Tonight the NBA Finals begin. For the fourth straight year, the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the Golden State Warriors.
If you listen to the pundits, this will be the most uncompetitive, lopsided contest in recent sports history. You’ll see headlines like “Everybody is counting out LeBron James, Cavs in NBA Finals Again” or “Is Warriors-Cavs IV the biggest mismatch in modern Finals history?” You’ll read about how the mighty Warriors, with their entire roster filled with All-Star studs like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, are going to mop the floor with the poor Cavs, who can offer only LeBron James and a gang of unknowns and retreads. You’ll see statistical analysis of why the Warriors are destined to win, and hear about how the Cavs are in the Finals only because the Eastern Conference of the NBA is like the minor leagues compared to the Western Conference, and see that the Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Warriors a prohibitive favorite and set a double-digit point spread for the first game.
The only way puzzled commentators think the Cavs might even win a game or two is if the entire Warriors team comes down with the flu, or Draymond Green and a few of his teammates get suspended for multiple games after a crotch-targeting binge that can’t plausibly be viewed as involving “basketball moves.”
Is this the biggest mismatch in sports — say, since the mighty Miami Hurricanes were supposed to wipe the field with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the National Championship game on January 3, 2013? I guess we’ll just have to see if the know-it-all commentators and talking heads could possibly be wrong, and the Cavs can luck out and scratch out even a single win against the media darlings — which would no doubt happen only with the help of the officials and an overconfident Warriors team that doesn’t bring its “A” game against a feeble opponent.
Sometimes, in sports, the underdog does win, and the conventional wisdom proves to be wrong. Will it happen this time? I’ll be watching to find out. But if the impossible does occur, and David does manage to slay Goliath in 2018, it will be one of the sweetest wins in the history of sports. Because this time, it truly is Cleveland against the World.