Since LeBron rejoined the Cavaliers in 2014, the two teams have faced off against each other a total of 19 times (13 of those games were in the Finals) with the Warriors leading the series 12-7 (the Warriors lead the Finals meetings as well at 7-6).
The last two NBA Finals have been between the Cavs and Warriors with a possibility that they could meet for a third straight year, yet LeBron doesn’t consider them a rival.
The pure definition of a rival is “one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess” (according to Merriam-Webster), which is exactly what the Cavs and Warriors are currently fighting for, the ultimate title that only one person (or team) can possess: an NBA championship ring.
It isn’t too surprising that LeBron is trying to downplay this situation, as he has never been one to try and ignite the flame, but actions speak louder than words.
Remember when the Cavs held their Halloween Party in the fall and some of the decorations included cookies designed to look like tombstones with the names of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson written in icing along with a drum set that had the phrase “3-1 Lead” printed on the drum?
LeBron sure does.
Remember when LeBron wore the Ultimate Warrior T-shirt and the Kermit-sipping-tea hat? That is some first-class pettiness right there and LeBron knows it, we know it and LeBron knows we know it.
LeBron isn’t going to come out and claim the Warriors as the Cavaliers’ sole rival, but don’t let that make you think they aren’t on his mind.
He understands how good the Warriors are, as he stated in the same interview with ESPN when he called the Warriors “probably one of the greatest teams ever assembled.”
Whether or not the Warriors and Cavaliers truly are rivals isn’t exactly up to LeBron, rather the fans and media that paint it as such.
The Finals matchup in 2015 was depressing to watch for Cleveland fans.
They finally had a team that had the potential to win an NBA Finals and put an end to the city’s 50-plus year championship drought, but injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love meant Cavs fans would have to wait another year, while Warriors fans were on top of the world and feeling invincible.
But last year is when the matchup started to develop into something more than just a game.
LeBron and the Cavs completed one of the most epic comebacks in sports history against the best regular season team of all-time in what was the most thrilling exhibition of elite talent going head-to-head that I have ever been able to watch first-hand.
The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Finals and the Internet took care of the rest.
From tweets to memes to T-shirts, the 3-1 jokes were everywhere and there wasn’t much anyone (especially Warriors fans) could do but sit back and wait for it to run its course, which still hasn’t seemed to end (possibly due to the Cleveland Indians blowing a 3-1 World Series lead, it’s like the Sports gods are putting on a comedy show at the expense of Cleveland and Golden State fans).
Does the Cavaliers’ horrific loss to the Warriors on Monday downplay the rivalry? Not even slightly. In fact, when the Cavs and Warriors played each other last January, the Cavs got blown out nearly as badly in that game, losing by 34 points instead of the 35-point loss on Monday.
After the Cavaliers went down 3-1 in last season’s Finals, Klay Thompson claimed LeBron’s “feelings just got hurt” when mentioning the trash talking between LeBron and Draymond Green that resulted in Draymond being suspended for Game 5.
The NBA has never had two teams play each other in three straight Finals, but there is a strong chance this could be the year it finally happens. Another Finals matchup could cement the rivalry between the two as the most anticipated and exciting matchup in the NBA.