OAKLAND — The NBA Finals series between the Warriors and Cavaliers that opened Thursday night at Oracle Arena marks the first time the same two teams ever have met four straight years for the championship in the history of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. Some are saying that might be too much of a good thing for fans growing tired of the same old, same old.
As Cavs star LeBron James sees it, that’s not his problem. “Teams had their opportunities to beat the Cavs over the last four years, and teams have had the opportunities to beat the Warriors over the last four years,” James said on Wednesday. “If you want to see somebody else in the Finals, then you’ve got to beat them.”
Despite the record-breaking longevity of this Finals rivalry, it hasn’t resonated with the public the way the long-time rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers once did, especially during the years when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were going head-to-head. One reason for that might be the widely held perception that the Cavaliers’ supporting cast isn’t strong enough to match a Warriors team that features Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, all of whom might be ticketed for the Hall of Fame.
That’s the overwhelming challenge facing James, who waxed poetic about it on Media Day before Game 1 when asked where this rivalry might fit when the book about his career is written.
“Golden State is one of the best teams I’ve ever played,” James said. “It’s one of the best teams ever assembled. They’ve got four Hall of Famers on their team in Klay, Dray, Steph and K.D. They’ve got a Finals MVP [injured Andre Iguodala] that comes off their bench.”
James noted that Shaun Livingston was a high draft pick (No. 4 overall in 2004) and forward David West has been an All-Star, and both come off the Warriors’ deep bench. “Whoever they suit up . . . is just a really, really high-IQ basketball player,” James said.
“At what chapter will LeBron versus the Warriors fit into my book? I have no idea.
“Listen, Golden State is a great team . . . and I didn’t even mention their head coach [Steve Kerr]. Their head coach is the one who puts it all together, makes it all flow. To be able to put egos in the right position where everybody feels good about the outcome — when it comes to team sports, that’s something that you would hope that you could be a part of.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a few of those teams in my career, either NBA teams or Olympic teams. I don’t know where they will fall in my book, but they will have a nice chapter.”