Monday, June 15, 2015

Lone Warrior

      First of all I would like to say the GS Warriors don't have to apologize to anyone about winning this NBA Finals. There will be no asterisk attached to their season accomplishments. Along the way they played several teams who haven't had their full complement of players ( ex. Jrue Holiday, Patrick Beverly, Kyrie Irving)  at all times during these playoffs, all the while they with an already strong roster and deep bench suffered no such quandary. Steph Curry is a bad man and deserved his MVP status. But I'll say this with confidence if Kyrie and Love were available this would have not been a series. If Shumpert or LeBron hit a game winning shot at the end of game 1, avoiding  Kyrie’s overtime injury, Cleveland may be celebrating tonight.
      But the operative word was "if". I'll use that "if" word again. If we are going to give an MVP to the best player in this series it would not be Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and especially not Draymond Green (who some say expects to recieve a max contract, but not if I'm paying the bill) but LeBron James. But unfortunately he will be 2-4 on basketball's  biggest stage. A point in which you are judged amongst the greatest of greats. The Jordans, the Birds, the Magic Johnsons of the basketball world. But ultimately he has tasted the champagne  and succeeded at the highest level but just not at the success rate of other legendary stars. So here he is somewhere in the pantheon of NBA greats between Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. Better than most but not the best ever. But 4 MVPs, 2 NBA titles, and 5 consecutive trips to the Finals are nothing to sneeze at. 
     Would Jordan be 6-0 without Pipen or Horace Grant.  Would Bird have 3 rings without McHale and Parrish.  How about Magic without Worthy or Kareem for a whole series.  Sure they could win a game but when you are in the NBA Finals you have to have a good team.  NBA championships are a team accomplishment. With apologies to Delly and Mosgov , the Cavs weren’t picked favorites to win before the playoffs because they were the LeBron’s top cohorts. But the trio of James , Irving , and Love seemed to be a formidable grouping.  Look at how injuries crippled the OKC Thunder this year.  To see this Warriors team win a Championship before a team with Kevin Durant , Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka is very surprising. This championship will go to the team that best withstood attrition.  Steph Curry is good, but is he really considered a better player than Kevin Durant.  I venture to guess most people would say no.
      Kobe Bryant, who many compare James to has always had that other guy on his Championship teams from Shaq, Pau Gasol, Glen Rice, to Ron Artest. One of his seasons without another significant star player. He was criticized due to losing in the 1st round against the Suns after squandering a 3-1 lead and practically laying down in the decisive game 7. He at the time was outmanned, I recall Leandro Barbosa destroying the Lakers and detractors were critical of Kobe’s defense and his approach in that decisive game. But when you are the only consistent source of offense on the team what do you expect. Even great players get fatigued and one can only do so much in a team game. Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics. Kobe, not needing to score as much, took the assignment of guarding Barbosa again.  Barbosa was rendered ineffective because Bryant was able to focus on just playing defense,  he didn’t have to carry the team offensively due to the overall strength of the USA team. Barbosa saying afterwards “he’s never guarded me like that”.   I mention this because it brings to light the plight of LeBron James.  To call LeBron a failure as a basketball player after these Finals is blasphemous. 
       His 1stgame ever as an 18 year old was 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals on 12-of-20 shooting  and his stat line from Game 5 of these 2015 Finals is  40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in a loss.  He from day one has succeeded his lofty expectations with the exception of one. The number of NBA championships.  Losing this Finals doesn’t come with an asterisk due to a limited supporting cast.  Delly can have some moments but asking him to hold down Curry for a whole series was asking too much. Also expecting JR Smith to show up every game was a pipedream. He is too inconsistent. Losing the Finals means your team lost just like no one player gets all the credit, no one player gets all the blame .  Robert Horry and GS Warrior coach Steve Kerr played on teams that went 7-1 and 5-0 respectively in The Finals. But some of the players on those opposing teams never got to experience a championship. But it doesn’t make them less of a player.  Players such as Allen Iverson, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Reggie Miller should not take a backseat to an Andre Igudola, Klay Thompson or even Steph Curry ( at least to this point) because they had a GM who constructed a team that was good enough to achieve the ultimate goal.  If you’re going to criticize James, you also have to give him his credit.  Although one would venture to think how different things would be had they kept Wiggins and not gotten Love. No matter what you think about him, he's a legend of the game. His place in history is still to be determined. But there will soon be a day when young guns the likes of Anthony Davis and Andrew Wiggins will be the frontline stars of the NBA, so enjoy LeBron why you can.

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