It seems like Oct. 17 was just yesterday.
In reality, it has been more than seven months since the 2017-18 NBA season began.
Now, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors meet in the NBA Finals once again. The two teams have faced each other on the biggest stage each of the last three years, with the Warriors winning twice.
With Game 1 starting tonight at 9, I present my personal selection of the top three storylines for the 2018 NBA Finals.
We take LeBron for granted.
My, we are spoiled. LeBron James is so, so, so, so good at basketball, and after 15 seasons, people have been desensitized to it.
Not me. We almost never get to see this type of longevity from professional athletes, and what makes it even more impressive is that James is playing perhaps his best ball at 33 years old. For perspective, see the current state of other members of the 2003 NBA draft class, like Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony.
This regular season, James set personal bests in rebounds and assists while playing all 82 games for the first time in his career. He currently leads the NBA in playoff-scoring – that’s in 2018 and all-time – as he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most career playoff points in Game 4 against Boston and almost single-handedly carried the Cavs through the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
His 45 points to clinch the first-round series against Indiana, buzzer-beating game-winner against Toronto or breathtakingly dominant performances in Games 6 and 7 against Boston all prove how clutch he is.
The King is must-see TV and we’d be fools to change the channel now, especially when we don’t know if he’ll keep this up in his 16th season and beyond.
This recurring matchup is not as bad as you think.
This series will have a huge impact on the future of both sides involved. If Cleveland falls, it likely loses LeBron to free agency. If Golden State loses, its quest for dynasty status hits a real speed bump.
Of course, the Warriors are the better team, and it seems likely the Bay Area will celebrate its third title in four years.
That being said, there are plenty of people who wanted to see Boston defeat the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. Many of these haters only root against James and Cleveland because they’re “bored” with the same teams meeting in the Finals every year, not because they’re Celtics fans.
I guess they think the Celtics would have a better chance to compete with the reigning champs than Cleveland. That’s delusional. Either squad would have been steep underdogs in that series. Knowing that, I’d really rather see them play Cleveland, a team with the best player in the world, over Boston, a team without its two best players.
All the pressure to win is on Golden State.
This is the Warriors’ biggest weakness against Cleveland. LeBron James and the Cavs were supposed to lose to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto was supposed to show them up in the second round, and before that, the Pacers were supposed to pull off the first-round upset. And they’re sure as hell supposed to lose to the Warriors.
On the flipside, the Warriors really need this title. And they better not think about that one time in 2016 where they were supposed to win, but crumbled, losing its 3-1 lead as Cleveland was crowned NBA champions for the first time.
People have been questioning Golden State’s legitimacy all year. It only won 58 regular season games after winning 67, 73 and 67 the previous three campaigns.
The Houston Rockets and their roster designed specifically to beat the Warriors nearly did just that in the Western Conference Finals.
With Golden State losing some of its dominance this season, its perception as the undisputed best team has started to shift. Another Finals blunder against the inferior Cavs could change that for good.
Andrew Huang is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJHuang and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.