By Lee Eric Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the Oklahoma City Thunder took a 3-1 lead on the Golden State Warriors in Western Conference Finals, my co-worker Myron was bragging about his prediction that OKC would advance. He was ribbing me, because with the Grizzlies on vacation, I’d hitched a ride on the Warriors’ bandwagon.
I admit that OKC was playing ridiculously well — well enough to take one more game and the series. But I told him simply: “Come on, man. Golden State is more than capable of winning three games in a row.” Of course, they did that to advance to the Finals vs. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
I don’t feel bad about being a Golden State bandwagon guy. I love the game of basketball. I love watching it played at a ridiculously high level. Steph Curry isn’t just spectacular to watch; he’s also a humble, likeable guy. So, sure, I wanted to see them cap off their record breaking regular season by hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
And they were in position to do it, too. Inverted logic seems to apply to these Warriors too. Just as it seemed (and proved) completely plausible that Golden State could win three in a row, it also seemed near impossible that they could lose three in a row, right? Surely, with a 3-1 series lead on Cleveland, they could win one more game, right?
Fast Forward to last Sunday. Me being the sucker for underdogs that I am, I was quite impressed with the Cavs’ comeback to force a Game 7 in Oakland. And in this bizarre world, a team with LeBron freakin’ James is somehow the underdog.
On “SportsTwist,” a radio show I co-hosted with Rhonnie “The Socialite” Brewer, she used to give me grief because she thought I was fawning over LeBron as we chatted up the day’s sports. She thought of it as a “bromance,” and even went as far as calling it my “LeBron-mance.”
To me the principle was the same — if you love watching basketball played at a ridiculously high level, how can you not admire the work of LeBron James? And especially in this NBA Finals, where he led the ENTIRE SERIES in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals? BOTH TEAMS. Ridiculously high level. In fact, Cleveland played out of their minds just to tie the series up at 3-3.
So Game 7 put me in a tough position. Sure, I wanted Golden State to finish the dream season with a championship. But I also wanted the Cavs to complete the comeback, and finish LeBron’s “prodigal son” drama — oh, while also giving Cleveland its first championship since Kennedy was president.
Can a guy be on two bandwagons at the same time?
I’m happy for LeBron and Cleveland. I’m disappointed for the Golden State Warriors, but happy for them at the same time. Some people would say that their 73-9 season is meaningless without the championship. I say rubbish to that. Let’s put it like this: One way or another, someone is crowned an NBA champion every June. But no team has cracked 70 wins in more than 20 years. To me, the 73 wins is in many ways more impressive.
But I know Steph, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest of the squad don’t feel that way. They’re hurting, and honestly, they’re probably pretty ticked off — and highly motivated. Remember how the San Antonio Spurs returned with a vengeance after losing to Miami in the 2013 Finals? They ripped through the league and playoffs, and finished off the Heat 4-1 to with the title in 2014. I’m eager to see Golden State in the fall — and a little scared. The concept of that squad angrily getting even better is both awesome and terrifying.
Of course, my ultimate dream is to see a championship parade down Beale Street. But if I can’t have that, maybe the basketball gods will bless us with a third matchup between these two MVPs and their teams.
And maybe I’ll be able to pick a bandwagon instead of trying to ride them both at the same time.
Draft Day — yawn
It’s a sad reality of the printed newspaper business: One day it’s news, the next day it’s old news.
Take for instance the NBA Draft, which takes place tonight (June 23). The Grizzlies own the No. 17 pick, and one of our talented interns, Keith Sanders, has compiled his ruminations on who the Grizzlies might choose.
So here’s the thing: If you’re reading this any time after June 23, the Grizzlies have already made their pick. You know who it is, and all of Keith’s prognostications are, well, old news.
But go ahead and read them anyway. Keith is a promising student journalist at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who wants to do sports videography. He’s graduating in December and his draft preview is worth checking out — even after the draft is over.
And then there’s this: Will it even make a difference? The Grizzlies are so historically bad in the draft that no one – not even their fans – expect them to find an impact player, like, EVER. In fairness to the Grizzlies, one reason they’ve struck out so much recently is because they’ve been a playoff team. Outside of trades to move up, a playoff team typically won’t have a lottery pick, which is where the most talented players tend to go. Finding an impact player – let alone and immediate impact player – is extremely rare outside the lottery.
But there’s still gold down there. Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Rodney Hood were all selected with later draft picks. So I hope the Grizzlies get this one right. But I’m not optimistic.
But whatever you do, check out Keith’s preview. And after that . . .