The Plight of LeBron James

How can the best basketball player in the world be so maligned?

From the moment the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the spotlight was on the king from Akron, Ohio, LeBron James. While he was still in high school, James was proclaimed “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated. 14 years into his NBA career, LeBron James has not only lived up to this billing, he has exceeded it. Year after year, LeBron James showcases he is not only the most valuable player in the NBA, but also the best basketball player in the world.

Yet, after losing to one of the most talented teams ever assembled in the NBA, there are still detractors and haters out there who will continually deny LeBron the mantel of the G.O.A.T. They’ll point to his 3-5 Finals record, they’ll point to “The Decision”, they’ll say he’s no Michael Jordan. Whatever criticism you have of LeBron James now borders on insanity or pure hatred for the man.

LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007 in just his fourth year in the league. The starting lineup for that Cavaliers team included Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. They’re hardly the dynastic San Antonio Spurs team they were swept by. LeBron wasn’t ready for the spotlight, and he was the only weapon on a team that would’ve won 20 games without him. You can’t hold the 2007 Finals against him.

alg-cavaliers-lebron-james-jpg
LeBron James’ first tenure in Cleveland brought the Cavs back to relevance.

The one year you can rightfully hold against LeBron James is 2010-2011. In the summer of 2010, LeBron exposed himself as one of the most immature, self-absorbed human beings on planet earth by broadcasting on national television his intentions of “taking his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat” in The Decision. A few days later, he and the Heat organization celebrated as if they had just won an NBA championship, where he made his infamous “not five, not six, not seven” championship remarks. James then led his Miami Heat “super team”, which included Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, to the 2011 NBA Finals. Unfortunately, LeBron pulled a disappearing act even the great magician Harry Houdini would have envied, and lost to the lesser Dallas Mavericks. It was poetic justice. A man who had spurned his hometown in a selfish pursuit of championships finally got what he deserved and acted like a sore loser in defeat.

lebron-james-2011-nba-finals-heat-vs-mavs-game-3_photo_medium
LeBron James was a no-show against an inferior Mavericks team in the 2011 NBA Finals.

It was at that moment LeBron James evolved into the greatest player the game has ever seen. LeBron led the Miami Heat to back to back titles in 2012 and 2013, dismantling an Oklahoma City Thunder team consisting of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in 2012 and finally overcoming the dynastic San Antonio Spurs in 2013. Both times he was the Finals MVP. In 2012 he averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game and in 2013 he averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. In 2014, he led the Heat to their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, but were abused by the vengeful San Antonio Spurs in 5 games. He was, however, the best player on the court, averaging 28.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

While LeBron was off winning championships, the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose owner Dan Gilbert infamously denounced James and said the Cavaliers would win a title before LeBron would, were a perennial NBA Draft Lottery team. They had won the lottery three times, striking gold by selecting Kyrie Irving in 2011, bombing in 2013 by selecting Anthony Bennett, and trading away Andrew Wiggins in 2014 to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. This acquisition was made because LeBron James did what no other player in NBA history of his caliber had ever done, he came home.

For the last three seasons, LeBron James has led the Cavaliers to three NBA Finals appearances. In a losing effort in 2015, James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. He was without Kyrie Irving for 5 games of the series and was without Kevin Love for the entire series, as both were lost due to injury. Yet, LeBron James still took the Golden State Warriors, one of the most prolific shooting teams in NBA history, to 6 games when his starting point guard and second best player on his team was Matthew Dellavedova. In the 2016 Finals, James came back from a 3-1 series deficit against a 73 win Golden State Warriors team and won his third NBA title and Finals MVP, averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game. In the deciding game 7 of the series, LeBron James had a triple double and made one of the greatest plays in NBA history when he blocked Andre Iguodala of the Warriors to keep the game tied at 89.

160620-lebron-james-827x620
LeBron brought a title to Cleveland, something that hadn’t been done since the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964.

