I wrote a few days ago about Lebron in the internet age. I have to admit it got me to thinking about how the Finals, and his entire career has been a no-win situation for him since he got here. Hyped since day 1, it was impossible for him to be what everyone wanted him to be. Why did we love Jordan? Because we didn’t know we needed him to be the standard until he became it.
After winning game 6, the Cavs have forced a game 7 in the NBA Finals. This will be the 18th Game 7 in NBA Finals history. The last Finals to go 7? Lebron remembers- that was in 2013 when the Heat were saved by a miraculous 3 by Ray Allen in the final minute in Miami in game 6 against a talented Spurs team to win the second of their back to back titles. The last team to overcome a three games to one deficit were the 1966 Lakers who took the series to 7 until ultimately losing to the Boston Celtics.
People have tried to force the buy into the dislike that the Warriors have for Lebron and vice versa by hyping up every back and forth between the two teams. Want trash talk? Red Auerbach announced before the season that he would retire after the season was over giving his haters one last shot at him in 1966. After an emotionally uplifting come from behind victory in Game 1 by the Lakers, Auerbach pulled yet another one of his classic psychological chess moves by announcing that Bill Russell would succeed him as head coach becoming the first African American head coach in the NBA all but destroying any momentum the Lakers had going into game 2. The Celtics won the next three by an average of 13 points and eventually won the series.
In 1951 The Rochester Royals went up three games to none against the New York Knicks. The Knicks won the next three to force a Game 7 in improbable fashion…and then lost game 7.
What does this mean? It means that doing what the Cavs have already done is ridiculously difficult. Just so everyone’s on the same page, they are facing the greatest regular season team in the history of the NBA, the defending NBA champions. They also have a lineup called the “lineup of death”. They also employ the reigning two time defending NBA MVP who still has not had a signature game and there’s an unsettling inevitability that it will happen.
Last night’s victory had wives losing their minds, then there were the psychological tricks the Cavs were supposedly playing on the Warriors family and friends bus. But the Cavs didn’t win Game 6 in Cleveland for any other reason than Lebron James willed them there. It got me to thinking about who could be the biggest winners and losers here once Sunday’s Game 7, not just within this series but in the NBA as a whole. Here’s my list:
WINNERS (if Cavs win):
- Lebron James- If the Cavs manage to pull off what no one else has done in NBA history, which is win a Game 7 on the road, against the greatest regular season team in NBA history, after being down three games to one, it would catapult Lebron into a whole other stratosphere. Songs would be sung about him, babies named after him, and streets too. Historically, the significance of it would make him unlike any other athlete that has ever graced this game and hopefully would even give the Lebron haters some chill, though I doubt the Curry household would. Also Lebron the GM would get a huge boost.
- Cleveland- This city hasn’t won a championship in so long, and has been starved for some real hardware that I don’t know if there will be a city left to do a parade on Monday morning.
- Kyrie Irving- He’s done more in these last two games to answer questions about his ability to lead a team than ever before. Not at the level of James, but his Game 5 performance will be difficult to duplicate. Shooting 71% and hitting some of the highest degree of difficulty shots you’ll ever see. Also being called champion will help Kyrie shake the stigma of being a good player on a bad team.
- NBA- A small market like Cleveland winning will only make the NBA look better. Even if I’m stirring the conspiracy theorists with this idea, the NBA needs to go into the next lockout having had a team from a small market win to prove that their current financial system has NOT kept small market teams at a disadvantage.
- Ty Lue- Taking over a team in midseason after a questionable coaching change which was rumored to be a Lebron power play and Lue has been admirable in not being the center of it all. You can tell the Cavs players enjoy playing for him and go all out. Even if we have no idea how to gauge his ability to coach because he’s coaching a stacked squad, Lue will have NBA champion on his resume as head coach and player and that’s a feat not many have accomplished. In fact here’s the list: Rick Carlisle, Pat Riley, KC Jones, Phil Jackson, Billy Cunningham, Tommy Heinsohn, Bill Russell, and Red Holzman. That’s some elite company no matter how much you give him credit for.
LOSERS (if Cavs win)
- Warriors being the greatest team in NBA history- The obvious choice, but really its their place in history. It ain’t no thing if you ain’t got that ring. Being the greatest regular season team of all time is a good accomplishment but nothing to write home about. The Bulls will pop champagne, and those other teams like the 86 Celtics, 87 Lakers will all rest easy and have the right to puff out their chest and say they were better too. If they lose Game 7, the Warriors will have lost as many games in the playoffs as they did during the entire 82 game regular season.
- The Curry’s- This is now the second Finals where he’s gone MIA. Yes, he scored 30 points last night but it was the quietest 30. He also fouled out of a game for the first time and showed un-Steph-Curry-like undisciplined behavior. He’s the reigning two time MVP but if they lose this series after being up 3-1, Steph will bear a lot of the blame and for the first time in his career face criticism. That should make for a fun summer for the Curry household. Continuing in the Curry household- her twitter rant after Game 6 will be discussed incessantly until Game 7. If they don’t win, I’m sure Warriors fans will support Ayesha’s thoughts and complain about how the NBA doesn’t want the Warriors to win. This will harm the Curry brand which was really beginning to take off. NBA and other corporate sponsors can’t be too happy about her flying off the handle. They don’t take too kindly to being called names by wives or part of the crew types calling their product or company into question.
