Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals did not disappoint. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors found themselves tied at 89 with under a minute to go. A big-time block by LeBron James and a legendary step-back three point shot in the reigning NBA MVP and 2015 NBA Champion Stephen Curry by Kyrie Irving changed that.
In a game dubbed by some as the “biggest basketball game ever,” LeBron delivered on his promise, with a 93-89 victory, to bring a championship to the people of Cleveland, Ohio, who have been waiting 52 years for another one. Curry, on the other hand, succumbed to the pressure of his newfound stardom, cracking under the pressure and playing the worst fourth quarter of any reigning NBA MVP in an NBA Finals Game 7 ever.
So, in an ironic twist of fate, LeBron sealed his legacy as one of the greatest of all time. In fact, Magic Johnson called him top five all time after the victory. Steph and the Golden State Warriors, however, will soon find their immaculate 73-9 season forgotten.
Sure, next time a team has 60-something wins, an announcer will mention the Warriors team that won 73, but they will never hear their names mentioned with the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls ago. When the best team of all time is discussed, they won’t hear much talk of the 2015-2016 Warriors that almost did it.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in my sports career,” said Klay Thompson, who made news throughout the series for trash talking LeBron in press conferences and stating that this Warriors team would have beaten the Shaquille O’Neal-led Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s. “It hurts real bad right now.”
The back-to-back NBA MVP didn’t have much more to add, beckoning back to their regular season accomplishments instead.
The Warriors lost 9 of 82 regular season games. They also lost 9 of 24 postseason games.
Maybe they became too big too quickly. Maybe, as head coach Steve Kerr said after the game, they legitimately believed they had it in the bag and got lazy.
Either way—and I’m talking to you, Draymond Green—it’s hard to call this season anything but what it is: a big failure.
There’s only one way to follow up a championship season. There’s only one way to follow up “the best regular season in NBA history.”
As Walt Frazier said, “The regular season is where you make your name, but the postseason is where you make your fame.”