As the clock struck 0:00 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals between the Houston Rockets and defending champion Golden State Warriors, reality quickly set in for all NBA fans that the fourth installment of the Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors’ saga was upon us.
Many NBA fans are not happy about this repeated matchup and expect Golden State to win outright, even though LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his career in his 15th season and defying father time.
It is this disappointment, however, that has blinded some NBA fans from appreciating the greatness we are watching on the basketball court. We are in a unique landscape in the NBA, where we have a dynasty built from the ground up, taking on one of the greatest players of all time for NBA supremacy.
Dynasties do not come around often in the NBA, especially like the one we are watching in Golden State. This team has changed the way that basketball is played and making other teams adapt to their style.
We have not seen a dynasty clicking on all cylinders like this since the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s. Just like the Warriors’ Big 3, the Lakers had two generational talents in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’ Neal leading the charge and no one in the Western Conference had an answer for them.
One season you might have thought Portland would be a competitor, then the next season Minnesota, and after that the Sacramento Kings. Each of those three teams would fight valiantly, but did not have that ‘It’ factor to dethrone the Lakers.
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The same thing could be said years later about the Houston Rockets this season and the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple of years ago. Both teams were led by superstar players, but did not have that championship pedigree to take down the Warriors. Instead, Golden State made both Houston and Oklahoma City look inferior in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
The performances we have seen from Golden State over the years in the NBA Finals and in the regular season have been impressive. Remember when they won 73 games back in 2015-16 season and everybody was comparing them to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who won 72 games?
The comparison was not far-fetched as some people made it seem. During that season, the Warriors were putting up historical numbers that made you wonder is this team actually on the same level of the 95-96 Bulls led by Michael Jordan.
Speaking of Jordan, who sits at the throne as the greatest player of all time. He is the proverbial gold standard of an NBA champion. 6-0 in the NBA Finals and completely dominated the 1990s with his sheer scoring ability and killer instinct.
If Jordan is the gold standard, LeBron James is right there with him. What James has been able to accomplish in his 15-year NBA career is amazing. He’s done it not only with scoring points but showcasing his all-around game.
The latter half of this statement perfectly sums this season and postseason for him. James does not have the best team surrounding him, but still found a way to lift them to the NBA Finals. In this postseason alone, he is averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.8 assists in 41.9 minutes per game.
Be prepared to see this same type of production in this year’s edition of the NBA Finals. In every NBA Finals matchup against Golden State, James has given us memorable moments and performances that we sometimes take for granted.
It has to say something that James has gone to the NBA Finals for eight consecutive seasons. Could it be an indictment on the Eastern Conference? Maybe. Or could it be he is just that great of a player?
We are definitely in the golden era of the NBA and should appreciate what will see beginning on Thursday night at the Oracle Arena. It might be a long time before we see a dynasty take on one of the greatest players of all time again.