The Miami Heat, on the other hand, have not recovered since James left. The Heat have been in the NBA Draft lottery two out of the last three years, with their only playoff appearance coming in 2016, when James led the Cavaliers to an NBA title. LeBron James is the difference between your team winning an NBA title or your team picking in the NBA Draft Lottery. No other player in NBA history has had that kind of influence on a team. That includes Michael Jordan, as his Chicago Bulls went from winning 57 games in 1993 to winning 55 games in 1994 when Jordan retired for the first time.

This year, the best player in the world ran into the best team in the world. Anyone who tries to tarnish his legacy due to losing to a better team is blind to the greatness we have witnessed over the last seven seasons. Not even the great Michael Jeffrey Jordan, who yes, has more accomplishments in his career than LeBron to this point, made it to seven straight finals. LeBron James is the only man to do so, and keeps inventing new categories to judge players by. This past NBA finals, although losing in five games, LeBron James became the first player in NBA Finals history to average a triple-double, averaging 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. As LeBron has gotten older, his NBA Finals numbers seem to get better and better each year.

AP NBA FINALS CAVALIERS WARRIORS BASKETBALL S BKN USA CA
LeBron James averaged a triple-double in the NBA Finals, but it wasn’t enough against a stacked Warriors team in the NBA Finals.

Any argument you have against LeBron James makes you look like as foolish as Skip Bayless. LeBron James may be the only man in NBA history who can seemingly do it all, yet we want to tear him down and make it seem as if he is not worthy of the G.O.A.T. label. LeBron James is more than worthy of this label, and denying him of it is an exercise in futility. I may not always be a man who hangs his hat on statistics, but by the end of his career, LeBron James will have obliterated Michael Jordan in every measurable statistical category. Yes, LeBron may not reach Jordan’s 6 titles, 6 Finals MVPs, and may not have an undefeated record in the Finals like Jordan. However, it wouldn’t take long for anyone to notice the player you’d want to build your team around is LeBron, a man among boys who can do it all as opposed to the high volume shooting and scoring Jordan.

We’re witnessing greatness before our very eyes. A once in a generation player. Father time himself has not yet caught up to LeBron James. Maybe this is why we hold LeBron James to such high expectations. We believe a player as gifted and talented as him should be perfect, despite the fact that no human being, let alone no basketball player, has a flawless resume. Fairly or unfairly, this is the plight LeBron James. A man so supremely talented,  a man with many accomplishments, yet no one wants to embrace him as the greatest of all time.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Vindication of Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant made all the right moves.

Last Summer, F Kevin Durant shocked the world when he decided to abandon the Oklahoma City Thunder and singed with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were coming off a record setting 73 win regular season, but blew a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Many, including myself, called the move cowardly. A weak move that signified Kevin Durant didn’t have the killer instinct necessary to win an NBA championship. We saw him as a man who was only going to ride the coattails of a team that had just won 73 games and was one win away from back-to-back NBA titles. A team that, quite honestly, never needed him.

My how the times have changed over the last year.

After an injury plagued season that saw him miss 20 games, Kevin Durant justified his move to the Golden State. He delivered an NBA Finals performance of a lifetime and won his first NBA title and was named Finals MVP. In the Finals, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He did so against a man who schooled him back in the 2012 NBA Finals, LeBron James.

Many will say this was an expected result. After all, the greatest team in NBA regular season history added one of if not the most prolific scorer in NBA history to their already stacked squad. A squad that featured the back-to-back MVP, Stephen Curry, and one of the best shooters in the game, Klay Thompson. But Durant gave the Warriors something many believed the Warriors already had a plethora of: more offensive firepower. He made a prolific offense even more unguardable, the extra boost the Warriors needed to avenge last year’s choke-job. Durant also proved himself a capable defender, as he bought into the Warriors championship mentality and finally turned himself into an all-around weapon.

