The image will be forever burned into my brain.
Kevin Durant hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy – not in a Seattle SuperSonics or Oklahoma City Thunder jersey, but a Golden State Warriors uniform.
OK, I’ll get over it.
However, I’m worried. I’m worried that my favorite sport to watch – yes, I’m in the minority and love the NBA dearly despite its many flaws – is quickly becoming irrelevant.
At the start of the season – or better yet, that fateful July 4, 2016 day that Durant signed with the Dubs – most figured it was inevitable that Golden State would win the NBA title this June.
The one obstacle, most thought, would be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who ultimately were run off the court by the sharpshooting Warriors in five games of the 2017 best-of-seven NBA Finals. Yes, it could be argued that this year’s Finals was much closer than a 4-1 series would suggest.
However, I believe it just felt that way.
This Warriors machine – equipped with two MVPs in Durant and Stephen Curry, two other All-Stars in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and some bench players who could start for many other teams – didn’t even play that well in the Finals. They missed shots they can make and they were loose with the basketball.
Yet, they not only won the championship, but went 16-1 in the playoffs overall.
So where does this leave us?
Well, in a conundrum.
All healthy, no one is beating this team anytime soon. I had hoped that perhaps the San Antonio Spurs in the West or Cleveland out of the East could give the “Super Team” a run for its money. While the Spurs never really got that chance with Kawhi Leonard getting injured in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the Cavs did.
LeBron James did what LeBron James does, playing out of his mind while averaging a triple double. Kyrie Irving at times played phenomenally. Kevin Love had his moments. Even Tristan Thompson seemed to finally come around.
It didn’t matter.
The Dubs are just too darn good.
The scary – and depressing – part is, it’s very unclear as to where we go from here.
Perhaps Cleveland gets extremely creative and finds a way to build its own Super Team before LeBron’s skill start to diminish (if that ever happens; I’m not sure he’s actually human).
Then we’re back in the same boat as last year, when most could predict that the Cavs vs. Warriors III was going to happen. Hence, two teams had a legitimate shot to win.
The year before Durant left for Golden State, it was logical to argue that four teams had a shot at the title. Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City (yes, Durant’s old team).
As it stands now, we’d be in store for Cavs vs. Warriors IV if all holds true.
It won’t, of course, as teams will try to build through the draft and free agency.
However, it will take monumental moves by someone – most likely Cleveland – to give the Warriors a run for their money next year.
The Spurs may find some way to make us believe, but again, barring something extraordinary, I can already tell you that it won’t be enough as some of their aging players likely were giving their final go this past year (see Manu Ginobili).
Everyone else? Irrelevant. Regular season? Meaningless. Playoffs? Predictable and boring.
So, as the NBA is making more money than ever and salaries are skyrocketing to levels we’ve never seen before, it finds itself with a major problem.
The money is starting to add up to a fixed outcome. Taking a pay cut with these astronomical salaries is no longer a big deal as everyone is making a ton.
I predict that more stars will want to pair up with other stars. Not two, not three, not four …
You see what I’m getting at.
However, it’s hard to feel sorry for “The King” and all his men.
While I wrote a few weeks ago that Danny Ainge got this ball rolling, LeBron picked it up and ran with it to Miami.
He started this trend and now he’s the victim of it.
And so is the NBA.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have a three-game break for Tuesday’s Carolina League All-Star Game before returning to action with a four-game homestand against the Down East Wood Ducks. Game times Thursday through Saturday are 7:05 p.m. and Sunday’s game is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at3 p.m. Sunday. … The PGA Tour heads to Cromwell, Conn., for the Travelers Championship from Thursday through Sunday. … In tennis, the ATP Gerry Weber Open, WTA Aegon Classic and WTA Mallorca begin Monday.