The Warriors just can’t seem to put it all together.
Take the 2015 NBA Finals for example. The Warriors won 67 games. They lucked out when Tony Allen went out of the series against the Grizzlies, with the Warriors trailing two games to one. They lucked out again that somehow Houston beat the Clippers, who were beat down from eeking out a long series against the Spurts. They got lucky the Cavs were without the injured Kevin Love, and even luckier when Kyrie Irving broke his kneecap in overtime of game one.
Those Warriors won the Finals, coming back from a 2 – 1 deficit to LeBron and a hodgepodge of misfits whose grit and guts took it to six games.
That series was supposed to end much earlier, but LeBron James was so dominant in those 2015 Finals that he should’ve won the MVP in a losing effort. His heroics induced panic by coach Steve Kerr, who desperately moved big man Andre Bogut to the bench and inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup.
The Warriors had to listen all off-season about how lucky they were to win a title in 2015. The sensitive fellas then went out and treated every game in 2015-16 like the playoffs, winning a record 73 games in the regular season. It was as if they were desperately trying to vindicate their 2015 title with their performance in the subsequent season.
The plan backfired immensely, as the Warriors became the first team to blow a 3 – 1 lead in the NBA Finals. That was the team that won the most games in the regular season in NBA history. It was the team with a two time MVP, the second time coming unanimously.
LeBron changed the narrative once again. Instead of talking about how great the 67-win Warriors were in 2015, the story was how great LeBron was in defeat and how favorable the Warriors’ path to the title was. Instead of crowning those 2015-16 Warriors, who won 73 games in the regular season, the greatest team of all time, they’re now remembered for the utterly embarrassing accomplishment of being the lone team to blow a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Once again, the greatness of LeBron James tarnished the Warrior legacy.
LeBron forced the Warriors to go small and it spawned the greatest regular season in NBA history. That regular season was an effort of the Warriors to prove their 2015 title wasn’t a fluke.
After LeBron led the Cavs to that comeback in the 2016 Finals, the Warriors reaction was to run out and grab Kevin Durant. It was a clear sign they felt they could not compete with LeBron and a fully healthy supporting cast, so they went out and nabbed the best pure scorer and a former MVP.
It all goes back to LeBron.
They learned their lesson and didn’t chase 74 wins this season, but they’re in hot pursuit of perfection in the postseason.
16 and 0.
After 73 wins was rendered meaningless by blowing a 3 – 1 lead, perfection in the postseason would be a nice consolation prize.
Yet once again, here stands LeBron. The fly in the ointment. The wrench in the gears. The BAMF in the diner.
These Warriors are supposed to win, and most consider the sweep of Cleveland a foregone conclusion.
The media is as desperate to vindicate their narrative as the Warriors are to cement their all-time greatness. The media fawned all over the Warriors last year and prematurely crowned them the greatest team ever. They claimed it was all over once the Warriors had a 2-0 lead, and started shoveling dirt on the Cavs’ grave when they went down 3-1.
That’s why this time around, you’re not seeing the hot takes they were so confidently writing last year. LeBron smashed that narrative, and now they know better than to write him off too soon.
But you can see indications the media is so excited to claim vindication for crowning Stephen Curry the first unanimous MVP. In Curry’s first game back from his knee injury last postseason, he scored 40, including 17 in overtime, beating the Blazers. Nary a word was spoken about his health…until Cleveland roared back from the dead to win the 2016 Finals. Then the whispers by team Curry were lent credence by media members trying to rationalize their decision to make him a unanimous MVP.
The 2016 Finals featured a litany of James rejections of the unanimous MVP. It wasn’t that James was so vastly superior to Curry, the whispers claimed, but it was Curry’s injury that robbed him of his quickness.
Then, in game 2, Curry finally got one over on James. It finally happened! Curry beat LeBron James to the hoop for a fancy dribbling layup.
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) June 6, 2017
Twitter and Curry lovers everywhere rejoiced, finally with a shred of evidence that Steph was superior to LeBron. It looked great, until you realized that LeBron shut Curry down with smothering defense. That is until James bit on Curry’s pump fake, which featured a clear double dribble.
Steph Curry vs LeBron James – looked like a double dribble to me pic.twitter.com/VKdvAIqn6b
— Eric Rosenthal (@ericsports) June 5, 2017
Had Curry gotten away with cheating in the 2016 Finals, perhaps he’d also have been able to shake Kevin Love on that fateful late game possession?
Of course not, because he was so injured he couldn’t even beat the plodding Love.
So once again we find ourselves with LeBron James standing between the Warriors and greatness. Just like last year, the juggernaut comes to Cleveland with a 2-0 lead. The debate has already begun as to whether these Warriors are better than that 72-win Bulls team that won the Finals in 1996. If they go 16-0 this postseason, there’s no shortage of Warrior fan boys in the media ready to place them above Michael’s Bulls on the list of greatest teams ever.
Along the way, it’s been LeBron pushing the Warriors to such great heights. His dominance in the 2015 Finals spawned the Death Lineup that won 73 games last year. His dominance in the 2016 Finals forced them to sign Durant, and now they chase postseason perfection.
It all goes back to LeBron.
Perhaps above all else, it’s what cements LeBron in the pantheon of all time NBA greats. Not only has he won three Finals, having been to seven straight and eight total, but his greatness transcends the game. He changed the landscape of the NBA when he left Cleveland for Miami, spawning other teams to try and form their own super teams. Now, his greatness has spawned a Golden State team that’s already considered one of, if not the, greatest ever.
In Golden State, maybe we are witnessing the greatest team ever assembled.
Maybe LeBron will lead the Cavaliers back from the brink to capture his second straight title against what would be an all time great NBA team were it not for LeBron.
And in the process, maybe we’ll realize we’ve been watching the greatest player the game has ever seen.