Here we go again......kids are getting out of school, parents are firing up the grills for cookouts, summer is upon us and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are gearing up for another NBA Finals matchup for the third consecutive June, this version titled "The Trilogy."
Did you know there are three installments of Ace Ventura? And Big Momma's House? Can anyone honestly recall what happens in Beverly Hills Cop Part 3? There might even be three versions of The Addams Family movies, but who's counting? This titanic basketball matchup is a trilogy that's really worth watching.
LeBron James' "Superhero" status fits the blockbuster summer season just perfectly at the "sporting" box office. Much of this NBA post season has been the equivalent of sitting through the coming attractions and previews before the movie. Who in their right mind didn't think the finals would showcase the Warriors and Cavs?
Media pundits have begun the stat comparisons between James and another iconic star who wore No. 23 — Michael Jordan. At age 32, James shows no signs of slowing down. Conversely, when MJ was 32, he had lost the love of basketball, and was swinging and missing curve balls in the Arizona Winter league while toying with the idea of "possibly" returning to the game.
This marks James' seventh straight NBA Finals, and for him, this is very much a tie breaker. He's won three finals (two with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013 as well as last year's win with the Cavs) and lost three finals (San Antonio twice - in 2007 and 2014 - and Dallas in 2011.)
For the Warriors, much of their season has been focused around simply "getting back" to the finals. After blowing a 3-1 series lead last June to Cleveland in stunning fashion, their theme has been "redemption" and make no mistake, they wanted the Cavs all the way.
So what will make this Trilogy installment the best of the three?
1) The stars have all returned
In any good Trilogy you need the main characters, and the 2017 Finals will not disappoint. LeBron, Kyrie, Curry, Draymond, and Clay will all be there. The Warriors of course will be joined by Kevin Durant who one summer ago left OKC in the dust and opted for a ring pursuit. What will the perception of Durant be during this series? What will the reaction be if the Warriors win? Will Durant be perceived as simply a "ring chaser?"
2) Who will emerge?
Two years ago, it was the Warriors' Andre Iguodala who went on to be series MVP. For the Cavs to win this series, they'll require key contributions, similar to what they had last week from Deron Williams in Game 5 vs. the Celtics. Will there be an unsung hero that pushes his team to a title?
3) Coaching counts
In one corner, Cleveland's Tyronn Lue is on the cusp of two world championships as a head coach. To put that into perspective, that would be more than Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, or Jack Ramsay. In the other corner, Golden State's Steve Kerr could be well enough to return to the bench where Mike Brown has been assuming the reigns for the Warriors for much of this season.
Frequently a series is determined by the "best adjustments" from game to game by the coaching staff. We'll see who makes the best moves throughout the next two weeks.
I expect the Warriors to win in seven with Durant picking up Finals MVP honors (sorry Russell Westbrook, the bandage gets ripped off again). I also expect these same two teams to be right back here next June for another amazing chapter in the best thing the NBA and any of the major sports leagues has going — the NBA actually has a "true rivalry" in their league that culminates every summer.
Enjoy the Finals!
Craig Larson Jr. is chief operating officer and program director of SB Nation Radio Network.