One of the biggest criticisms towards the NBA over the past 5-10 years has been its lack of interference in the creation of so called “super-teams.” It started in the Summer of 2007, when the epidemic of super-teams started with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining forces with Paul Pierce in Boston to create one of the greatest teams in Celtics history. During their three year run of dominance, the Boston Celtics made the Eastern Conference Championships twice and won the Larry O’Brien Trophy (the NBA Championship) in their first season together in 2008.
After the Celtics, who can forget when LeBron James hosted “The Decision” in the Summer of 2008 to announce that he was “taking his talents to South Beach” to join the Miami Heat. In a controversial move that created the NBA’s next super team, he sided with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Florida, and the trio went on to make the NBA Finals in all 4 years they were together, winning the title in two out of those four appearances.
And of course, going on currently in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors turn at having a super-team. This super-team is different, though. Apart from their most recent signing this offseason, superstar Forward Kevin Durant, the Warriors built their dynasty through the draft. Last year, they posted the best NBA regular season record ever at 73-9, getting their most important contributions from players they drafted like PG Stephen Curry, SG Klay Thompson, and SF/PF Draymond Green. Already being considered a super-team, their acquisition of Durant really put them over the top as the best team in the NBA, and went on to fuel one of the NBA’s most fiercest rivalries in the past 25 years.
While Golden State had been building their dynasty, Miami’s dynasty had fallen apart. The dynasty started crumbling when LeBron James left South Beach to return home to Cleveland. While King James was away, the Cleveland Cavaliers had built up a roster that already had playoff potential, adding pieces like young point guard Kyrie Irving already proven all-star Kevin Love, but needed one last piece to ensure its place at the top of the Eastern Conference for years to come. That piece was LeBron James. So the stage was set for the rivalry to be made. Both the Cavs and the Durant-less Warriors cruised through the playoffs in 2015 to meet in what would be their first Finals against each other, with the Warriors getting the best of the Irving-less Cavaliers, winning the series 4-2. In 2016, to not much surprise, the rematch took place, and with the Warriors up 3-1 in the series, it looked like the Championship would be staying with the Warriors for one more year. But LeBron James had other plans. The self-proclaimed King led his hometown Cavaliers back in the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to end up winning the series in an epic 7 games, 4-3. After that series, the NBA was put on notice: This rivalry is far from over.
With the Cavaliers just plowing through the rest of the Eastern Conference, and the Warriors looking as good as ever with their new addition Kevin Durant, I think it would be more of a surprise if we didn’t see Part III of what has been a great two-part rivalry so far. It would be a shock to the rest of the NBA if Cleveland did not represent the East in this year’s Finals, and apart from the San Antonio Spurs (sometimes), no other team in the West seems to be playing at the same level the Warriors are playing at right now, so expect to see them back in the Finals come June, too.
Like I said earlier, this rivalry is far from over. Instead of criticizing the creation of super-teams in the NBA, I am going to endorse it. This rivalry has been so fun to watch, and basketball fans need to realize that we don’t always get to see basketball played at this high of a level. This type of rivalry really only comes around once a generation. We had Celtics-Lakers in the 80s, Pistons-Bulls in the early 90s and Bulls-Knicks towards the late 90s, a little resurgence of Lakers-Celtics in the late 2000s, and now, for the better part of the 2010s, basketball fans get to see Warriors-Cavaliers. Be happy, NBA fans; this is a great thing for basketball.