Sports are about leadership, camaraderie, friendship, health, fun, entertainment and personal growth, but what happens when personal pride and agendas also take a toll on the performances of the best athletes in the history of the world?
Over the course of time, there have been heartfelt battles about supremacy and legacies in sport, and of course, the NBA hasn’t been excluded, as the urge to prevail is nothing but a part of the human nature.
And if you take several superhumans that are used to leading their respective teams and getting doors opened wherever they go, it’s very likely that pride makes them take things quite seriously when other guys as good as them try to snub them from personal glory.
So now, as we are on the verge of the NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers facing each other in the tiebreaker, let’s take a look at the top 4 greatest revenge stories in NBA history.
4. Magic Johnson Against The Boston Celtics
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had a long time hard-nosed rivalry as the top two players in the NBA during their primes, with the Celtics and Lakers constantly making the headlines as the most successful franchises in the Association.
So, during the 1983-84 campaign, the fans got the matchup they desperately wanted, featuring Johnson against Bird in the NBA Finals, but Magic’s horrid performances cost him the nickname of Tragic Johnson and of course, also cost the Lakers the ring in 7 games, with Bird telling the media that the best part about that ring was knowing that Magic was suffering in the other locker room.
Obviously, that was inspiration enough for one of the greatest players in basketball history, leading his Lakers to back-to-back finals against the very same Celtics just to beat them in 6 games and then back again in the '87 finals.
3. San Antonio Spurs Against The Miami Heat
During Gregg Popovich’s era in charge of the San Antonio Spurs, they’ve been one of the most consistent franchises in all major competitive sports, constantly making it to the biggest stages as a terrifying squad that makes you dizzy with ball movement and suffocating team defense.
Sadly for them, they couldn’t just take advantage of their experience and talent during the 2013 NBA Finals, leading 3 games to 2 and owning a 5 point lead late in the 4th, just to watch Chris Bosh snatch a rebound over several Spurs' players and throw the ball to Ray Allen, tying the game to force overtime and complete the comeback to defeat the Spurs in 7 games.
However, according to Popovich there wasn’t a single day that they didn’t remember what happened, reaching the Finals once again against the Heat during the next season, just to watch a blossoming Kawhi Leonard play lockdown defense on his way to the Finals MVP and a 4-1 NBA Finals triumph, putting an end to Bron’s Heat legacy and the “Big 3” era in South Beach.
2. Kobe Bryant Against The Boston Celtics
Once again it came down to the greatest rivalry in competitive basketball, with the modern version of the Bird vs Magic era during Kobe Bryant’s prime and Boston’s big 3 tenure featuring Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
After 4 lousy seasons, the Lakers were finally back on track to NBA stardom, with an inspired and apparently unstoppable duo featuring Pau Gasol and the aforementioned Bryant after an MVP season, just to get beat in the Finals by the C’s in 6, winning the title-clinching matchup by a humiliating 39 points, raising a lot of doubts about Kobe’s ability to win a ring without Shaq.
Needless to say, the Black Mamba wasn’t going to let Boston get away with it, working twice as hard on his way to yet another NBA Finals matchup against the Celtics a couple of years later, defeating them in 7 games to win back-to-back championships after routing the Orlando Magic the prior season.
1. LeBron James Against The Golden State Warriors
And last but not least, LeBron James was finally able to shut up his haters for good, giving the city of Cleveland the ring he had promised them a very, very long time ago.
The Golden State Warriors came out of the blue during the 2014-15 season, being one of the most dominant teams in the history of the league just to blow a beaten Cavaliers team that didn’t have Kevin Love and lost Kyrie Irving early in the series, leaving LeBron all by himself to try and make a run at the championship.
And the very next season, the Warriors even scarier, breaking the all-time record of most wins in a season and earning a 3 to 1 lead in the Finals, until LeBron and Kyrie took matters into their own hands to make one of the most epic comebacks in competitive sports history and take the title at the Oracle Arena in 7 games.
Now, as both franchises play the tiebreaker in the 3rd consecutive NBA Finals matchup featuring the same teams, we’re going to see who gets the last laugh, if LeBron pulls through for the comeback once again, or Durant finally gets him after that heartbreaking loss in the Finals when he was a member of the Thunder.