The inevitable conclusion of the conference playoffs is fast approaching and leaves two teams who have been on a crash course towards facing off again in the NBA Finals for the 3rd consecutive season. Everybody wants to see if Kevin Durant’s decision to spurn the only other legitimate contender(OKC) to the throne(sorry Spurs) will pay off. The Warriors have already advanced to the Finals, but they’ve been there each of the last 3 years; that simply will not be not enough for them. Without ending the season as the 2017 NBA Champions, the Warriors will ultimately be judged a complete and utter failure. On a deeper level, Durant’s legacy will be tarnished forever. After all, how can you add a former MVP to an already stacked NBA roster featuring the reigning MVP and not improve? Without Durant, they were up 3-1 and were bested two of the best individual finals performances we’ve ever seen from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. With Durant, all logic points to them being able to finish the job without blowing a series lead. The Cavaliers have added nobody of significance outside of Kyle Korver, so the only real different player in this series from the 2016 NBA Finals is Durant.
The 2017 NBA Finals is not only about Durant’s legacy, but about LeBron’s as well. People can talk all day about how stacked the Warriors are, but it’s not like the Cavs are hurting in regards to supplying LeBron with help. Kyrie Irving might be the most gifted scorer in the entire league, and Kevin Love is considered to be an elite talent as his position. JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Tristan Thompson have all had pretty good careers, and any team would love to have their particular niches. They have no shortage of wing defenders, led by the underrated Iman Shumpert, to combat the perimeter attack of the Warriors. Make no mistake, if LeBron is as good as some believe he is the Cavs should have more than a fighting chance to win the series. Win the series, and LeBron can realistically make a claim to the throne as the greatest ever. Lose? Let’s lighten up with the G.O.A.T. talk. LeBron has immense talent around him, and if he truly is the greatest ever there should be no reason he can’t get the job done.
Ultimately, the 2017 NBA Finals has more on the line on a personal level than any Finals in recent memory. More than LeBron’s first Finals with Miami, in which the stacked team he helped create should have beaten the Dallas Mavericks by all accounts. More than any Finals appearance he ever made before leaving for Miami in his efforts to bring Cleveland a championship. Even more than his orchestrating of the greatest NBA Finals comeback in NBA history. Beat the Warriors and even the greatest naysayers(myself included) can’t scoff at the notion that James might be better than peak Michael Jordan. On the flip side, Kevin Durant has taken a major risk in leaving the only NBA franchise he’s ever known to become a champion. Years from now, nobody will talk about how Kevin Durant isn’t a good player for joining this team if they win a bunch of titles in a row with him on board. They will only marvel at the staying power he helped contribute. If he can’t win, he’ll be discussed as a brilliant scorer who just wasn’t clutch enough, or even worse forgotten about entirely. People say these teams are bad for the league, but how much more can you ask for to be at stake with the quintessential prize on the line?