After last night’s crushing Cavaliers loss, there has been a lot of talk on social media and Whatsapp about how the NBA is going to push this series to seven games. First off, that is not going to happen. In any event, the common reason I’ve seen given is financial – the league wants as many games as possible so as to stuff their pockets as much as possible. Look, I get the reasoning and based on past experiences – the 2016 Finals, the 2002 Western Conference Finals are the most common examples – I can see how people automatically jump to the conclusion that the fix is in and this series will go 7. Well, I am here to say that as much short-term financial sense an extended series may make for the league, a Warriors sweep is definitely best for the NBA’s business.
So hear me out, when you look back at the history of the league, moreso than long series, stories have been the true moneymaking scheme. You had the great rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics, Jordan had to overcome the Bad Boy Pistons, Kobe was chasing Jordan’s six rings, LeBron had to fight off the golden child baggage, the choke baggage, “The Decision” baggage and ultimately “The Return” and the overcoming of last year’s 3-1 deficit in the Finals. Other than sweeps – which is an important note – we remember the over-arching stories and the specific moments moreso than the numerical results of the matchups. The Lakers coming back from down 3-2 Kings on the way to their three-peat; Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue in the ’01 Finals; Jordan’s iconic flu game – this is what we remember most.
So, when you consider the “story” of this particular run of Finals series, and of the last three NBA seasons, a Golden State sweep is what is best for business. First, the story of the last three seasons has been the rise of the Warriors as a true juggernaut in the NBA. Beginning with the firing of Mark Jackson and the hiring of Steve Kerr and the dumb luck of David Lee’s nudging Draymond Green (the Warriors real MVP) into the starting lineup the Warriors have been a team testing the boundaries and stretching the limits of what anyone ever thought a jump-shooting team would be able to accomplish. The first year was the team basically finding its legs under a new coach and gelling with a new starting five. This season ended with a 5-game triumph over an undermanned Cleveland team that was missing two of its big three. The second year saw the Warriors fully come into their own, aiming to join the discussion of the greatest team ever by outpacing the Bulls season win record of 72 wins mostly while under the guidance of an assistant coach. Granted, they only beat it by one, but you know the mindset “by an inch or by a mile”. Pause. Anyway, the 2015 playoffs saw the Warriors have to come back from a 3-1 deficit to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals before succumbing to the same fate in the Finals rematch against Cleveland. To recap, Season 1, team gels and finds its way to a relatively surprising championship. Season 2, team fires on all cylinders, breaks the season wins record, has an epic series with the Thunder before losing the story of LeBron bringing a championship to Cleveland – which is of great importance.
*If you don’t believe in NBA conspiracies, you probably should have jumped off sooner, but feel free to exit at this point.*
At just about the midpoint of last year’s playoffs, it became somewhat clear that other than OKC, the Cavs and Warriors were each the class of their respective conferences and the expected Finals matchup might repeat once more. So, what is the best story to be had last year, what was the best way to make the most money off of this whole thing – a Cleveland Finals victory. See, Cleveland somewhat surprisingly made it to the Finals in 2015 while being almost single-handedly carried on LeBron’s back. In 2016, their rematch with the Warriors was almost preordained. Given that everyone pretty much was settling in to the idea of Dubs-Cavs for the foreseeable future, it only made sense to tie the series at 1-1. This creates the scenario of a rubber match for the (last) of three consecutive Finals matchups between the two teams. So the “epic comeback victory” card was played last year. Cleveland won after being in a 3-1 hole. LeBron got to claim his first championship for Cleveland his “hometown” team. Golden State got to taste a bitter defeat and consider how to make adjustments – which is of great importance.
So then we get Season 3. In the aftermath of the 2016 Finals we got Draymond being Draymond, dick pics and DUIs and all, Cleveland embracing the ultimate joy of their victory, and then Golden State making the most “stack the deck” move probably in the history of the NBA – signing Kevin Durant. The word villain started to get tossed around a lot. Golden State essentially backed the Brinks truck up to the best player on their biggest rival in the West and added him to their already stacked squad. With the East remaining mostly a wasteland outside of Cleveland come playoff time, we knew the repeat was becoming a trilogy.
So here we are, Golden State is on the cusp of winning its second title in three years – and doing it in a sweep to boot. This sweep is the best possible outcome because of the dominos it sets off. The talk of where LeBron goes after next season has already begun. The conversations among NBA GMs has surely also begun of how the hell to beat the team that won the most games in a season and then added the best or second-best scorer in the league. The focus all offseason becomes, who is going to rise up to challenge the Juggernaut? Who is potentially going to replace Cleveland in next year’s Golden State Warriors Finals Open Challenge? How does LeBron rebound from a second Finals sweep? What kind of pressure is on Tyronn Lue, David Griffin and Dan Gilbert to make the Cavs more competitive if they have to face the Warriors again next season? These stories are all more intriguing in the long-run for the NBA than this series going seven. At this stage Cleveland has all but lost this matchup. If the NBA is truly built around stories, as I believe it is, then the best story is what the hell do the other 31 teams do about Golden State a team that beat the best player in the world in two Finals over a total of ten games, won 73 games and seems on pace to break the collective spirit of the NBA for at least the next three years? That is the bestseller waiting to be written.