The Spurs have given LeBron James his biggest headaches
Most NBA fans are familiar with the developing rivalry between the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. However, it seems there is another team that Cleveland should consider as a true rival.
The San Antonio Spurs have been a consistently formidable opponent for the better part of two decades. Somehow, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff continually find a way to hit the metaphorical refresh button with each passing season. When it comes to coaches in the NBA, “Coach Pop,” as Popovich is affectionately known, is considered to be one of the greatest to ever shout plays from the sidelines, and rightfully so. His 19 winning seasons is currently tied with Pat Riley and bested only by Phil Jackson (20). Furthermore, over the course of Popovich’s tenure at the helm, the Spurs have won five NBA championships.
Gregg Popovich and LeBron James have developed a great relationship over the years. In fact, James recently declared the three-time NBA Coach of the Year award winner “the greatest coach of all time“.
"He's the greatest coach of all time." – LeBron on Pop https://t.co/Rzu0BHvp1y
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 20, 2017
James is no stranger to the Spurs organization. As most of his fans will reluctantly remember, The King has been defeated by San Antonio twice in the NBA Finals, including a 4-0 sweep in 2007.
Kawhi Leonard, a player who many have dubbed “The LeBron Stopper,” has been one of the reasons James has had such a hard time stopping the Spurs. “The Claw”, who is now the number one scoring option for the Spurs, has managed to stop LeBron James from being LeBron James on most occasions. Once upon a time, a young Leonard seemed to be nothing more than an aggravation for The King, but that story has changed. Now, when James and Leonard meet, it’s simply two superstar basketball players going at it.
During an Open Run podcast last August, James had high praise for Leonard’s defensive prowess.
“Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi Leonard, he’s solid,” James said. “He’s solid, solid at that end of the floor. He’s very, very solid. I like him. I like the kid.”
Despite their rivalry, James and Popovich have a mutual respect for one another, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported two years ago.
“He’s a great player. He’s not just athletic. He’s incisive,” Coach Popovich stated early in the 2014-15 NBA season. “He understands the game the way Magic (Johnson) did, the way the way Larry (Bird) did, and the way Tim Duncan does. He knows a whole lot more about what he has been doing than you all. He’s a character guy. he’s good people, and he’s got a great heart.”
Do the Cavs have a rival? Yes. Obviously, the Warriors are the Cavaliers’ rival. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. But maybe it’s time for the Spurs to be considered in that same discussion – albeit a less-heated one.