Of course, one would be remiss if they did not mention his former Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double this season for the Thunder and is the likely MVP of the NBA, is hurt the most by Durant’s triumph. Durant traded a stubborn ball hog in Westbrook for a distributor in Stephen Curry, and put his stamp on Golden State’s title run. Westbrook, on the other hand, couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. Westbrook may be supremely talented and a bona fide superstar, but Durant knew he couldn’t win a championship with him. All of those triple doubles make Westbrook look foolish now, as he will be seen as the force that drove Kevin Durant to Northern California when he could have adjusted his game to better compliment Durant.

No one knows whether or not this will be Durant’s only title. No one knows if this is the first of many to come for him. But let’s not speculate about the future too much now. Let us allow Kevin Durant to enjoy moment in the sun after enduring a season of scathing criticism. All of that criticism means nothing now, as this past NBA season should be titled as so: The Vindication of Kevin Durant.

Oh yeah, Kevin Durant also overcame this…

kevin-durant-thunderstuck-movie-600x222

 

 

Bro-Reviews: The Mummy

The Mummy and its Dark Universe may want to be buried.

Every major Hollywood studio these days wants to build their own cinematic universe. Disney has perfected it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Warner Brothers might finally be on the right track with their DC Extended Universe after the release of Wonder Woman. However, those universes owe their beginnings to Universal, who back in the early and mid twentieth century had their own monster universe with films such as Dracula, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and of course, The Mummy. In the late 1990s, Universal re-imagined The Mummy with then Hollywood hunk Brendan Fraser as their Indiana Jones-esque adventurer fighting the ancient evils of Egypt. This resulted in three films that were resounding box office successes, but experienced diminished quality in terms of reception with each entry. Nine years after the last Mummy film starring Fraser, Universal has decided to get in on the universe building with the re-boot The Mummy, the first film in a universe under Universal’s “Dark Universe” brand.

The Mummy stars Hollywood icon Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, who along with his crew consisting of partner-in-crime Sergeant Chris Vali (Jake Johnson) and mysterious archeologist Jenny Hasley (Annabelle Wallis) stumble upon an ancient prison that imprisons Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Unbeknownst to them, they awaken her and her evil past, in which she murdered her father, her step-mother, and her baby brother in an attempt to become the almighty queen of Egypt. Ahmanet curses Cruise, whom she wants to use to awaken the god Set, as Set has promised Ahmanet she will rule the world should she awaken him. While attempting to break the curse laid upon him, Morton and Hasley come into contact with an organization known as Prodigium, led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who has his own agenda in regards to Princess Ahmanet.

The Mummy
Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in “The Mummy.”

I am unapologetically a fan of Tom Cruise. With the exception of Cocktail, Days of Thunder, and Far and Away, I believe the man is a crown jewel of Hollywood who has managed to engrave himself into star-vehicle films. The Mummy is no doubt a Tom Cruise vehicle, but something about it being a star-vehicle makes the film feel somewhat off-base. The Brendan Fraser films may have been designed for him to shine as a leading man, but those films never forget what they are all about, mummies. While Cruise does what he does and is effective, it’s a wonder as to why more time wasn’t spent on the rising star Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet. She’s a fascinating character with a lot of depth and mystique, and Boutella has a commanding presence whenever she is on screen.

Even more out of place is Jake Johnson, who represents the comedic relief the film wants to retain from the Brendan Fraser glory days. This results in jarring tonal shifts, as one moment the film is attempting to be a frightening horror-action film, and then the next an action-comedy. Annabelle Wallis is literally there to be a spear carrier to Cruise, and their contractually obligated romantic subplot is nothing short of uninspired.

The Mummy does deliver on some of its action sequences, as the plane crash highlighted in the trailer is exhilarating. Other sequences including the sandstorm with a face in London also delivers, but the climatic sequences are bogged down by the filmmaker’s ability to just make up super powers on the spot for Boutella’s mummy character. That being said, there is some good imagery in the film. The special effects, while not top dollar, do create some freaky looking mummies for Cruise and company to battle, and one can’t help but believe they are an improvement over the cartoonish looking fiends we saw in the Brendan Fraser films.

