Need we say any more.
It’s a rivalry that has emerged in the “Era of Superteams” and perhaps the premier Finals tilt in today’s era of player movement and free agency. It’s a rivalry that has plenty of star power in LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Draymond Green, Andre Igudoula, Klay Thompson and Tristan Thompson.
Thanks to winning in 2015 and 2017, the Warriors lead the Finals rivalry 11-7. Thanks to rallying from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors 73-win team, Cleveland has forever etched its name in the annals of NBA lore.
Unlike other NBA Finals rivalries, Warriors-Cavs have deep ties that run deep on both sides.
You have everything from LeBron and Steph both being born in the same Akron hospital to current Warriors head coach—and former 90’s Cavs shooting guard, Steve Kerr, former Cavs head coach and current Warriors assistant in Mike Brown, the father of Steph Curry, Del, a Cavs sharpshooter from the 90’s and former teammate of Kerr, to both teams sharing the same shade of gold and retiring the No.42 in honor of Akron-born Hall of Fame power forward, Nate Thurmond.
Let’s find out below:
Lakers vs. Celtics: (Celtics lead 9-3): The undisputed gold standard of NBA Finals rivalries and the premier rivalry in all of hoops, the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers is the creme de la creme of hoops heated rivals. Starting back to its first days in Minneapolis in 1959 with George Mikan, to the glory days of the 1960’s with Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, John Havlachik to Don Nelson’s game-winner in 1969, the chants of “Beat L.A.” have entered our lexicon.
Enter the Magic-Bird rivalry in the 80’s and names like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Kurt Rambis and you were either sporting Laker gold or beaming with Celtic pride and wearing green. Fast forward to the 21st century and names such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen clashed with the larger-than-life Shaq and The Black Mamba himself in Kobe Bryant.
Lakers-Celtics will never get old and will always be the best rivalry in hoops. Period.
Warriors vs. Cavaliers: (Warriors lead 2-1): The Splash Brothers. The King. The Land. The Block. The Shot. Kevin Durant. While not as storied as the fore-mentioned Lakers-Celtics tilt, Cavs-Warriors can make a claim as being perhaps the second-best Finals rivalry ever, due to being the first to feature the same two teams four straight years in a row, which has never been done in any of the four major North American sports.
In Golden State vs. Cleveland you have two teams from two tough-minded, hard-nosed towns, that are both loud, abrasive and white-knuckle tough. While the Warriors are set to relocate—back—across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, their heart and soul is East Bay Oak-town to the core.
Much like their Bay City counterparts, Cleveland is an embodiment of the hard-working blue-collar people from “The Land” Two teams in two different parts of the country, yet both are more alike than similar.
There is plenty of glitz and glamour to rival Magic-Bird thanks to the budding LBJ-Steph uber-rivalry, the smooth shooting of Klay, the dead-eye Kyrie making the game-winner over Steph in ‘16, which was all set up by James’ chase down block of ling-time nemesis Andre Iguoudala.
Add Kevin Durant in ‘17, and his personal rampage over LBJ en route to a Finals MVP, and you have the makings of a bonafide Bay Area-North Coast rivalry for years to come.
Sixers vs. Lakers: (Lakers lead 5-1): From Dr J’s sweeping one-handed “Rock The Baby” dunk over Michael Cooper in the 1983 regular season en route to their ‘83 title, to Allen Iverson stepping over former guard—and current Cavs head couch Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals, the Sixers-Lakers rivalry has never been sort of epic moments.
Dating back to 1950 when both franchises were in Minneapolis and Syracuse, the Lakers and Sixers have a long history that predates the modern NBA. Fast forward to the 80’s where the Lakers would triumph over Moses Malone in 1980 and 1983—with the high-flying Julius Erving cementing his name with his legendary up-and-under reverse layup.
Pistons vs. Lakers: (Pistons lead 2-1): Bad Boys vs. Showtime. Detroit grit vs. Hollywood glamour. The Bad Boys vs. Showtime is the NBA Finals equivalent of Motown motor oil clashing with California fine wine.
You had future Hall of Famers such as Magic Johnson, James Worthy crash elbows with the rough-and-tumble bunch from Detroit in the form of Isaiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars in 1988 and 1989 with both teams splitting a Finals win.
Fast forward 15 years later and both teams would clash again with the Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Ben and Rasheed Wallace going up against a future Hall-of-Fame stacked lineup that had Shaq, Kobe, Karl Malone and gary Payton.
If the underdog Cavaliers hope to draw any inspiration vs. a similarly-stacked and overwhelmingly favored Warrior squad, look no further than the Pistons gentlemen sweep of the high-powered Lakers in five games, Kobe’s game-winning buzzer-beater notwithstanding.
Spurs vs. Heat: (Series tied 1-1): Not many would consider the Heat-Spurs a “rivalry” per se, but for the sake of argument, this is perhaps LeBron’s finest moment and his biggest triumph over a longtime nemesis in the form of the San Antonio Spurs, that had haunted him since his early days in Cleveland.
After getting humiliated by the underdog Dallas Mavericks in 2012, LeBron and “The Big Three” would exact revenge over the Tim Duncan-led Spurs in one of the most thrilling Game 6’s ever thanks to Ray Allen’s clutch three-pointer of the 2013 NBA Finals.
A rivalry that had the likes of James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, the forementioned Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, both teams would split their Finals matchups with Miami winning in 2013 and the Spurs routing the Heat in five, which would ultimate lead to the breakup of “The Big Three” and LBJ returing back to Cleveland.
See how things come full circle back to The King.