CLEVELAND – With the 2015 NBA Finals between the favored Golden State Warriors and the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers set, can the Cavs bring the Buckeye State it’s second championship in four months.
In a tantalizing dream matchup of Akron-born MVP’s in LeBron James and Steph Curry, the NBA gets a matchup between two of the best basketball players on the globe. That being said, with Las Vegas sports betting house, Bovada installing the Warriors as a –220 favorite over the Cavaliers, perhaps Cleveland could burrow a bit of inspiration from it’s fellow scarlet-and-gray brethren down the road in Columbus.
In a road to the championship, similar both in adversity and logistics, the paths of the Cavaliers and Ohio State Buckeyes mirror each other so eerily.
Before the start of their championship season, the Ohio State Buckeyes would loss Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder surgery, much like the way Cavaliers starting power forward/center Anderson Varejao would suffer a season-ending ACL injury. With Miller out, the Buckeyes had to turn to unproven second-stringer in J.T. Barrett, who would go on to set B1G passing records and many Ohio State marks before suffering a season-ending ankle injury at the hands of bitter archrival Michigan.
For the sake of argument, the Cavaliers saw the blossoming Kevin Love and his first season in Cleveland come to a hasty end, thanks to the Ronda Rousey-esque armbar of Boston Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk.
So, who would be the Cardale Jones for the Cavs? Why none other than Tristan Thompson of course.
While he isn’t a third-stringer like the Cleveland-born product of longtime Ohio State pipeline, Glenville, due to his ability to play both power forward and center, coupled with the arrival of Love sending the fourth-year product out of Texas to the bench, Thompson is having a monster breakout this post-season in averaging close to a double double with 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in 14 post-season games. Jones of course would go from third-stringer to unofficial state hero in leading the underdog Buckeyes to wins over favored Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.
How do the coaches in David Blatt and Urban Meyer compare.
Both are similar in winning championships in their respective leagues, yet not getting the proper respect—and even snide criticism—over how they won their titles. At Florida, Meyer led the Gators to two national titles—including one over the Buckeyes, yet thanks to the ultra-competitive and cutthroat and psychotic football win-at-all-costs “culture” of the SEC, resigned due to health issues to take a job at ESPN, and ultimately go to Columbus.
The pure vile and vitriol from SEC fans was on the level of that of a kid getting dumped by their childhood sweetheart via social media, only to see them change their relationship status to that of someone else. The bitter comments of Meyer running from Nick Saban crossed the line and were completely out of line as a whole, but such as life as a demi-god deep in the Heart of Dixie.
In the case of Blatt, no one knew who he was when the Cavaliers were first rumored to be interested in him, other than “some coach over Israel” To the more knowledgeable basketball fans, they knew of Blatt’s many accomplishments in coaching the Russian national team in the Olympics to a bronze and Maccabi Tel Aviv to an upset 98-86 win over European giant Real Madrid in the Euroleague championship, for it’s sixth European title.
Despite being a coach for over 20 years, he is considered a “rookie” in the NBA, and was looked at as nothing more than an assistant before the Cavaliers outbid—ironically the Warriors—for Blatt. Wit the Cavaliers starting out at 19-20, despite having three All-Stars in Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Love, many were already calling for his ouster. Thankfully, that never happened as general manager David Griffin pull of monumental trades for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov.
Since trading away former first-round pick and malcontent Dion Waiters and two future first-round picks for Mozgov to Denver, Cleveland has gone on a .804 tear with a record of 46-11.
As stated above, the similarities between the Cavaliers and Buckeyes title paths don’t just end there, as they are so similar.
Much like the way that Ohio State defeated a run-oriented and stubborn team from the Midwest and B1G country in the form of Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin Badgers in the conference title game, Cleveland had to contend with a defensive-minded team led by NBA MVP in Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls.
In the College Football Playoff semifinals, the Buckeyes overcame a heavily favored team from the South in the No.2 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide. The unofficial and proverbial patriarch of football south of the Mason-Dixon line, the underdog Buckeyes upset the mighty Tide in what was essentially a home game for Alabama down in New Orleans.
While the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks lacked a go-to player, nor someone comparable to Amari Cooper, as the oldest NBA basketball team in the Deep South(the San Antonio Spurs were founded in 1967 as the Dallas Charapals, a year before the Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968, but joined the NBA in 1976 following the ABA-NBA merger), Atlanta is the official headquarters of the SEC, and is also regarded as the capital of the New South. Due to setting a franchise record for wins (60) and boasting four All-Stars in Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Kyle Korver, many picked the Hawks to come out the East.
Cleveland had other ideas.
Thanks to the sharp-shooting of Smith, the gritty and hard-nosed hustle of Matthew Dellavedova and the brilliance of LBJ, the Cavaliers swept the overrated Hawks handily, 4-0. Much like the Buckeyes game before the Tide, not many gave the Love-less Cavs a shot against the Hawks.
In what may come as the biggest test of being the definition of team and overcoming both the odds and media naysayers, another Ohio-based team faces an up-tempo, high-scoring team from the West Coast with a title on the line, and it’s top player winning his sport’s top honor.
Much like the way that the Buckeyes faced the top-ranked Ducks and their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Marcus Mariota, the Cavaliers face a similar challenge in contending with newly-minted NBA MVP in Curry and the 67-win Warriors. If you look deeper into things, the parallels are so stark and glaring, right down to Oregon and Golden State’s use of yellow in their color schemes.
Coming into the title game, the Ducks were favored by both Las Vegas oddsmakers and fans—most likely from bitter rival teams—along with so-called experts saying that the Ducks were simply too big for the slower Buckeyes. In facing a chance to buck NBA history, LeBron James and the Cavaliers will attempt to become the first team to defeat a 65-plus win team in Finals history. They said it couldn’t be done with Oregon, yet the No.4 Buckeyes silenced the critics, so why not the gritty and determined Cavaliers, who have already vanquished the top seed in the East?
Much like the way, the Buckeyes were maligned and criticized for their past title game failures, LeBron James can draw fuel and motivation for being on 2-3 in the Finals, including getting beat by his personal nemesis in the form of the San Antonio Spurs, 4-1 in last year’s Finals while with the Miami Heat, for which he is 1-2 against.
That and that he and his team are an underdog against a baby-faced neophyte such as Curry, will be sure to add more fuel to his personal fire.
While the Cavaliers don’t have perennial trolls and blatantly biased analysts such as ESPN’s Mark May, thankfully for Cavalier fans, they do not have to listen to the likes of rank amateurs such as Reggie Miller and Chris Webber drone on about diving for loose balls and whine about “dirty” players.
Call it Ohio Against The World, because it is what natives of the Buckeye state are accustomed too, in winning against all odds and critics. And often times, they do. Which is why it’s not the best idea to bet against an underdog from Ohio.
If recent history is any indication, not only will Ohio shock the world again, as the Buckeyes upset Oregon, but will likely topple the pre-ordained media darlings from the Bay Area, causing haters and critics to once again eat their own bitter words.