Before the movie even begins, Universal flashes their “Dark Universe” logo, as to proclaim that The Mummy is the film to launch their universe. The Mummy spends the whole second half of the movie attempting to commence this universe that they forget this movie is supposed to be about mummies, hence the title. All of this world-building is done by Mr. Russell Crowe, whose performance as Dr. Jekyll resembles a drunken Orson Welles at the end of his career when he was filming Fish Sticks commercials, which is a delight to see onscreen. That being said, it’s so obvious he and his group, Prodigium, are a rip-off of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and that Jekyll is the Nick Fury of this group and world Universal is trying to expand. This includes gratuitous cameos of body parts of other classic Universal monsters, as if to tease more monster films in the future. While the cameos are somewhat fascinating, they leave you asking how any of them could possibly connect to each other. If you want to make your viewing experience of the film more enjoyable, I suggest you take a shot every time the word monster or evil is said in the film. By the end of it, you’ll be stumbling out of the theater due to being plastered.

Strangely enough, I was oddly entertained by the film. Cruise is still a capable blockbuster star, there’s enough enticing mummy stuff to remind you it’s a mummy movie, and the laughable attempts at igniting this universe creeps into so bad it’s good territory. It just goes to show you, not everything needs to be turned into a universe, but I’m perversely fascinated as to what happens next. Ultimately, The Mummy is harmless, disposable summer fun that can’t decide whether it wants to be a Tom Cruise movie, a Mummy movie, or a universe kick-starter.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent It.

Bro-Reviews: Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie

The Villain’s name is Professor Poopypants. Were you expecting Shakespeare?

During my childhood, I always found solace in the release of a new Captain Underpants novel. Back then, Captain Underpants was a comedic genius, and the stories seemed to grow more epic in scale with the release of each new novel. Eventually, I grew up and grew out of the series, but Captain Underpants continued on without me until 2015. Then, news came out that DreamWorks was working on developing a feature length film of the popular children’s series, and my nostalgia senses immediately went off. With 12 books-worth of material to draw upon, the potential for a feature length film seemed endless, but would my now grown-up self enjoy the humor I cackled at when I was younger?

Captain Underpants sees two fourth graders and best friends, George Beard (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Thomas Middleditch) pranking their middle school into oblivion to the dismay of their party pooper principal, Mr. Krupp (voiced by Ed Helms). After Mr. Krupp threatens to separate the two by putting them into separate classes, George and Harold hypnotize Mr. Krupp and force him to become their greatest comic book invention, Captain Underpants. As they struggle to handle the rambunctious underwear-clad hero, they must also stop the perilous Professor Poopypants (voiced by Nick Kroll), who plots an evil plan to rid the world of laughter.

captainunderpants_main-900x620
“Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie.”

One of the most obvious aspects of film to point out is the fact that it is indeed intended for younger audiences. The repetition of the name Poopypants may hold the attention of children for an hour-and-a-half, but it wears thin on people older than them after the name is mentioned the first time. The hero is literally in his underwear, and he battles a giant toilet that launches toilet paper as a weapon in the climatic battle of the film. There are multiple Uranus jokes. If you were expecting a sophisticated Shakespearean kids film, you’ve bought a ticket to the wrong movie.

However, there’s enough adult humor in the film to keep older audiences occupied for an hour-and-a-half. Jokes poking fun at the current state of public schools, loneliness, and broken dreams somewhat make up for all of the juvenile humor in the film. The film also boasts a talented voice cast that elevates the film above its juvenile premise, as Hart, Helms, Middleditch, and Kroll bring their A-game to the film. For those in attendance strictly for nostalgic purposes, there are many nods to the series, namely its characters and features, that you’ll notice and get a kick out of. Also, considering the film costs a measly $38 million to produce (*shockingly low considering this is the same studio that spent $140 million on 2012’s Rise of the Guardians*), the film is extremely well animated. This undoubtedly will spark a new trend for studios to produce animation films for less money, as Captain Underpants proves less is more.

