With us at the conference playoffs in the NBA, it has become obvious that it’s only a matter of games until we see the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors in the third consecutive NBA Finals. What is the significance of this? Is this the NBA’s next big rivalry?
As soon as Kevin Durant announced his decision to move to Golden State last summer, it was an instant realization that the NBA Finals in June would include the Warriors. Then with the Eastern Conference dominance by LeBron James, everyone understood the Cavaliers would win the East. It was a predestined matchup for the NBA Finals and with the exception of a shocking turn of events, we’ll see the Cavaliers and Warriors for a third straight year. We all expected this from the onset.
I try to listen to plenty of sports radio shows, as well as read many sports articles. Why? I am venturing in sports journalism and broadcasting and hope my eventual college degree lands me a nice job in this field. When I tune in, I have heard this perplexing comparison. Some feel this is the modern day Celtics and Lakers rivalry, and that this is good for basketball.
I understand their perspective. The Celtics and Lakers have met in the Finals twelve times and is a historic rivalry with different layers. We have the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson era of this rivalry. I was privileged to watch the Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce brand of this rivalry. This is going to be the rivalry basketball takes to its grave because this will one will never end. The rivalry is too prestigious to be over. This is where I disagree with these analysts.
While the Warriors and Cavaliers are meeting for a third straight time in the Finals, something the Celtics and Lakers have never done, this rivalry will one day come to an end. Perhaps this goes on for another couple of years, but it will come to an end. As soon as stars begin to depart from the team, it won’t be the same. This isn’t a long-lasting feud, but tempers will only flare for so long. These franchises aren’t in cities known to attract big free agent signings. The Warriors only did such by recording a 73-9 record. Golden State isn’t the most luxurious free agent destination in their own state, let alone the league! While I’m on the subject, I’ve never heard someone enthusiastically say they’re going to Cleveland on vacation. The only reason the Cavaliers are relevant is because of LeBron James. As soon as James leaves via free agency or retirement, that lure will come to an end as will this rivalry.
The Celtics and Lakers also had to scratch and claw through their conferences to get to the Finals. Aside from when the league only had nine teams, these two franchises had to battle through tough conferences to even make it to the Finals. In the 1980s, which was the prime of this rivalry, there were other teams! Philadelphia, Detroit, and Houston were among those who were good back then and could topple the Celtics and Lakers before reaching the NBA Finals. It was not a sure-thing they would make it. While in the past three seasons, there’s only been like three or four teams who could realistically make it, and they were all on Golden State’s side. It’s no phenomenon to see the Cavaliers in the Finals. The journey throughout the playoffs is what make you respect teams, and we see no obstacles in their journeys with the Cavaliers or Warriors to respect them.
The real issue is what I just mentioned. There is no competition in the NBA. Cleveland and Golden State have went out and built super teams to tarnish the rest of the league and to lock themselves into the NBA Finals. The entire regular season becomes a waste and even the rest of the playoffs become underwhelming. While I expect the ratings to be through the roof in this NBA Finals rubber match, this rivalry has hurt the game of basketball as a whole. The NBA would be in absolute danger if this continued for a fourth-straight year. The danger of boring lifelong fans could turn those very same fans away from the game.
Boston and Los Angeles have an amazing rivalry that will withstand the test of time. They are two highly respected franchises in terms of their history, and for that reason will always be cherished. It was a rivalry we saw continued by the work ethic of both teams and it didn’t feel the NBA forced it down our throats.
This Golden State and Cleveland rivalry is a different ballgame. In a diluted league today, it’s a given that the Cavaliers and Warriors are making it to the Finals and takes the excitement out of watching the regular season or other postseason series.
While the Celtics and Lakers will live in infamy, the Warriors and Cavaliers rivalry is on its last leg.