In regards to the current state of NBA basketball, Turner Sports' broadcasting legend Charles Barkley said it best:
“The toughest thing for me is I have to get on TV and fake it for seven months that it’s not going to be the Warriors and Cavs in the finals again... Yes, it is.”
Barkley has been known to say some pretty outlandish things at times, finding himself in the headlines quite often for the words that come out of his mouth. This time, though, he couldn't be more right.
In a summer hailed as the greatest in basketball history, a considerable number of teams geared up in attempt to usurp the current forces of power. Oklahoma City, quite amazingly, acquired both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for hardly a dime, while making sure their biggest superstar, the 2017 NBA MVP, was locked up for the future. The Houston Rockets made a splash by trading for Chris Paul, who, with James Harden, has the chance to become part of the greatest back court the league has ever seen. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a series of changes, one of which involved bringing in Jimmy Butler, a three-time All-Star to fit alongside their superstar big-man. In the East, the Celtics even made some key improvements, and ended up with Kyrie Irving in the Green and White.
All these superstars are banding together in hopes of taking down the big-bad bully. All of these teams have assembled all of these assets in hopes of finally breaking through. It's quite storybook, actually. The NBA has been flipped upside down by stars finally saying "enough." They want to win, and will do whatever it takes to get it done. Even if it means putting their legacy on the line to join another super-team.
Yet, even with all of that being true, none of it matters. Nothing has changed.
Because this year, just like the last three before it, it's all about the Warriors and Cavs. Oakland vs Cleveland. LeBron vs Steph. Once again, the heroes of old have been deemed basically unbeatable by basketball experts. And, much to the public's dismay, we're all going to quickly find out just how right those "experts" are.
See, unlike the rest of the league, the Warriors and Cavaliers were the first real "superteams" and they perfected the concept in a way no other team has (in their own unique and extraordinary way).
Golden State plays with such grace, such freedom, that its sweet aroma attracts even the unlikeliest of stars into its midst. It's what got them KD, and what kept them everyone else.
And for the Cavaliers, their "it" factor starts and ends with LeBron James, who could be considered a superteam all by himself. With him at the helm, Cleveland has become a place of intrigue, when it wold otherwise stand as a place grief.
Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, none of them have that Golden system. Boston, Washington, Toronto, none of them have that reigning King. That's why their quest to match fire-with-fire will ultimately fail. Since, as they will soon find out, that fire cannot be matched. Their recipe for success cannot be copied.
Sadly, these other so-called "superteams" are doomed to fall before they even rise.
And what are we left with in return? An NBA that is at the mercy of those who those who help it profit most, with stars on the outside never getting their moment to shine. With teams and cities losing the hope and optimism that drives them to look past the failing seasons.
But that's okay... that's all right. Because there will come a day when things will change, and there will be a time when the Warriors are no longer perfect. Steph Curry will grow old, Kevin Durant will grow tired and the league will move on. There will come a day when the "underdog" stands a chance and the feeling of true, spontaneous and equal competition makes another appearance to the world of basketball.
That day, however, is not today. And something in the universe is screaming that it won't be tomorrow either.
Does it mean you shouldn't watch the NBA? Does it mean you shouldn't care?
Watching the same two teams dominate on a nightly basis for four straight years certainly has its downside. After all, who wants to watch a season when everyone knows how its going to end? Who wants to watch a league void of surprises? Then again, wouldn't a Warriors upset be the biggest surprise of all?
Nobody in their right minds believes that the Dubs are not the overwhelming favorites to win the title this year. As a result, pretty much everyone would get proved wrong if they didn't win it all. Believe it or not, it's this concept that's keeping the season alive. The chance, the slim chance, that one team can pull off the impossible? That's something we just haven't experienced before.
That's the reality of what we're facing today. This is the NBA we are living in. One where we're excited at the thought of being wrong. Where we're rooting for some team, any team, to remind us that nothing is guaranteed, not even for a team compiled of four All-Stars, two MVPs, and a bench that could constitute a starting line-up. One to remind us that one man really does have limits, even a man vastly considered to be the best basketball player on earth.
With the new season so painstakingly close, it's not hard to get excited about what's to come, even if we may already know how it ends. But, for better or worse, everything hinges on the two teams that have shared the Finals stage three times in the last three years. Everything hinges on their success, or potential failures. It is all about them.
And no matter what happens, the world will be there when one of these two titans finally comes crashing down.