Tag Archive | Lebron James

Why Watch the 2017 NBA Finals?

Oh boy, another match up between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. We’ve never seen this match up before… OK we could see this coming from a mile away. The NBA postseason has been wickedly boring and predictable. From the standpoint of a general NBA fan, it was one of the worst postseasons in recent memory. Golden State swept their way to the finals while Cleveland dominated almost every single game they played, losing only one in the Eastern Connference Finals to the Boston Celtics. I’m honestly a little bored with this matchup and discussion surrounding it after the last year. So why watch the NBA Finals this year?

1. Rivalry

These teams don’t like each other. They’ve shown remarkable contempt for each other through the last year with remarkable acts of trolling and subversion. They’ve also stage memorable battles in each of the last two NBA Finals.  This Golden State team is built to defeat LeBron and the Cavs. If there is any series with anticipation energy and height in the last few years, this is it. There is bad blood, and these teams are designed to beat the other. Yay passion and desire still existing! 


2. Style of Play

Since breaking out in 2015, the Golden State Warriors have rewritten in the style of play in the NBA. They took Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced style  of play and took it to its logical next progression. Golden State was the first team to win a championship by predominately shooting three-pointers at a high clip. However the 2015 championship is looked at with a little bit of contempt. They never faced a fully healthy team in the postseason and yet still ran into trouble with highly to please units in Memphis and Cleveland. The next year when facing fully healthy teams in Oklahoma City and Cleveland, The Warriors barely scraped by OKC and were edged by Cleveland. If the Warriors lose this series to Cleveland, I think the NBA will move away from three point shooting as your dominant method of winning basketball games. Teams will start going to size and rebounding more with players like Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love becoming much more desirable than players like Klay Thompson.

3. Are Curry and Durant that good?

The last three MVPs of the NBA are the stars for the Warriors, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Both have had exceptional success personally and team wise, seeing many playoff roster their careers.  However both have faced sharp criticism in recent years and rightly so.

Curry has won the last two MVPs , the last one unanimously, and has become the NBA’s most marketable player after LeBron.He’s a charming, kind, and respectable individual and not an athletic freak like Durant or James. Despite his personal success though, Curry has seen his image chipped at. He did not win the MVP of the 2015 files and was not a leading contender for that award. Andre Iguodala, the teams sixth man won the award and Klay Thompson was a more likely winner than Curry. The next year, after winning the MVP unanimously in the regular season, Curry was one of the reasons the Warriors lost in the Finals. Outside of game 4, his performance was painfully pedestrian and his game 7 effort, particularly his 4th quarter, were awful and gave the Cavaliers a chance to win their first title. If the Warriors lose the championship this year, Steph takes a major hit to his legacy. 


His one time rival and current team and it has more to lose though. Since entering the league in 2007, Kevin Durant has proven to be one of the most dynamic scorers the league has ever seen. He’s a 7 foot tall forward who can handle and shoot like a guard, block shots like a center, and lead a high-quality team in rebounding. He can do everything on a basketball court, except when the biggest games. With the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durrant went to the NBA Finals one time and the Western Conference Finals  and additional three times. Durant never win a title, with notable losses coming to the Spurs in 2014, the Heat in Durant’s only trip to the Finals in 2012, and blowing a 3-1 lead in 2016 to Golden State with a damning game 6 effort highlighting the lost title chance. To make matters more complicated, Durrant left a talented OKC team to play with the team that just knocked him out in order to take the path of least resistance to the Finals. Durrant look to join a super team to win the Title he desires. Durant has a poor postseason reputation and if the Warriors win with him being a no show or lose, Durant’s legacy gets torpedoed. 


4. Is LeBron the greatest?

I can’t avoid this. I absolutely hate the comparison between Michael Jordan and LeBron James for many reasons. However, it is one of the most compelling reasons to watch the series. Since entering the NBA, LeBron has Reed written in the record book. He’s already put himself in the conversation with Larry Bird, Magic, Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Bill Russell, and Shaq as one of the greatest players ever. If he wins the series against a team that was designed to stop him, LeBron seals his place as a top three player in the history of the league. I won’t say who is the better player until LeBron’s career is done. I want to see the full scope of LeBron’s career before I can rank him historically. That said, LeBron’s performance in this series will dictate his historical ranking. 


Prediction

This series had better make up for such a disappointing postseason. I will be very happy if it does is a basketball fan. Much like my prediction for the Stanley Cup finals, I’m not sure who to choose. Golden State is more talented from top to bottom but the Cavaliers have the best player in the world on the floor. I think this will go six or seven games and if I were forced to choose a winner today, I would pick Golden State. LeBron definitely has the talent to lead his team to victory and the Cavs are a great team. I could just more easily see Golden State winning the series. PLEASE BE A GOOD MATCHUP!!!