Listen, you have to know what you’re getting into when purchasing a ticket for Captain Underpants. If you can handle juvenile toilet humor with a sprinkle of adult humor every now and then, then congratulations, Captain Underpants is for you. If you’re expecting a deep, thought-provoking children’s film, you’ll more than likely leave the theater thoroughly dissatisfied. Captain Underpants is a well-animated, expertly cast, passable kids movie. While most would beg for Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie to be the first and only epic movie as its title proclaims, it’s perfectly adequate children’s oriented entertainment.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: Wonder Woman

Wait… DC made a good movie?

The DC Extended Universe, created by Warner Bros. to rival Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, has yielded less than stellar results since it began in 2013. Man of Steel received lukewarm reception at best, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an incoherent hindenburgian catastrophe of epic proportions, and Suicide Squad, while marginally better than Batman V. Superman, was a dumpster fire. However, a beacon of hope emerged with the release of trailers for DC’s latest attempt at catching-up with Marvel, Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was the best aspect of the otherwise abysmal Batman V. Superman, but many including myself took pause with how good the trailers looked considering how we got suckered into thinking Suicide Squad would save the DC Extended Universe after Batman V. Superman. We asked ourselves, would Wonder Woman leave us with the same bad taste in our mouths as the other DC Extended Universe films did?

Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as Dianna, Princess of of the Themyscira, an Amazonian woman who trains to become the greatest warrior her people have ever seen much to the displeasure of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson). After British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes ashore on the island and reveals the war to end all wars, World War I, is occurring, Diana believes it is the work of the God of War, Ares. Diana takes it upon herself to accompany Steve Trevor back to the Western Front in an effort end the war, which she believes will not only save the world, but mankind as well.

img_0365
Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman.”

As stated earlier, Gal Gadot’s turn as the Amazonian warrior princess was the one facet of Batman V. Superman that was done well, and she continues to prove she is a perfect fit for the character despite the initial backlash to her casting as Wonder Woman. Gadot gives the character a level of depth not even the iconic Lynda Carter could provide when she portrayed the character from 1975-1979 on television. Diana at first is naïve to the overall depressingly disappointing world, and seeing her realize all of humanity can be corrupted and be just plain evil is something we’ve seen done before. However, there’s something refreshing about Gadot’s strong female presence and her progression through overcoming her naiveté that she portrays expertly. And while some may have worried about the comedic fish-out-of-water scenes in the trailers, while a bit overlong, they do work well here, also proving Gadot has comedic acting-chops as well.

Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is also a nice touch to the film, as his charisma and comedic timing also gives the film some much needed lightheartedness that was lacking in Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman, and Suicide Squad. He’s essentially a World War I incarnation of his famous role of Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, but it works well within the confines of the film/ universe. As for the villains in the film (*without spoiling anything*), although Danny Hutson’s General Erich Ludenroff and Elena Anaya’s Doctor Poison of the German Army are disposable, they get the job done only to make way for the real villain at the climax of the film.

The action sequences of the film are also quite thrilling, including a battle sequence on Themyscira in which Diana and the rest of the Amazonian army battle the German Army. Although there’s a bit of overkill with the use of slow-motion and stylized action, these women kick-butt and provide for one of the best action scenes in the film. The sequence where Diana springs into action on the Western Front is also as exhilarating  as it looked in the trailer, and the unique setting of World War I ups the ante in terms of the danger Diana and the rest of the good guys are facing. However, the final battle sequence, while filmed better than the ones in Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad, is a glorified fireworks show. The added twist in the battle doesn’t help matters either, and for some reason DC just can’t help themselves in these sequences and go to town on the use of CGI and special effects to make the last battle stick out like a sore thumb.

While one can’t help but compare this film to its incompetent predecessors and mark it as a step in the right direction for the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman is a good enough movie to stand on its own merits. And something that needs to be highlighted is the fact that DC made the first well-done superhero movie with a female heroine, a feat that not even Marvel can say they’ve accomplished yet. It’s a welcome change in the superhero movie genre, and proves women are just as good if not better heroes as the male ones that have been done to death for nearly 20 years.

