LeBron James, Steph Curry and the Baffling NBA Free Agency

After LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down to beat Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, bringing a championship to the city of Cleveland for the first time in 52 years, we felt a power shift, LeBron James was back on top.

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In my opinion, James never left the pinnacle; he has been the best player in the world since his first tenure in Cleveland. It just so happens that Curry had two remarkable years of basketball, leading people to believe that he was, in fact, better than LeBron James. I don’t know if it’s because people love to hate James or they just wanted something new in the NBA, either way, you’re a moron if that is your opinion. What is more amazing was ESPN ranking Curry 23rd in their list of best NBA players of all time, ahead of NBA greats such as Isiah Thomas, Scottie Pippen, Steve Nash, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, James Worthy, Allen Iverson and current greats such as Dwayne Wade. This ranking came early in the year, BEFORE his second, and unanimous MVP, and BEFORE the Warriors record breaking 73-9 season. Perhaps the 23rd ranking has more validity now?

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After another regular season of hype around Curry, we all assumed the Warriors would win it all (myself included). The crazy series with the Thunder was over, and we saw what we all thought was the best chance to stop the Warriors eliminated. Klay Thompson keeps the warriors alive, getting eleven 3s in game 6 (NBA record) and 41 points, getting little to no help from Curry. As he has done in the past few regular seasons, James coasts through while doing everything an athlete of his calibre should. Scoring, rebounding, passing, defending, leading, exciting crowds, breaking records, passing milestones, climbing all time lists and cementing himself as one of the greatest to ever play. It seems that the fans have forgotten just how good he is because we’ve become accustomed to seeing it year in year out.

Heading into the Finals, I realised how much I wanted James to win. I’m not from Cleveland, and I don’t support the Cavaliers. Still, I had so much emotion invested in a series of basketball. After LeBron and Kyrie netted a combined 82 points in Game 5 and finally brought it back to a Game 7 decider, there was no chance I was missing it, and if you grew up watching James play, your feelings will echo my sentiments.

Steph Curry goes MISSING, a poor performance throughout the finals, and that’s being kind. James has another huge Finals including back to back 41 point games and a triple double in game 7. He leads the series in every major statistical category and earns himself the Finals MVP, which he was robbed of in the 2015 Finals series. His play was reminiscent of his game 6 in Boston in 2012.

Over the years of watching James play I have considered him to be pretty unlucky. Notably, last year when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both sustained injuries through the playoffs. Well, luck was on James side for once, no injured teammates, no more opposing role players breaking Finals records. More luck when Draymond Green is suspended for game 5, giving the Cavaliers a chance to get back into the series. Credit must be given to Kyrie Irving who out played Curry in every way, having a fantastic series. Some of his shot making was unbelievable to watch, including the go-ahead bucket late in game 7. What he managed to do was take the burden off James, allowing him to play with a renewed energy, purely because James didn’t have to do everything.

The season is over, streets in Cleveland are being named after King James. We know free agency is around the corner but people are still in shock that the Cavaliers actually won. The NBA Draft didn’t excite anyone with Ben Simmons going number one overall and Brandon Ingram second. And then the free agents start getting paid big money. Mike Conley gets the biggest contract in NBA history, $153 million over five years. Over $100 million for Nicholas Batum, Andre Drummond, Demar Derozan, Bradley Beal and others such as Hassan Whiteside and Chandler Parsons are just under that mark. Some of this spending may be justified, but some of it is crazy. A Timofey Mozgov $64 million 4 year deal, a Tyler Johnson $50 million offer and Jon Leuer getting $42 Million offer over four years? Chances are you have never heard of Jon Leuer; he doesn’t care, he’s getting $10 million a year now. With a salary cap that is going to rise again next off season, there are 70 players expected to be paid more than Steph Curry next season, thirteen of them who signed this off season have never been an Allstar. Full list of moves here. Some fans having to get creative…

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kevin-durant-kd-warriorsSuddenly the obscene contracts for Free Agents become a distant memory, and I’m waking to a text from my mate ‘KD to the warriors’. My Team Stream App confirming that Kevin Durant had left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors. Naturally, the internet was having its say, burning jerseys, news reports, old Tweets and memes, my favourite about Curry and Durant blowing 3-1 leads together. The idea that Durant would leave the Thunder was very real, but nobody expected the Warriors. Stephen A Smith said ‘it’s the weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar’. In some ways, it is like James’ decision in 2010 but in so many ways it’s different. James didn’t join Boston, the team that eliminated him the year he left. He didn’t join a 73-9 team; he didn’t join another MVP and he certainly didn’t leave a player of Russell Westbrooks calibre. James left to build a championship contender, not join one. The Thunder came so close to beating the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, then lose their best player to that same team. I feel for the fans of OKC, losing Durant and no doubt Westbrook won’t be far behind. It’s a real kick in the nuts, after watching their players get kicked in the nuts throughout the Western Conference Finals.

And then this…

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Pat Riley has worked a lot of magic in South Beach, bringing in Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s Dwayne Wade who made the franchise what it is today. In Wade’s third year in the league, he put together one of best finals performances ever, getting the Miami Heat their first Championship. Three titles he brought to Miami and Pat Riley can’t pay the man what he deserves. Obviously, his priority was Kevin Durant and Hassan Whiteside. It doesn’t matter about age, health or productivity, in this case, Wade is the most celebrated athlete in Miami, and the situation should have been dealt with better. The most recent series with the Toronto Raptors we saw Wade make game winning plays and take it to seven games without Chris Bosh, showing that he can still do it. It’s not a case of Dwayne Wade turning his back on the Heat; the franchise didn’t reward the one who made them great. Rick Ross gets it…

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So the power shift is back to the Warriors? Two MVPs and four Allstars on one team. The ‘death lineup’ has improved, Harrison Barnes has been swapped with Durant, scary thought. Klay Thompson, one of the best two-way players in the league now plays third fiddle. Can the Cavaliers compete as they are or do they need another piece? Maybe the San Antonio Spurs can do something to stop them? It does mean James is a great chance of winning another MVP award. Surely Curry and Durant can’t win any more MVP awards on the same team? Are Curry and Durant surrendering their chance to be considered all time greats? One thing is for sure; the NBA has a new villain, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. Will they face the same scrutiny James and the 2010 Heat did? I doubt it will affect the bandwagon fans rejoicing around the globe in any case! One thing is for sure; the internet is a mean place and it will emphasise every mistake the Warriors make.

Even after a crazy offseason I still believe it’s LeBron James league.

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