Thursday, June 4, 2015
Legacy vs. legitimacy. The King vs. the MVP. Starved city vs. Dub City. These are the respective scenarios when LeBron James leads a starving, title-hungry Cleveland town into the finals against emerging superstar Stephen Curry and the 67-win juggernaut Warriors.
From superstars to insanely passionate fan bases, it is one of the best match-ups the NBA could have hoped for. So, without further ado, let's break down some of the keys, the story lines and conclude with a prediction.
The King's Legacy
LeBron James is one of the most polarizing NBA players in my generation (top 3 with Kobe and AI). You either love him or you hate him. You likely embraced him in his first 7 years in Cleveland, cheering for him against the likes of Boston, Detroit and San Antonio, in an underdog-against-the-world mentality. When he bolted for Miami, you probably hated the villain. And now, NBA fans are left to decide what side to choose, now that he's back home.
No matter where you reside or what team you support, you know LeBron is one of the all-time greats. He's done more in his 20s than virtually anyone, and his greatness is hard to question. But, the great thing about a legacy is that it can always be amended. Add to the fact that it's a sport legacy in the all-time record books, and you have a story line and debate that is off the charts!
If LeBron can win it all for Cleveland in his first year back, going up against a truly great all-around team in Golden State, his legacy will be immortalized. It will be pretty hard for the haters to legitimately bring up 2011 against Dallas if he reaches the mountaintop this year. And, while I don't think he is better than MJ, he certainly would cement validation that he belongs in the upper echelon of the conversation. Just think, the way people put Jordan on a pedestal and talk about his greatness years after his career could be the same thing with LeBron when it's all said and done.
An Emerging Hero
It seems like Stephen Curry came out of nowhere. Sure, he had a good season last year, but a finals appearance never crossed anyone's mind going into this season (at least not mine!). Who knew that this super thin sharpshooter from a small college in North Carolina would rise to the top of the league in just six seasons, and take on the giant in LeBron James for the whole enchilada?
And, unlike LeBron, it is really hard to dislike the man. He is an easy-going guy, great family man and a joy to watch on the hardwood. He can literally shoot from the arena tunnel, drive and finish like nobody's business, and cross you over with ridiculous handles. While the future is limitless for him, it will be great to see Curry vs. Lebron for all the marbles!
Can a Jump-Shooting Team Actually Win It All?
This is a topic that many have debated over the years. We've seen them all come and go with a feeling of emptiness, from the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s, to the Dallas Mavericks with Nash, Finley and Dirk, to the Phoenix Suns with Nash. The belief behind the failure was that these jump-shooting teams would eventually miss and not be able to win in the typical, grinding half-court style of the playoffs. And, another reason was that a lot of teams that exhibited this style of play weren't good defensively, a situation that saw these quick, long jump shots leading to fast break points for the opponent.
But, times have changed! Most teams are shooting the long ball at a high rate, and more importantly, Golden State is actually very good defensively. Not only are they number one in defensive efficiency this season, but they also have terrific individual defenders in Bogut, Green and Thompson. They can most certainly win it all!
By the looks of it, we have two top-notch defenses with one superstar on each squad. Golden State is clearly the deeper and more talented team here. Add to it the fact that Kevin Love is gone, and Kyrie Irving is banged up, and that makes matters worse for the Cleveland faithful, looking to win their first ever title. Some will argue that Love's absence has been a blessing in disguise, but you can't debate Kyrie. He is a top NBA talent, fantastic playmaker and rising star.
Considering LeBron will have to play out of this world to win it all, Irving will need 30+ and Cleveland doesn't have the home court advantage, the pick is easy to me. Give me Golden State in 6. Enjoy the finals everybody!