Wonder Woman is a victory for the DC Extended Universe, and somehow they’ve managed to prove they can indeed make a coherent, capable, and electrifying superhero film. While I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Justice League just yet, Wonder Woman, while flawed, is a trailblazing, sensational superhero film.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

NBA Finals Preview: Warriors Cavaliers III

The trilogy that will define an era concludes.

I predicted it long before I started writing this blog. I famously declared the NBA season over back in February during NBA All-Star Weekend. And now here we are, for the third straight season, the only two teams left standing in the NBA are the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Never before has the NBA seen the same two teams face each other in the NBA Finals three years in a row. The Celtics and Lakers didn’t do it in the 80s, the Bulls and the Jazz only saw each other two years in a row in ’97 and ’98, and the Heat and the Spurs went head to head twice in two years as well back in 2013 and 2014. This is a historic NBA Finals, and if you thought the stakes were as high as they could be last year with the greatest season in NBA history and an all-time greats’ legacy on the line, the stakes are arguably even higher this year.

lebron-james-kevin-durant-cavs-warriors-lead

While most would believe there’s little pressure on Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James this year since he came back from a 3-1 series deficit last year, this series has the potential to have him leap-frog the ghost and G.O.A.T. in Chicago, Michael Jordan. Jordan may have faced four 62 or more win teams in the 90s, but most would agree the ’93 Suns with Charles Barkley, the ’96 Supersonics with Gary Payton, and the ’97 – ’98 Jazz with John Stockton and Karl Malone are nowhere near as talent nor as good as the Warriors’ teams that have won 67 or more games the last three seasons. Should LeBron beat this Warriors team with four all-stars, three hall-of fame caliber players and one borderline hall-of-fame caliber player, it would become increasingly difficult to deny him the mantel of the G.O.A.T. . Also, considering the fact that he’s averaging 32.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.0 APG during this playoff run, it’s hard to count out LeBron James. Throw in the fact that he still has one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the game in PG Kyrie Irving and a surging Kevin Love, who’s coming off an explosive Eastern Conference Finals in which he averaged 22.6 PPG, 12.4 RPG, and shot 53.5% from the 3-point line, and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers have more than enough to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Warriors.

However, the Warriors are out to avenge last years’ failure of adding a ring to their 73-9 regular season. To do so, they lured F Kevin Durant to Northern California, thus becoming the living embodiment of the phrase “If you can’t be ’em, join ’em.” While injuries and the Warrior’s success without him may have somewhat plagued his season, Kevin Durant has held up his end of the bargain, averaging 25.2 PPG in the playoffs and becoming a more active defensive player than we ever saw him be as a member of the Thunder. While Durant might be the best player on the team, make no mistake, this is still PG Stephen Curry’s team. Averaging 28.6 PPG and shooting 43.1% from the three-point line, Stephen Curry has arguably had just as magical of a playoff run as LeBron James. However, neither he nor SG Klay Thompson have lived up to their billing as “The Splash Bros.” in the last two NBA Finals. Curry failed to live up to his MVP standards, as he averaged 26 PPG and shoot only 35% from the three-point line in the 2015 Finals, averaged 22.6 PPG in the 2016 Finals, and Thompson averaged only 15.8 PPG and 19.6 PPG in the 2015 and 2016 Finals respectively.

Barring injuries, this is the no excuses NBA Finals. All of the teams are fully healthy. LeBron will have his other two counterparts unlike in 2015 and for some of 2016. Stephen Curry will have a leg to stand on after his knee left him somewhat ineffective in 2016. Kevin Durant won’t have to worry about PG Russell Westbrook hogging the ball like he did back when they were teammates on the Thunder. While memories of LeBron throttling Kevin Durant throughout his career aren’t forgotten, including in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Warriors have too much offensive fire-power for LeBron James to supplant MJ as the G.O.A.T. … for now.

Prediction: Warriors in 7.