It’s the matchup that experts predicted before the season began. A matchup prediction that never changed throughout the season. Many expected it at the beginning of the playoffs, and here we are.
It was no secret that this was the odds-on favorite for the NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in their third straight Finals, led by LeBron James, who is individually appearing in his seventh straight. That’s not a typo; it’s James’ seventh straight Finals appearance and eighth overall. (How many did Michael Jordan make? Never mind — that’s for another time.) The Golden State Warriors are also headed back to the Finals for the third straight year. All three times have been against…yup, the Cavs.
Expect a Golden State vs. Cleveland NBA Finals for Three More Years
The first two years these teams were matched up, there was competition. The opponents they faced could not only give each team a run for its money, but made each series a battle to the point that we thought we may see a different Finals matchup.
This year, we didn’t even try.
From day one, it was Warriors vs. Cavs. Not only did everybody predict it, but we all came to expect it. Each team bulked up after last year’s Finals with the intention of returning, while giving no hope to every other team in the league. What you likely haven’t thought much about, though, was what happens after this year. LeBron James isn’t going anywhere anymore. He left Cleveland and returned. He won’t go through that cycle again. Golden State will lock up Stephen Curry. If anything, they would let go of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green before letting Curry walk. All of this means that we can expect a Golden State vs. Cleveland NBA Finals matchup for at least the next three seasons. Book it.
Basketball is the only professional sport where one player can dictate the outcome of a game. Yes, you could make a case for a goaltender in hockey, but you also need to score to win in the NHL. Unless you’ve got a great puck handling goaltender with the opposing net wide open, don’t count on that happening.
Football has three completely different phases of the game. I know, Tom Brady‘s won 5 Super Bowls. But he’s had numerous defensive, special teams, and even offensive plays help him get to where he is. That’s without even mentioning the greatest coach in NFL history. Not sold? Aaron Rodgers is the most talented player the NFL has ever seen, but he has only won one championship. Don’t agree with that? Watch the last three playoff games he’s lost and tell me that any of those were his fault. It’s not even debatable.
Finally, baseball. Two words: Mike Trout.
Back to the topic at hand. Basketball is the only sport where one player can completely change a franchise. When James came back to Cleveland, the Cavs were the worst team in the NBA. They had the first overall pick that year. They went from dead last to the NBA Finals and have been to two more since. Did anyone even know that Golden State had a team until the Warriors drafted Curry in 2009? It took time, and some playmakers around him, but Golden State is now arguably the most liked franchise in basketball, with one of the largest fan bases. And after a historic 73-win season, the Warriors added a top five player in Kevin Durant to a roster already bolstering three All-Stars.
Don’t Bet Against It
Regardless of what team he plays for, James will always be in contention to reach the Finals. Golden State will find a way to keep its roster intact for years to come. Based off of what we’ve seen the last three years from these two teams, expect the same result in the coming three.