Let's get one thing straight: No matter what happens in the NBA Finals, LeBron James will definitely be back with this Cleveland Cavaliers team next year.
The Cavs are in great position to sign key free agents during the offseason that will keep any Eastern Conference team from catching up to them, the same Eastern Conference that they just lambasted and as Cleveland went 12-1 on the way to the NBA Finals.
It's not the same for the Golden State Warriors. The Western Conference is far more competitive in that the San Antonio Spurs are always right there competing, with the Houston Rockets right behind them.
The difference between the Warriors and LeBron is that LeBron has three championships and seven straight trips to the NBA Finals and no signs of slowing down. He's a one-man dynasty.
While the Warriors have three straight seasons of winning at least 67 games, including a record-breaking 73 wins last season, they have just one title to show for it so far. Right now this Warriors team is defined as much by the fact that they blew a 3-1 series lead in last year's NBA Finals as their title the season before.
And it's interesting that "the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead" is the popular internet meme as opposed to "the Warriors choked away a 3-1 lead." That distinction comes thanks to LeBron James, who's quickly making an argument to be considered the greatest of all time. The Warriors didn't so much lose those last three games so much as LeBron single-handedly lifted the Cavs in one of the greatest three-game runs in NBA playoff history.
That's why this series is so important for the Warriors. Remember, in the run to their first and only championship, every team they faced missed one or several players that made those series easier for Golden State to overcome. They won a lot of games in the regular season, so they certainly earned that title. But for a lot of people, it comes with an asterisk. Facing better, healthier teams the following season, the Warriors had to overcome a 3-1 Oklahoma City Thunder lead before succumbing to the same Cavaliers team that wasn't plagued by injury in the NBA Finals.
If they lose again, how will that change the perception of their legacy? Will their only title be considered a fluke? That's a harsh way to look at it, but it's a label that their NBA enemies will grab on to and never let go.
But how else would you describe a team that won a championship thanks to the help of a lot of injuries, lost to a healthy version of the team they beat the previous year, was being destroyed by the Spurs at home before a dirty play took out Kawhi Leonard, and then lost to LeBron James in the NBA Finals for the second year in a row?
Sounds like a fluke to me.
Cavs in 6.