Don’t Forget Miami Shaq

When asked what the most important move he has made for the Miami Heat, former coach and current President and Godfather Pat Riley didn’t say it was signing Alonzo Mourning in 1995, drafting Dwayne Wade in 2003, signing Ray Allen away from Boston in 2012, or luring Lebron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach in 2010. He said that acquiring Shaquille O’Neal was far and away the biggest move he made as president of the Miami Heat. “He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy.” The reaction to the interview in which he said this has been a mix of “really?” and “He’s just saying that as a bitter man who has watched Lebron and Wade leave him in recent years.” To both of those I say, quit your bellyaching and understand the context of Shaq’s arrival in Miami. 

In the 90’s Shaquille O’Neal was the most exciting player in the league. He was a massive man who had the agility of a guard and was averaging 28 and 15 in his sleep. He made the Orlando Magic not only relevant, but took them to the finals and made Orlando the most exciting team in the league to watch. When he went to the Lakers in 1996, he cemented his place as the second most dominant player in NBA history behind Wilt Chaimberlain. He won the MVP in 2000, led the Lakers to 3 straight titles, and was the MVP of the Finals in every Finals Series the Lakers won. 

Contrast this incredible success with Miami’s history up to that point. The Heat were founded in 1988 and were ice cold out of the gate. They lost their first 17 games and finished their first season 15-67. They didn’t make the playoffs until 1992, and they were swept easily by Chicago in the first round. They didn’t make the conference finals until 1997 and lost in 5 games to the Bulls. They built some strong regular season teams in the back half of the 90’s and played some legendarily brutal games against the Knicks, but Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, and new head coach Pat Riley weren’t enough to make it to the NBA Finals. In fact in 1999, they became only the 2nd top seed to lose to an 8th seed in the first round of the playoffs when the Knicks upset them. When they drafted Dwayne Wade in 2003, Miami meant absolutely nothing in the basketball world. Beyond having one of the NBA’s legendary figures in Pat Riley involved with their organization, they hadn’t won anything of major significance. 

Then in 2004, Shaq and Kobe broke up and LA’s championship reign came to an end. Miami had gone to the 2nd round of the playoffs that year, but still needed a piece to make them legitimate title contenders. They decided to trade Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler to get Shaq. Immediately, the impact was felt. Shaq and Wade became the biggest power duo in the game, Miami had the best record in the east, and came within one victory of their first NBA Finals appearance. After retooling their supporting cast, a severely disrespected Heat team upset Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals to win the franchise’s first championship. Miami completed their quest for a ring and this one is held in high regard by Riley, who has 5 rings as a coach. It all became a real possibility when Shaq arrived. 

The 2006 NBA Finals are regarded as a one man show. Dwayne Wade was absolutely the best player on the floor that series, averaging 34.7 points a game and winning the MVP of the finals. Shaq didn’t have that great a series, only averaging 13.7 points a game. Compared to his points output in prior years, this was a precipitous decline. He still pulled down a team high 10.2 rebounds a game that series and contributed to a championship team. But this series highlights just how under appreciated Shaq’s time in Miami was. 

His first season in Miami, Wade was not the future Hall of Famer that he is today. He was a quick shooting guard with a big upside and plenty of scoring ability, but he wasn’t Flash yet. The Miami Heat were a promising team, but hadn’t earned the respect of the league yet. When the Big Aristotle showed up, Miami became a legitimate title contender. They had an MVP candidate, one of the greatest centers of all time, and a player with plenty of game left to give. While the Shaq that played in Orlando and LA is treated as a legendary player, Miami Shaq is generally regarded as the start of the old, lumbering Shaq who barely resembled his former glory. That’s not a fair description. In fact, Shaq was almost the MVP of the league in his first year in Miami. He averaged 22.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game while leading Miami to 59 wins in 2005 and lost the MVP to Steve Nash in one of the closest votes in the history of the award. His 2nd year in Miami, he still averaged 20 points and almost 10 rebounds a game, and had 27 point and 12 rebound performances and better against the Bulls and Pistons in the playoffs. Shaq played at a Hall of Fame level in Miami, even though many fans have forgotten that. 

Lebron and Wade were a more dynamic and explosive duo in Miami than Wade and Shaq were. But without Shaq going to Miami, the Heat never win a single championship and Wade’s successes that made Miami appealing to Lebron and Bosh in 2010 don’t exist. Thus, Pat Riley is correct about Shaq’s importance to the Heat organization. 

When Shaq is inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 9th, most highlights will be from his years in Orlando and Los Angeles. Don’t forget to talk about his Miami years though. Wade didn’t become Flash until Superman joined him, and Lebron might never have taken his talents to South Beach of the Big Aristotle hadn’t made Miami credible six years earlier.