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NBA Finals: Cavaliers, Warriors have much to prove

The NBA Finals don’t begin until Thursday night for some reason. If there is a silver lining to that monstrosity of a schedule, it is that we get to pontificate about one of the more monumental series in league history for a few extra days.

While scribes are wont to be hyperbolic about the current, this series is tough to overstate. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have seven Hall of Fame-level players between the two teams. This is their third consecutive meeting in the Finals, with each having taken one. The winner this spring will hold bragging rights and more importantly, the rubber match.

There are reasons beyond the obvious for each team to care even more than normal about raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy. For Golden State, there is the notion of redemption. The Warriors went 73-9 in the regular season last year, setting a league record for wins. They recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder, before taking a 3-1 lead themselves over Cleveland a week later.

Instead of capping off their historic campaign with another parade in San Francisco, dreams shattered. Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, the Cavaliers rolled in Game 6 and LeBron James forever gave us The Block in Game 7 at ORACLE Arena.

Look over those last two paragraphs, and you’ll understand the underlying motives of many this time around. Green needs to redeem himself for what was an absurd suspension. Kevin Durant, who was the star of the aforementioned Thunder last year, is looking to win his first ring, forever leaving the category of great player to never win it all.

James is trying to prove he’s the greatest player of all time. He took a true step into that conversation last year with perhaps the most impressive Finals performance in NBA history, chasing down a record-setting team in its own building in Game 7. Should he win this series, he would be a four-time champion who has now been to the Finals eight times, including a current streak of seven appearances.

At the conclusion of this, the Warriors or Cavaliers will be in position for Team of the Decade talk. Each has a core that should be in contention for years to come, and the winner will have a pair of titles going into 2018.

Every sport cares about its history and honors its champions, but none quite like the NBA. If you are a relevant player, you are measured by rings. In that vein, it’s more than raising a banner for these players. It’s legacy and then some, for both winner and loser.

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