Still ❤ the Dubs
Admittedly, I am disappointed in the loss by my Warriors to the Cavs, and even wondered whether a blog was worth it; but when you have an opportunity to unearth Anthony Nesty from the 1988 Summer Olympics, you have to do it.
Cleveland's title drought is well documented and I need not rehash it here (use The Google). But I am happy for the city of Cleveland and for my two friends from there, who have waited, literally, a lifetime, to celebrate a championship in any sport. [This was only the second opportunity a Cleveland team had since 1964 to actually clinch a title with a win.]
What does this championship mean to the city? Well, in 1988, my college classmate Matt Biondi went to Seoul, Korea to attempt to win 7 Gold Medals in Swimming (a la Mark Spitz; Michael Phelps, before Michael Phelps). In the 100M Butterfly, Biondi lost to Anthony Nesty of Suriname (use the Google) by 0.01s. When asked if he was disappointed, Biondi pointed out, selflessly, how important the victory was to the nation of Suriname. Check this out:
Nesty’s victory in Seoul was a momentous social and political event for Afro-Caribbeans. The Suriname government commemorated his gold-medal performance on a stamp and on gold and silver coins. A 25-guilders bank note portraying an illustration of a butterfly swimmer was printed in his honor. Surinam Airways named one of its planes after Nesty, and the indoor stadium in Paramaribo was renamed for him.
This is the best parallel for the Cavs title for the city of Cleveland.
My goodness. Before this series LBJ was the #2 best player in history*, or at worst, #4 behind Bill Russell** and Kareem*** in some order.
In a previous post (click), I stated many reasons why. To summarize:
- He had more pressure on him from an early age than any other superstar, and yet only made one bad decision, ironically called The Decision. He had to go to Miami to learn how to win according to fantastic analyst Jalen Rose. He then assumed the burden of bringing a championship to Cleveland by resigning there.
- He has been to 7 finals, including 6 in a row, with teams that would have ranged from very very good to downright putrid without him.
- He led both Finals teams last year in Points, Rebounds and Assists. This year he led both Finals teams in Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, and Blocks. READ THAT AGAIN. Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, and Blocks. In the words of Dick Vitale: Are you kidding me? McEnroe: You cannot be serious! Collinsworth: That is impossible? Michaels: Do you believe…..OK, you get my point.
- His last 3 games were 41 points, 41 points, Triple Double.
Or in stop motion and allowing for rounding (3 seconds). Now look at Lebron, and look at the clock.
1:54. Now look at Lebron below and look at the clock.
1.52. Half the court; 2–3 seconds.
Finally, here is the heretofore unseen video of Lebron's block on Iggy.
My point is this. The game was decided by 4 points. If Kyrie misses the 3, and, say, Draymond makes one, and the Warriors win, is Lebron a loser? 2–5 in Finals? Couldn't make the complete comeback…..c'mon man!
- * I wrote earlier in this post (click) that Peak LBJ is > Peak MJ, and nothing in Game 7 makes me want to change my mind.
- ** Here is why I have LBJ ahead of both Bill Russell and Kareem. Russell was fantastic and won 11 titles. But there were 9 teams in the league then. 9. Also, he was a poor shooter and worse even at free throws. He was Tyson Chandler, but far superior as a cerebral player, competitor, etc. I am just not sure he has the same impact in a league that is more broadly competitive, and with offenses that are more evolved. Again, just putting him behind LBJ, not saying he stunk.
- *** Kareem obviously was Sui Generis and a dominant force. My only question was why he could not win more than one Championship in the 70s when the league had no dominant teams really. The Warriors, Bullets and Sonics won a title too. Seems that Kareem could have equaled the Knicks and Celts with 2. Maybe his supporting cast was a la Lebron's in Cleveland the first time around. I put LBJ above for recency bias, and because Kareem had a bad attitude and whined. Not exactly the team player on or off the court that LBJ is.
The Curry Corrollary
Steph did not play well in these Finals. More on this later. But going into this game he was the deserving MVP who had a magical season, and proved himself to be the best shooter in NBA history. No one serious claimed he was a better player than Lebron. Maybe someday, but even then unlikely.
Lebron is a Mount Olympus God — Zeus, Poseidon, Hades (OK, the Big H lives technically under the mount, but still Top 3 by definition); whereas, I would say that Steph is a Titan at present. Perhaps someday he is Mercury, or Mars, etc. And remember, it was the Titans, like Prometheus and Sisyphus, who either had his liver eaten daily by an eagle, or was forced to push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down as he reached the top, respectively. Perhaps this is more representative than I thought of Steph's current situation.
Regardless, the additional 80 lbs of muscle, 5" in height and superior athleticism make LBJ a superior basketball player. Physically, Steph cannot play 4 positions like LBJ can. Period. End of debate.
Anyway, a 4 point turnaround does not change any of the above.
Explaining the Loss
So Steph did not play well in this year's finals, or last year's either for that matter. I don't know if he, and the Warriors, were affected by a) the Pressure; b) Injury; c) Cavs defense, but either way we really did not see a Steph or a Dubs game. Heck, they almost lost to the Thunder, and would have if not for Klay's Top 20 all-time game 6 performance, and the Westbrook Durant mini-meltdowns.
But for whatever reason, even in the games 1, 2 and 4 victories, the Warriors were not playing Warrior ball. While they take a lot of 3s, they do not typically settle for 3s, yet that is what they did. They hardly penetrated or drew fouls in this series. Curry finished around 70% of the time in the paint during the season. Yet he took like 1 free throw in game 7 and Klay none, or vice versa. Any 3 point advantage was outdone by the Cavs free throw advantage.
Neither Steph nor Klay could shake a Love or a Thompson free for a 3. Yet they did to the much longer Adams and Durant against OKC. Moreover, they were sloppy with the ball.
Add it up — missed shots, no fouls, turnovers, and poor rebounding — either Tristan or Love cleaned up on the boards, and what you had was few second chance points for the Dubs, and more fast breaks and tempo control for the Cavs.
And when Kyrie is dribbling like Curly Neal (click) and shooting like, well, Stephen Curry, there is little room for error.
I am sure the injuries — Bogut, Iggy — and the suspension — Dray — did not help, but maybe that just evens out last year's Cavs. I really want to say that the Dray suspension affected the complexion of that game, and therefore the momentum of the series, but in the end, the Warriors had 3 chances, did not play like themselves, and still came within a Block/Made 3/Missed 3 of winning the title. So go the Basketball Gods.
I could write a long summary, but perhaps what I tweeted (extended version) will suffice:
I spent 40 years in the desert with this team (like Moses). Give me 1 title, 1 conf. championship (with a loss to the Greatest Finals Performance Ever), and a two-time MVP; I'll take it. Props to the Cavs. You earned it. C u in '16-17.