There's a lot going on today. Father's Day. (My dad turned 70 last month, that's crazy to me) The final round of the U.S. Open. It's Juneteenth. It's K-Dub of North Coast Posse fame's birthday.(He's a soldier) The biggest episode of the biggest tv show in the world airs tonight. And overshadowing all of that, it might be the biggest Game 7 in NBA history when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Golden State Warriors to determine the World Champions of Basketball.
There's a lot to talk about here. I would be brief but I just can't. I'm fairly certain this will be the most watched game in NBA history and there's quite a few reasons why.
- Cleveland has not won a major sports championship since 1964, the last time the Browns reached the pinnacle of the NFL. No need to rehash the impressive number of failures that have plagued the Browns, Indians, and Cavs' organizations here. They made a documentary about it.
- Golden State is vying to stake a strong claim to the title of Greatest NBA Team of All Time. They've already gotten more wins than any team in history (88 to 87 for the '96 Bulls) but they'll need a title to be legitimized.
- No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win Game 7 in NBA History.
- Road teams are 3-15 in Game 7's in NBA Finals history (24-100 in playoffs).
- This is the first series in NBA history that both teams are tied in overall points going into game 7 (610-610).
- Stephen Curry is the first unanimous NBA MVP in league history and a growing number of fans think he's the best player in the world.
- LeBron James is still the best player in the world. He leads all players in the Finals in...wait for it...Points, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, and Steals. He's had 3 turnovers in the last 2 games.
- The Cavs won Game 5 with Draymond Green (arguably GS' most important player) suspended and Game 6 at home.
- The Warriors haven't lost 3 in a row since November 23, 2013 when Mark Jackson was their coach.
- The Warriors 'LeBron Stopper', Andre Iguodola, last season's finals MVP, suffered from back spasms in Game 6. He is set to play tonight but it's doubtful that he'll be at 100%.
- Tristan Thompson, who the Cavs signed to an $82 million dollar contract in October (allegedly at LBJ's behest), is finally living up to it as the Cavs are +38 when he's on the court in the Finals.
- The Cavs are noticeably better with Kevin Love off the court even with Dahntay Jones, the Cavs 15th and final player who was signed on the last day of the regular season.
The Warriors represent the new age of basketball. They're a younger Spurs with more dynamic players. The Cavs represent the previous phase of basketball, the Big 3 lineups. The Warriors are heavy favorites in Game 7 and they should be. Too many things went Cleveland's way in Game 6. Although I don't subscribe to this theory, the NBA's biggest hurdle is the perception that the league fixes games for ratings and marketing.
I think there might be a home bias but it goes a little too far to think all the players are in on it too. What would be the best outcome for this series' from the NBA's perspective? If Golden State wins, they'll be crowned by most as the best team of all time and 'dynasty' will come into play. If Cleveland wins, it's huge for Cleveland, Northeast Ohio, and LeBron and the media heads will start talking about LeBron's next super team in Los Angeles. If Cleveland loses, it's business as usual for NE Ohio and focus will turn to next year while the media heads start talking about LeBron's next super team.
Back in the summer of 2013, my cousin was moving from Oakland back to the East Coast. He stopped in Columbus to visit and we hung out at the home of a mutual friend from Akron. That friend was convinced based on what he'd heard that LeBron was coming back to Cleveland, possibly as soon as the next year. That's how things work in Akron. When LeBron surprised most people and announced he was returning to Cleveland almost exactly one year after that, I knew the drought would soon be over.
It's hard to call tonight's game. History and logic and math all say Cleveland is going to lose. It's never been done. Funny to think that a Cavs win could be one of the biggest upsets in sports history when they have LeBron James. We've maybe only seen the Warriors at their very best for one game of these Finals. It takes a lot to repeat. I like to think that LeBron paid the ultimate tribute to Ali by engaging in a rope-a-dope strategy and allowing the Warriors to go up 2-0 and saving his energy (and pressure) for the latter games of the series.
Who cares though? It's Game 7 and there can only be one winner. Heroes will need to rise for both teams. The defense will need to be intense. Steph Curry will be on a mission and he will need to be stopped. Referees will make controversial calls that will ruin the moment for fans. Whatever the outcome, the world will lash out at LeBron James but after tonight, no longer in Northeast Ohio. LeBron will deliver the legacy that he promised in 2003. He will will the Cavaliers to victory in Oakland and Cleveland will win a close game. The pride that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio has will be justified on the world stage. I'm sticking with my Playoff Preview pick, Cleveland in 7. #Allin.