking to finally deliver a championship to their respective cities.