by Ken Carman
Listen to The Ken Carman with Anthony Lima, weekday mornings from 6-10 am
One of my favorite things about this post-season is that the Cavs have been overwhelming favorites since they begun. I relish it. Throughout most of our lives, with the exception of the 1997 World Series, Cleveland fans have been underdogs. I’ve grown tired of it.
While I still struggle with realizing it sometimes, I have grown to love being a smug, arrogant Cavs fan. One that expects 20 point blowouts. One that feels to lose a game, would be something that offends good sense. It’s an amazing feeling, and for the next three games, I’m going to enjoy every moment of it, because once the NBA Finals start, I’ll have to go back to rooting for the underdog. Taking offense with every shot fired at Cleveland by every hack radio host trying to get his name out there. It’s been nice to not care what others think of us, because we’re too busy winning.
These playoffs, to many, have been a bore. To us, they’ve been therapeutic. The regular season needed faith that the playoffs would bring the real Cavs. They have. Games have come and gone, and the Cavs have dispatched opponents with blunt force. There’s been a couple close games, but other than that, it’s been a white wash.
So if we believe that the Cavs are far superior to anyone in the East, and most in the West, what are we to talk about?
It’s time we compare our generation’s greatest, to the greatest of all time. 14 years in to his career, we’re beginning to budge on the argument between LeBron and Michael Jordan.
Michael has been a ghost for a long time now. Any memory we might have of a bad game is gone. Now, we remember him only for his greatness. Stories that have been passed down from us to our kids. Accomplishments that seemed super-human.
Is that not what we’re seeing with LeBron and the Cavs?
Think about it. If we were in the same situation as Boston, how would we feel about our team? We’d be pretty confident that we would compete over the next few years. The same as if we were in Houston or San Antonio, or even Oklahoma City. Perhaps we’d be a little uneasy, but we’d probably be confident if we were in the same situation as Utah, Portland, or Milwaukee. All those teams have a future with varying brightness, but still bright nonetheless. The problem is that they have two teams in front of them.
Golden State is a historically talented team. We should be willing to admit that. Hell, if the Cavs beat them again, then the “underdog” Cavs got them again. Golden State being a team that has been assembled to beat the best, and beat the player of the generation.
It’s why we’re comparing LeBron to Michael. We’re bored. Golden State, the team that’s together to try only to take out LeBron and the Cavs, is on a collision course with the Cavs, who have the best player.
No one else can seriously touch them right now.
San Antonio is to be taken seriously, but without Kawhi, I hate to say they’re not a part of this conversation.
The Cavs and Golden State are at another level, and LeBron is on a level higher than everyone.
Can you name someone who could play, and better yet, defend, all five positions? You can’t. You can’t name a player who could change the player he is during his career. LeBron has worked on jump shots and three point shots over the past three regular seasons. While 27 other teams use the regular season to try to make themselves feel better (really 28 – Golden State in 2016), James uses it as a long pre-season. A practice.
Name a player who can turn it on that way whenever they wish? There’s a few, but then I go back to the previous questions. None can do what LeBron James can do.
We can compare the 80’s or 90’s to today. There were more 50+ win teams then, and especially in the East.
Could Reggie’s Pacers beat LeBron’s Cavs?
Could the Knicks?
Could Zo’s Heat? Or Shaq’s Magic?
None of them could.
The truth is, that player for player, Cleveland could beat all those teams, and could beat most of the NBA Finals Champions of that time.
The LeBron led Cavs would beat the Houston Rockets, and this version of the Cavs would have stopped both versions of Detroit’s Bad Boys.
What about the legends?
Maybe not every year. Magic and Larry were great, and, on great teams. Kobe is an all-timer, and anyone who listens to me talk basketball knows how much I love Shaq. They’d have gotten the Cavs with LeBron a time or two. But LeBron’s Cavs would have gotten them too.
As for Jordan’s Bulls?
They didn’t hammer everyone. Utah, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle all took two games in the Finals. By match-up, the Bulls definitely would have championships over LeBron and these Cavs in the 90’s, but they sure as Hell wouldn’t have won six.
These are subjective comparisons, obviously, but there is one thing that LeBron’s Cavs have over those team:
THE THING WE HATED LEBRON FOR IN 2010, HAS STRENGTHENED HIS ARGUMENT AS BEST EVER.
Players didn’t move the way they do now, but it’s not all about loyalty like they’d have you believe now.
We really don’t think that players wouldn’t have moved if offered to go into the luxury tax the way that they do now?
We really don’t think that more players have moved earlier if say … Michael Jordan had left Chicago?
That’s another thing our memories don’t always remember. History is written by the victors, and we want to remember everything at it’s best. We yearn for “The Good Ol’ Days” … Like when Michael nearly went to New York?
The CBA was much different then, but if Michael leaves, does another team form to beat him like Golden State has done?
Yes, but it doesn’t help the argument.
There is so much more we could go over, but LeBron’s career isn’t yet finished. By the time it is, this piece could look downright silly, on one side or the other.
But don’t let our memory of Michael cloud what we’re watching with LeBron.
These teams aren’t bad. If there was no LeBron, we’d be excited about more than just two of them. Because LeBron is bigger, faster, and stronger than the rest, is somehow supposed to work against his argument – is laughable.
The league is quicker than ever. Gone are the years of the lumbering center. It’s now an association made up of 6’6″ to 6’9″ players that we tried to label “tweeners.” Except they can cover more ground, play more positions, hit better shots, and get up and down the floor quicker than any of their predecessors.
The league is officiated differently for sure. That’s one argument that I cannot make, and won’t. It was more physical in the 80’s, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. That’s an argument that will always plague LeBron. I can argue that LeBron’s size makes him open to the same defense as Shaq’s was in the early 90’s, but I know that doesn’t go over well. Even though I believe it to be true.
The argument, though, that gets me to give the harshest eye roll, is that the league is bad.
Phyiscally, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, you have two exceptional teams, and 27 (leave out San Antonio) teams that have decided it’s probably better to tank it out and go for broke in the draft. Whether that’s good or bad, whatever. But that’s how a lot of them think.
LeBron and his Cavs are just better than those teams, and you’ll have no better example than Friday night.
Friday night, the NBA will announce their MVP finalists. LeBron James will not be one of them. You won’t care.
In fact, you’ll expect LeBron to use it as motivation to drop a billion on the Celtics. I will too.
You’ll more than likely see Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard and talk amongst yourselves, but you’ll know that James is the best player, and that he could be MVP anytime he wishes.
Read that sentence again. I’m begging you.
Now pinch yourself.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a player so good, he makes the league’s most coveted personal achievement seem meaningless.
He does so in an era that’s more athletically gifted than it was in the 00’s, 90’s 80’s or before. With more teams and more spread out talent than in any other era.
Amazing. I just wrote 1,500 words on LeBron James and that’s all that needs to be said: LeBron could win it if he wanted to.
Michael could never claim that.
Or could he?
That’s something you guys can talk about when the Cavs are up 20 later.