A few days from now, one team will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the second time in a row or the other will exact revenge and reclaim its spot at the top of the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers will defend the NBA title against the superstar-studded Golden State Warriors. Despite the glory of being crowned the best team in the NBA, that is not the only storyline worth following.
Mike Brown vs his old team
Mike Brown and the Cleveland organization have some history and it’s not all good. Brown has been hired and fired twice by the Cavaliers. He first came on board in 2005 before getting the pink slip in 2010. He was again named coach of the Cavaliers during the 2013-14 NBA Season but was released after one year.
Brown coached a young LeBron James during his first stint with Cleveland so there’s a lot familiarity between them which may play a vital role during the NBA Finals. The duo guided the Cavaliers to the post-season five straight years and even made it to the NBA Finals in 2007 only to lose to a more experienced San Antonio team. As Fox Sports pointed out, the two will be in the NBA Finals once more after ten long years but this time as opponents.
“I don’t have any control over what the storyline’s going to be. It’s a little ironic that things happen in life this way. I was just talking to my boys about it, and it’s just one of those things, especially in the NBA, it’s like ‘The Lion King.’ It’s just the circle of life.”
Steve Kerr vs his injured back
The first time Warriors coach Steve Kerr took a leave of absence, Golden State went on a tear and won a record-setting 24 straight games. Then assistant coach Luke Walton guided the Warriors to a 39-4 win-loss record before Kerr took the reign back. Walton’s impressive run earned him the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers while Steve ended up with the NBA Coach of the Year Award for that season.
Kerr is sidelined once more due to pain in his back. Brown has been making the most of this opportunity by leading the Warriors to 10 straight wins and will likely coach for the rest of the NBA Finals.
Kerr has already stated that he is not sure if he will return for the NBA Finals. He did say, however, that he has no intention of retiring just yet so that’s one thing less to worry for the Warriors.
Kevin Durant vs his critics
KD received a lot of flak for doing a LeBron – leaving his long-time team to chase an NBA championship with other superstars. While Durant did not announce his transfer via “The Decision” like a media circus, his signing with the Warriors did not sit well with many especially his former teammates at Oklahoma City.
Durant will get to prove his detractors wrong if he succeeds in leading the Warriors over a determined Cleveland gang. However, there remains the stigma of chasing a championship by hitching a ride with some of the best teams in the league. It’s even worse for those who orchestrate a team-up of superstars which James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh did in 2010. Despite winning two NBA championships with the Heat, LeBron is still chastised by critics for his maneuverings to build Miami’s Big Three. KD is in danger of suffering the same fate.
Draymond Green vs himself
Green was voted into this season’s All-NBA Third Team. This is a clear indication of how important he is to the Warriors and to the league for that matter. With the NBA championship series even tenser than ever, eyes are on Green if he’ll behave and keep his mind in the game. The NBA Finals series hasn’t even started yet and Green is already trash talking. Bleacher Report mentioned that in an interview with Good Morning America, Dray-Dray said that James can be the GOAT but he can’t have the ring.
In last year’s NBA Finals, Green was suspended for a game for swinging at James’ groin area. This was in reaction to LeBron stepping over a fallen Green, a move many thought was disrespectful.
The Warriors imploded after Green was taken out of the equation. Brown and the rest of the Warriors need to keep Green under control if it plans to avenge their embarrassing NBA Finals loss last year.
LeBron James vs racism
Of all the players involved in the 2017 NBA Finals, the King is perhaps facing the most adversity. He and the rest of the Cavaliers are going up against a cast of vengeful Warriors at least two of which are future Hall of Famers. James’ legacy is also in play. If he succeeds in leading Cleveland to the NBA championship, he will be in a better position to fight for the title of best NBA player ever. Right now, he is stacked up against other NBA greats particularly His Airness Michael Jordan who is widely considered the Greatest of All Time, a title LeBron once claimed to be his.
But the biggest obstacle the NBA superstar is now facing is racism. On Wednesday morning, the gate of his Los Angeles home was vandalized with racist slurs. His powerful response to the hate crime earned James the respect of his peers and opened more eyes to the inequality that is still being experienced today especially by African-Americans.
“Being Black in America is tough.”
The question now is if James will be able to battle through this latest attack against him and lead the Cavaliers back to NBA glory and cement his name in basketball immortality.
[Featured Image by Jason Miller/Getty Images]