I caught parts of almost every game of the NBA Finals. As compelling as the series was, I just couldn’t lock in for three hours for all five games. Often I would turn the game on only after the girls went to bed, which meant I generally just saw the second halves of the games.
I think that’s a little funny because L is a big Steph Curry and Kevin Durant fan. But she never wanted to watch the games. When we were in Kansas City, I watched game two in one room of our hotel suite while she watched the Disney Channel in the other room. She’d come in during commercials of her shows and find out what the score was, but never sat down to watch. Other nights, she would ask me to tell her the score when the game was over, or in the morning.
Anyway, I don’t have any truly deep thoughts about the series. Doesn’t mean I can’t write a little about it.
As with the past two years, I was pulling for Golden State. I love the way they play, I like most of their players, I really like their coach, and I have a half-assed local tie since I lived a couple freeway exits away from their arena for 11 months in the 1980s. Not that I was a Warriors fan when we lived there; I was a diehard Lakers fan at the time. But, still…
And although I was against the Cavaliers, I couldn’t help but admire the brilliance in their team. LeBron James took the next leap in his legend this year, when folks finally started to entertain the debate of him vs. Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever. He’s not there yet, and who knows if he will ever be. But you can at least have the conversation now with a straight face. Regardless of your thoughts on that comparison, I think he’s firmly put himself in the #2 all time spot. He’s just a remarkable player who, amazingly to me, has never been completely appreciated. Someone has always doubted/hated on him. I think that’s more about the age we live in than about him. But people need to realize there ain’t gonna be another LeBron.
Kyrie Irving might be the most un-guardable guy on the planet. He’s just ridiculous anywhere near the rim. Some of his finishes seem to defy the laws of physics.
JR Smith is something else. A well-documented flake at many times. But he just hits unconscious shots that look effortless when he’s on. A couple of his 3s Monday were of the highest degree of difficulty and barely moved the net.
The Warriors matched all that brilliance with more of their own.
Steph, who is (perhaps) the league’s all-time greatest long distance shooter and is a ridiculously good all-around player.
Klay Thompson, who isn’t too far behind Steph.
Draymond Green, who for all his infuriating moments, makes about 15 hustle plays a night that change the course of the contest.
The overall joy the Warriors play offense with.
And then there’s KD, who may have put up the greatest statistical series in the history of the Finals. He was just bonkers. He does so many things that appear effortless but at the same time impossible because of his alien-like body. Seriously, guys his size should not be able to drill off-balance shots from 25-feet with a defender draped on them. And destroy people in the low post. And get behind the defense on the break for easy dunks. And kill people in transition. We are in the era of the athletic freak. Of them all – LeBron, Russell Westbrook, etc. – KD is the most complete player of the group. Despite being a Texas guy, I’ve always loved his game. I was glad he got a ring.
I hate all this “Super Teams are bad” talk. Um, no they’re not. Right now ESPN is debuting their latest 30 for 30, a three-night series about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry. They may have come together differently due to the labor constraints of the time, but those were Super Teams in the 80s. Anyway, I was also glad KD got a big eff you to the people that killed him for joining the Warriors last summer. He can look at them as say, "They won 73 games last year but couldn’t win a title. Look what the did once I got here. Oh, and pro basketball is about winning, right. Check this ring.”
I loved KD’s interactions with everyone when he was presented the Finals MVP trophy after the game. He had the standard bro-hug for commissioner Adam Silver. He moved on to Bill Russell and offered a very respectful, traditional handshake and was clearly deferring to the legend. And then he turned to the crowd and mugged just a little with the trophy. It was all perfect.
Steve Kerr had the best line of the night when Doris Burke asked him about blending all the talent together into a cohesive unit. “We don’t have that much talent, it was mostly coaching.” I don’t know what his future holds, but I would love it if he either stays in the game or can go back to broadcasting. He’s a great coach, a great broadcaster, and a guy I admire for things that have nothing to do with basketball. I hope his body cooperates and he can do something that fulfills him. But if he has to go out, this isn’t a bad way.
Oh, and Doris Burke is the best sideline reporter in sports. She’s not a former model like so many of the other sideline reporters are. No, she’s a former player, with a deep understanding of the game. And a much better grasp of how to ask questions that elicit interesting and enlightening responses. Her postgame interviews in this series were fantastic, and far from the fluff you typically get in those situations. I don’t think I heard her say “Talk about…” once. I think KD got that, as their exchanges were particularly good.
My constant thought while watching these games is how different the NBA game is than the college game. Most of it has to do with officiating. Guys in college get called for illegal screens for the tiniest infractions. In the NBA, both the screener and screenee lock up, nearly tackle each other, move five feet in the process, and there’s no whistle. You can just kill guards on traps and get away with it. I think NBA officiating is more consistent, but like college refs they realize they can’t call all the fouls they see or else the game will lose its flow and everyone will foul out before the fourth quarter.
The skill level at the next level is so different than in college, too. Everyone can do one thing really well. And they can often do two things really well. If a guy gets the ball at a spot 18 feet from the rim, it’s because he can drill that shot. In college those are air balls when someone who isn’t supposed to have the ball gets it. College is going more-and-more to the current NBA style of bombing away from outside with little regard for traditional inside-out basketball. But those young kids just aren’t skilled enough to do it the way the pros can.
Despite ending in just five games, it was a fun series to watch. Both of these teams are loaded with unique players who are a joy to watch. Countless times in each game there were moments that looked more out of a video game than something living, breathing humans should be able to pull off. Who knows, maybe next year will be the year I watch more than five games all season again. That will depend on what the Pacers end up doing with Paul George, I guess.
- Along with LeBron, Durant, and Westbrook. ↩