The NBA we see today is one of power and control. Sitting three games ahead in the West and two in the East respectively, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers continue to define their own tiers as the rest of the league wallows in playoff content. The Warriors, boasting a quadruple All Star lineup since summer’s antics, are winners of seven straight. The Cavs, winners of their last three games against the Warriors, are also on hot streak of nine victories with one “forfeit” as coach Tyronn Lue called it against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Lue also discussed the NBA’s largest rivalry in a historical context, giving comparisons for these dynasties that go beyond the Christmas special and anticipated NBA Finals. His praise placed the Warriors and Cavs in the company of San Antonio for their domination; but the ultimate test of fantastic franchises came when Lue was asked to compare today’s feud to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry that shaped the NBA all before names like LeBron James and even Michael Jordan were known.
“Well, it’s a lot of championships won in that era,” Lue said. “But if both teams stay together and both teams continue to keep winning, it could be like that. They have a great team over there on the other side and we have a great team also, so when you talk basketball, you’re going to talk Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio. That’s who you’re going to talk about. And it’s a great place to be in.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin asked this question, prefacing the debate with a reminder of the sort of company this comparison implies:
“Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have met 11 times with the title on the line, including six times in eight years from the 1961-62 through 1968-69 seasons, and three times in a four-year span in the ’80s.”
Some claim the talent between these teams exceeds that of the 60s and 80s, others realize that also implies that the rest of the league won’t stand for decades of dynasty (San Antonio the wild exception). Even if the Cavs-Warriors don’t reach 11 Finals meeting, the teams still have a shot at history this season. As McMenamin points out, if both teams meet their season expectations, the rivalry could potentially be the first to determine the League’s champion three years in a row. At that point, do you redefine dynasty and dominance?
Whatever the result of Christmas, both teams will accept this games as “one of 82.” Four-time MVP, three-time NBA champion LeBron James reiterated this as he had a year ago when the Cavs visited Golden state for the holidays:
“We will be ready with the game plan that our coaching staff gives us,” LeBron James said. “Are we ready to set ourselves up for a seven-game series between us and the Warriors? Hell no. Our starting 2-guard is out four months. And we have no sense of entitlement thinking we can even get to a seven-game series. We’re not ready for that. We’ll be as well-prepared as you can be for a regular-season game.”
His floor general, Kyrie Irving, shared his sentiment and preached appreciation for the dynasties unfolding before us:
“For us, we’re just going to go out and play our game and have fun,” Kyrie Irving said. “It’s just a game at the end of the day. We’re playing in the regular season and I know there definitely will be high emotions in both locker rooms. That’s a given. If you’re not getting up for this game — all the great players that will be on the floor at one time — you shouldn’t be in there.”
While Cavs fans anguished for revenge a Christmas ago, the team has remained true to its progress. One of 82 is not only a reminder, it’s a reality. So, ha ppy holidays, and enjoy the game. Remember, the only time for heated battle is June.