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It’s interesting that what went down in Cleveland on Sunday night transpired.

After trading wins night after night, the Warriors saw the Cavs fumble a game that they had no business surrendering, failing to go up 3-0 in the Eastern Conference finals despite Isaiah Thomas being declared out.

Say what you will about the collision course, but we’re about to see a third consecutive NBA Finals between the same teams for the first time ever. Don’t let Kevin Durant’s defection from Oklahoma City to Golden State spoil that for you.

The natural inclination is to despise what Durant did. It’s front-runner behavior, totally against the fabric of what we’ve seen over the last century in sports. There really isn’t an “if you can’t beat them, join them” situation that has been celebrated. This is a luxury that isn’t allowed in this world.

It’s amusing that on July 4, Kevin Durant decided to break hearts in Oklahoma. People called it his Independence Day. They used all sorts of disparaging words about him and his mother, mama being the real MVP and all. This all happened, and it’s important to have the proper perspective about why so many were so upset.

Basketball fans have short memories, so the “decision” is something that went down as a footnote in time. Widely criticized, LeBron James’ choice to televise his departure from Cleveland, albeit for the good of the Boys & Girls clubs in his area, alienated everyone but fans in Miami.

“I’m taking my talents to South Beach” became a joke, and it did so even in South Florida because the Miami Heat don’t play there. It’s close, but the point is James was making the equivalent of announcing where he would go to college for a while. And then he returned home to Northeast Ohio and has delivered back-to-back NBA Finals appearances to a city that never won anything from the mid-1960’s until last year.

And then they won.

Possibly because the Cleveland Indians also made it to the World Series, the public perception of what happened last year in Northeast Ohio gets overshadowed. There’s no understanding for it.

The Cavs beat a team that won 73 games. There is something to be said about overlooking what we’re seeing. For perspective, see this season’s All-NBA votes.

If Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard had both played 82 and LeBron had the year he did, I’d use it as a tiebreaker on a vote. No forwards had better seasons than Leonard and James, but there were still voters who chose not to see that. James received a second-place vote. In what was even a more egregious error, someone put Kawhi on the third team.

That’s embarrassing. The bottom line is that we’re in an interesting time with this league based entirely on what happened this season. Only the die-hards will understand that this NBA will thrive because a collective bargaining agreement has already been negotiated. There will be no lockout. Players adore their representatives. Adam Silver and his people seem more receptive than David Stern ever was.

People correlate the decision to keep Chris Paul from the Lakers as something that was accomplished for competitive balance when really it was because the NBA owned the New Orleans franchise after Hurricane Katrina.

Every one forgets that but people from that part of the country. So look at it this way. A lot of fans are completely oblivious to what transpired to make the NBA what it is today. People remember the NBA Finals used to be tape delayed, but are quick to glorify the era that delivered the league’s rise.

Before the Warriors were perfect, the 76ers existed. They coined the term “fo, fo, fo.” That’s how many games it took them to squash everyone. Then came the Lakers and Celtics. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird changed everything. Then, Michael Jordan arrived. He won six titles.

It’s been a disappointing postseason, for sure. I hoped Kawhi Leonard would help deliver a competitive Western Conference finals but he got injured. I hope the NBA Finals are great; if that’s 4-0 that would be pretty brutal.

But let’s stop with the nonsense that this current era is the end of something. Durant’s decision to join Golden State isn’t the beginning of the end. There have always been superpowers. The New York Yankees. Real Madrid. America’s Team. It is what it is.

Next year, will we see Warriors-Cavs IV? I don’t see a realistic East contender but the West should be tougher than this year. Any injury to Draymond Green or KD takes Warriors down a lot, though healthy, yeah, they’re pretty tough.

But we’ve seen this for decades outside of how wide open the West was in the Jordan era. There have always been one or two favorites and everyone else. That’s why the Shaq/Penny magic is so awful because it was there for them to be that type of team and they melted.

And yet the league is making more money than ever before. I am not saying anyone is wrong for turning their attention to other stuff. I’m obligated to watch and don’t share a similar perspective. I am saying it is easy to say basketball has been ruined this season. Nobody likes to see things they can see coming for months transpire. It goes against our sensibilities.

The last few postseasons have been great. I loved the Heat era and there were always better-equipped contenders than we see today since the top-seeded Celtics have been such a joke. The fact we’re getting Cavs-Warriors 3 as easily as we’re getting it is the issue, especially since so many hated Durant’s decision, but I think we can just complain easier and there are other alternatives. The NBA is thriving. It’s similar to how the NFL thrives despite people wanting to harp on the negatives regarding violence and concussions.

Ride it out. Open your eyes and appreciate what you’re seeing, because the upcoming Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals will be worth it.


About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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