I love me a good movie vs sport parallel. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman can take it or leave it, most likely leave it. Ironic given the name I gave my anonymous friends is a movie name.
Everyone thought this would be Warriors vs Clippers at some stage with the animosity that brewed earlier this decade, especially when the Clippers kicked the Warriors out of chapel service in 2013. I’m pretty sure no-one even knew the teams did chapel service together until the Clippers decided to go it alone. Doc Rivers vs Mark Jackson. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin et al vs the Splash Brothers. Plenty of bad blood. I thought that would be the dynastic show down for the ages. But the Warriors made that a one-sided show and now they are breaking up the Clippers, or at least they seem to be planning that.
Then I thought it might be Warriors vs Spurs but those ships were passing in the night. Just as the Warriors started to peak, the Spurs started in the opposite direction. I mean Pop will always get the most out of that team but credit to the Spurs who are still playing meaningful games in the post-season despite being in what we would call a rebuilding period. Can any team with Kawhi Leonard be rebuilding?
But out of nowhere LeBron (this man needs no last name) decided to return home from Miami and carried the Cavaliers on his back into the 2015 Finals and that series was epic. Kevin Love was already out and Kyrie Irving went down during Game 1 but LeBron was doing pretty much everything. Tristan Thompson was collecting offensive boards but that was pretty much it.
The first two games at Golden State were overtime thrillers split by the teams and when Cleveland went up 2-1 it didn’t look good for the Warriors but then Steve Kerr went to small ball and started the Death Lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala and the rest is history. The Warriors swept the rest of the way and had their first championship in a million years. They were the darlings of the NBA, with the Splash Brothers raining down fire from heaven, a thousand passes a game and redefining defence around the League. This contrasted strongly with the complicated legacy of LeBron. He is arguably the greatest player ever but will always be compared to other greats particularly Michael Jordan. There was the Decision too.
That was pretty much the high-water mark for the reputation of the Warriors too. At that stage, they were everyone’s second side but a big dose of the edge provided by Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut progressively eroded that as did the fact that they were the reigning champions with commensurate swagger. I noticed that they slowly transitioned from the toast of the NBA to the team everybody wanted to beat over the course of the next season.
During the 73-win season it didn’t seem like anyone could stop the Warriors. They were going to be a dynasty the like of which hadn’t been seen since Michael Jordan was at the Bulls. With the offensive heartbeat of the team belonging to Steph Curry, but for the occasional Klay Thompson heat check, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut providing the defensive starch and the Death Lineup to close out games, it didn’t look like any other team had a chance. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Draymond Green’s ill-fated groin swipe in Game 4 opened the door for the Cavaliers. No team had ever lost the Finals after leading 3-1. Cleveland came back with a vengeance sweeping the remaining games but it wasn’t till Kyrie Irving’s three pointer with 53 seconds to go and stellar defence by the Cavaliers over the remaining time that the Championship was finally won. It was exciting stuff and it turned a one-sided domination into an epic rivalry.
Which brings us up to date, almost.
This season has just been treading water leading up to Warriors vs Cavaliers III. The Warriors shifted out Bogut and Barnes for Kevin Durant and became unbackable favourites. The fact that the Warriors would sweep all before them seemed to be dispelled early in the season. We’ve seen LeBron resting at different times. Kevin Durant got injured. We sat back and enjoyed James Harden and Russell Westbrook take their games to the next level. Mainly we were just waiting for Warriors vs Cavaliers III.
Why the parallels with Rocky vs Apollo? I think mainly because the first four Rocky movies see a transition from Rocky being the hero and Apollo being the villain right through to both of them being the heroes. Now when I see Rocky I, I don’t think that Apollo Creed is the bad guy, I think there is Apollo, Rocky’s friend and respected rival. Rocky is even mentoring Apollo’s son now!
Warriors vs Cavaliers is a bit the same. Initially the Warriors were the heroes and the Cavaliers the bad guys unless you were from Cleveland. Now it seems like the teams are viewed in much the same way.
All I know is that no-one seems equipped at this stage to knock either team off. We could end up seeing Warriors v Cavaliers VIII before this thing is finished.
Next exciting episode will be on Friday, 19 May 2017 titled ‘The Geordies and the Mackems swap places and Geordie fans couldn’t be happier, or could they be?’.