Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. But we’re guessing LeBron James isn’t in the mood for such praise right now.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star, in his quest to win a second straight NBA title for “The Land,” has run headlong into the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are one victory away from sweeping the Cavs out of the NBA Finals, thanks to an insanely talented core that added Kevin freaking Durant after winning the most regular-season games in NBA history.
So, with Golden State on the brink of handing James his fifth NBA Finals loss, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: Did LeBron bring this on himself?
It was James, after all, who set the precedent for the modern-day “superteam.” In the summer of 2010, following another disappointing playoff exit, LeBron bailed on Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach and join perennial All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The goal was simple — win as many championships as possible with as much talent as possible — and the plan worked, as James finally won two rings to validate his place among the NBA legends.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016, where a frustrated Durant had just endured another heartbreaking playoff loss with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Through nine loyal seasons with the team that drafted him, Durant never could get over the hump, reaching the NBA Finals once in 2012 but falling short (ironically enough) to James’ Heat.
So, when Durant hit free agency facing the possibility of a 10th straight season without a ring, a thought may have crossed his mind: Why don’t I just join the team that gives me the best chance to win a title? LeBron chased a ring in Miami, and it worked. Who’s stopping me from doing the same?
We can’t get inside Durant’s head, but we do know the answer to that last question: Nobody. The Thunder and the Boston Celtics made valiant pitches, but the opportunity to play on arguably the best team in NBA history with the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was too good for Durant pass up.
Of course, Durant’s decision appears 100 percent validated now. His addition has taken the Warriors to a completely different level and made them, to date, literally unbeatable in the playoffs. Just ask James himself.
“It’s the most firepower I’ve played (against) in my career,” James said Wednesday after the Cavs’ Game 3 loss, via Yahoo! Sports. “I’ve played against some great teams, but I don’t think (any) team has had this type of firepower.”
James is right: Following the precedent that LeBron himself set, Durant helped form an even better superteam than his NBA Finals foe spawned in Miami. The Warriors are 48 minutes away from becoming the first team ever to go undefeated in the NBA playoffs, and Durant is set to create his legacy with a long-awaited ring and an NBA Finals MVP trophy — just like James did five years earlier.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images