Shortly after winning an NBA-record 73 regular-season games last season, the Golden State Warriors were able to add Kevin Durant in free agency, thus creating the closest thing to a super-team that we have seen in modern day hoops.
While they fell in last year’s Finals, the addition of Durant and the overall cohesion of the team has made the Warriors a heavy favorite in Las Vegas despite the matchup with LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
When asked if this year’s Warriors were the best team that he’s ever faced in his 14-year career, LeBron’s answer was a bit surprising.
“It’s probably up there,” he told reporters on Sunday after practice. “I mean, it’s up there.”
Explaining his thought process, James mentioned some of the other incredible teams that he’s squared up against in the Finals. The two examples that he gave are hard to disagree with.
“I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well, too, with Manu (Ginobili), Kawhi (Leonard), Tony (Parker) and Timmy D (Tim Duncan) on the same team,” James said of the Spurs. “And if you add Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) in there, that’s five Hall of Famers. So, it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me, they’re going to challenge our ball-club,” he noted.
While the Spurs team above likely featured four Hall of Famers, the current Warriors team features four potential Hall of Famers in the prime of their respective careers.
LeBron also mentioned the original Big 3 of the Boston Celtics. “I’ve played against Ray (Allen), KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo and Doc (Rivers),” James said. “So, it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ball-club and on our franchise,” he noted.
Personally, this is LeBron's seventh-straight season in the NBA Finals, which is not only a testament to how generally weak the Eastern Conference is, but also how wildly dominant he has been over the years.
The Warriors and the Cavaliers combined to lose just one game so far through three rounds of the playoffs. In one of the most highly-anticipated series in recent sports history, it will be fascinating to see how it plays out in front of what should be record viewing audiences during the primetime matchups.
As for the Warriors? They will likely use LeBron’s statements above as bulletin board material in the hopes of gaining some extra motivation.