I’ve never felt less excited to watch a team win a championship. The mood on the court seemed fake on Friday, as the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their third championship in four years. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry feigned excitement for the on-court cameras, like they were only celebrating so they didn’t get ripped apart on Twitter. But I don’t blame them – who gets the same rush experiencing something for a third time as they did the first?
Last week was the fourth straight season of Cavs-Warriors in the Finals, marking the longest streak of two teams competing in a championship in the history of the four major American sports. For most casual NBA fans, watching a fourth straight identical matchup is about as interesting as a 0-0 draw between the New England Revolution and some other MLS team nobody gives a shit about. Of course, you’ve also got people who think this Cavs-Warriors matchup is the best possible outcome of the current NBA. After all, the Finals should be a display of the best players in the league, right? It’s a showcase of the greatest athletes in the world. You want to see the best athletes. And like most people with a pulse, I enjoy watching greatness – Steph Curry draining nine threes and LeBron throwing off-the-backboard dunks to himself.
The problem is that I’ve seen it all before.
Basketball thrives on storylines, and this year’s Finals seemed hopelessly devoid of anything close to one. Last year was the rubber-match to crown an ultimate winner between the Greatest Team and Greatest Player. Two years ago, LeBron toppled a 73-win team. But these Finals were lifeless. There were no new faces, no new narratives, and nothing to hang your hat on except the worn-out “LeBron VS World” motif that we’ve been hearing all year.
- How Tom Brady cheated the Patriots out of their next dynasty
- What’s wrong with Craig Kimbrel?
- Don’t blame DeMarcus Cousins or the the Warriors, blame the system that let the happen
On paper, it should be entertaining: one of the greatest superteams ever assembled pitted against one of the greatest players ever. But we’ve been shown that storyline three times already. More importantly, we knew how it would end this year. Vegas listed the Warriors as -1060 favorites to win, the most lopsided Finals’ projection since 2001. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving – LeBron’s shadow for the past three Finals – sat shelved with a knee injury in Boston, leaving the Cavaliers’ supporting cast laughably incompetent. Nothing short of an asteroid cratering into the entire state of California would prevent Golden State from winning this series. It was inescapable.
The worst part was that another Warriors-Cavs Finals’ pairing seemed inevitable, too. Even as the Boston Celtics held a commanding 3-2 lead over the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Houston Rockets held another commanding 3-2 lead over the Warriors in the West, I still felt a sense of unavoidable dread that we’d still end up in the same place that we’ve become so accustomed to.
In so many ways, this years’ NBA Finals has proven the exact opposite of the Stanley Cup Finals matchup. In the Cup Finals, you’ve got two teams who have never been there before and, more importantly, a player who overcomes struggle to finally achieve his end goal. Seeing Alex Ovechkin overcome years of agonizing playoff exits to finally hoist the Stanley Cup in a Capitals’ uniform? That’s worth more than Kevin Durant’s two championships will ever be.
It’s natural for the enjoyment of something to decrease with repetition. Most types of entertainment produce a diminishing returns curve – the more a person experiences something, the less satisfying it becomes. This applies to almost everything that we do: eating, sleeping, listening to music, or playing video games can be entertaining at first but lose their rewarding qualities with repetition. These NBA Finals are no different.
Simply put, watching Steph Curry and Kevin Durant cruise their way past LeBron James doesn’t get my blood flowing like it used to. I know the matchup and I know the ending. There’s no appealing narrative to latch onto, except for what happens once LeBron steps off the court.
Of course, this Cavs-Warriors saga is probably over. Once LeBron buys his one-way ticket to Los Angeles in the waning moments of his prime, it will close the door on a four-season championship series that the Warriors lead 3-1 and will never get a chance to blow. Don’t worry, it’s probably for the best.
Image credit to USA Today