- Draymond Green- The nut job as I’m calling Game 5 will rank as one of the weirdest suspension/momentum turners in NBA history. Green’s value is immense to the Warriors, but his play and attitude were limited in Game 6 as he played with the thought that any kind of brash play would likely see him get suspended for an all important Game 7. I’m assuming he’s saving all that rage for do or die Game 7.
- Knicks fans/Celtics fans or any fan base that wants a superstar off their team and Kevin Love on it- If the Cavs win, the push or Kickstarter campaign to trade Kevin Love will take a huge hit. No complicated three way deal that will net the Cavs Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks draft picks they desperately need to continue the rebuild or no superstar Kevin Love to join the revolution in Boston.
- NBA refs- If the Cavs win, tape of Game 6 will be studied as closely as the Kings/Lakers series in 2002 and the Heat/Mavs series in 06. Tim Donaghy’s legacy will be safe and secure.
WINNERS (if Warriors win)
- Steph Curry- No one stands to gain more by his team’s success than Steph Curry. I’m not saying he’s a product of that system- you can’t make that argument for Steph when he’s undoubtedly the greatest shooter this sport has ever known. But he’s pretty much been non-existent in the NBA finals for the second consecutive year and the internet notices shit like that. I’m expecting a 30+ point effort, but I think the Cavs have allowed Steph to get his 30 albeit working hard, but he may have been exposed defensively. Steph has to be aggressive in Game 7 and if he does, he can secure his legacy.
- Klay Thompson- It seems people discuss Steph and Draymond when it comes to this team, but Klay does as much as Dray on the defensive side of the ball (look at his assignments during each round of the playoffs, Harden, Lilliard, Westbrook and now Kyrie) and has done more than Steph on the offensive end. The Warriors do NOT force a Game 7 against OKC without Klay’s insane 40 point game. He loves being in the background which tells you why the Warriors have so much success because all of their stars are uncharacteristically unselfish and genuinely like playing with each other.
- Kevin Love trade mongers- Knicks fans/Celtics fans will be spending countless hours on the trade machine to try and figure out how to get Kevin Love to Boston and the Knicks with a few draft picks.
- Joe Lacob- His NYT article probably turned off a number of people. It made him out to be the arrogant douchebag we’ve all come to expect the rich to be. If the Warriors win, those people can all suck it. Many of his enhancements have enabled the Warriors to become the standard for front offices to aspire to and Lacob will have engineered one of the greatest turnarounds for a franchise in sports history.
- NBA tweeners entering the draft- The shift in thinking about how to employ players like Draymond has changed. Every league is copycat so many teams will look at players who fit that description during the draft and may reach to grab them in hopes of getting the next Draymond Green. Denzel Valentine’s draft stock is already flying high and I’m sure teams will be paying close attention to shooters who can stretch the floor. There will be teams trying to fit square pegs in round holes in hopes of duplicating the Warriors success.
LOSERS (if Warriors win)
- Lebron James- Because he’s Lebron and no matter what, the haters will come out. That’s the burden he bears and whether right or wrong, fans will forget the back to back 41 point games and herculean effort to force a Game 7, only done twice before in NBA history in order to troll the King.
- Kevin Love- Second to Lebron, the NBA will collectively ponder the future of Kevin Love in Cleveland. Since he got to Cleveland, it hasn’t been a clean fit and his play in Game 6 was everything you needed to know. He picked up 2 fouls in the first three minutes and saw most of the second half from the bench. This was a top 15 player in the NBA two years ago but things have NOT gone well. Love will likely have to leave Cleveland and be put up on the pantheon of hated athletes in Cleveland.
- Old Guys- All the Hall of Famers who have opened their mouths about a jump shooting team winning will have to admit that they were wrong. Which they still won’t do, but maybe next time we won’t pay attention to click bait articles about a quote from an 80’s player that discounts the Warriors success. They can stop the whole Kurt Rambis would’ve stopped Lebron and Draymond from entering the lane. Seriously you think THIS GUY is stopping Lebron from getting in the paint?
- Harrison Barnes Free Agency- Barnes had a chance to step up in the Finals and take a $100M contract even if everyone would be screaming that its a bad contract. This Finals has only proved what we all knew. This guy isn’t worth the money and while its still entirely possible that Barnes can go off in Game 7, and the cap is so crazy high and every team has so much money that they may throw money at him- I can’t see him being the star and Steve Kerr sat Barnes down for a majority of the second half while the Warriors were trying to make a comeback. Kerr thought a clearly hobbled Andre Iguodola was a better option. Ouch.
- City of Cleveland- It bears noting that no fan base is more prepared for defeat and gut wrenching loss than the City of Cleveland. No fan base has seen their hopes dashed in the way this city has. I will say that this team right now has very 2004-Red Sox feel to it to me. Take it as you will.