We're not supposed to give reviews of sporting events. We leave that for our pals who write about restaurants and movies and television shows. We're supposed to tell you who won and analyze why. But I'm convinced that the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals was not a basketball series, but a movie, so allow me to give my review.
I realized this as I was watching LeBron James writhe on the ground in pain with under 30 seconds to go in Game 7. It was perhaps the most suspenseful, gripping scene I've seen in quite some time.
For seven games, James had played perhaps the best basketball series anybody had ever played. He was about to make his team the first to battle back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. He had led all players in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, the first player to do so in any NBA playoff series of any length. Just a minute earlier, he'd sprinted faster than a speeding bullet to block an Andre Iguodala layup, a highlight that will live forever. And a few seconds earlier, he'd attempted to leap a tall building to hammer home a dunk that would seal the championship.
But there he was, writhing on the ground in pain. He was holding his right wrist after his calamitous fall, and would have to shoot free throws with a balking wrist.
That moment -- the superhero made mortal just as he neared his greatest accomplishment -- isn't something that happens in real life. Could he still conquer, or would his setback at the ultimate moment undo him? As a viewer, I had no idea what was going to happen next. From start to end, this felt bigger than a basketball series.
Each protagonist's backstory was so grandiose. The Warriors argued that they were the most perfect basketball team ever to have existed. They won more games than any other NBA team, they broke their own records for three-point shooting. They probably set a record for brashness as well. They were looking to continue their streak of unbridled success.
The Cavaliers had a slew of things to prove themselves. James wanted to show that he could beat this supposedly unbeatable team. James wanted to show he could win with his own team, in the cursed city of Cleveland. He wanted to end this 50-plus year drought, and the weight was all on his shoulders. He was looking to end a chain of defeat after defeat.
Their contrasts were brilliant. The Warriors' superpower was their marksmanship from distance, while James' were his physical attributes. James was often forced to battle all by himself, while the Warriors were a team of fighters whose depth was their strength.
The screenplay was so over the top. Draymond Green called LeBron James a bitch and punched him in the penis! James tried to step over Green for no particular reason! Marreese Speights called James a baby! This sort of open disrespect and vitriol seemed too real for an actual series of professional basketball players. As much as we like to imagine teams have genuine distaste each other, they're often pretty reserved about it on the biggest stage. And yet here we were, with both teams showing legitimate hate.
James has spent much of his career as America's villain, the gifted but seemingly selfish superstar who had all the talent in the world but kept coming up short. And the Warriors opened these playoffs as America's darlings, the sharpshooting revolutionaries shaking up the game with a smile. But over the course of the series, their roles changed. The Warriors showed their arrogant and impetuous side when confronted with failure, and James was the long-suffering lion heart who could stop them.
I couldn't keep up with the twists. The series was competitive overall -- both teams scored exactly 610 points in the first six games -- but each game was individually unpredictable. I never would have predicted the resounding 33-point Warriors win in Game 2. I never would've predicted the Cavaliers' equally resounding 30-point win in Game 3. I never would've predicted Golden State's simple bounce back in Game 4. Each night filled me with a new sense of wonder and anticipation about what might happen next.
And the final game was absolutely brilliant. After a series that was competitive overall while the individual games were somewhat lopsided, the two teams played the majority of the final game within two possessions of each other. There were 20 lead changes, and the two teams remained within four points of each other for the entirety of the final quarter.
The score hit 89-89, and they just stuck there, neither side giving a point or an inch. They spent three minutes battling with the total series score tied at 699 apiece. They entered the closing two minutes of the NBA season with everything in the balance.
Remember that. The Warriors are the losers and the Cavaliers are the winners, and we were under two minutes from the completely opposite story. Whoever wrote this script truly gave us the feeling that the brilliant Warriors could've pulled it out.
But in the end, there was only one storyline so fascinating and entertaining that it could do this series justice. And it just so happened to be the most improbable one.
So here is my review: Two thumbs up, five stars, 10/10. Would watch again. The plot line was great, and the characters were even better. And I hope everybody involved decides to make another summer blockbuster next year. (Maybe a prequel!)
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