By Danny Kohan
The 2016 NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors pulled off what movie executives would deem to be an extremely rare feat, a sequel that not only lived up to the hype, but greatly surpassed the quality of the original.
While the Cavs lost to the Warriors in six games in their first Finals match-up, they made the series much closer and much more entertaining than expected, considering they were without the services of both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the majority of the contest. With both teams at full strength for the 2016 rematch, the sports media hype machine went into full effect, endlessly building up the event and touting it as the ultimate Hollywood Summer Blockbuster. A film for the whole family to enjoy. A sequel with more star power, more story lines….more shit blowing up.
This was LeBron’s chance to finally deliver a championship for the city of Cleveland, a hardcore fan base that had witnessed unspeakable things and suffered far more heartache than any man, woman or child ever deserves. This was the Cavs opportunity to not only gain vengeance for their 2015 Finals loss, but to dethrone a squad coming off the most prolific regular season in NBA history. A team that not only surpassed the revered 96’ Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins, but was led by a player widely regarded to have mastered the skill of tossing a round object into a circular hoop with greater accuracy than any other being who had ever walked the earth. Well, at least since Dr. Naismith erected that very first peach basket so many eons ago.
There was no trailer necessary. No commercials or magazine covers needed to whet my appetite. The story sold itself: Curry Vs. LeBron II. The Sharpshooter vs. the Force of Nature. The Skilled Marksman vs. the Beast of the East. It was on! A rematch for the ages. A sequel that would finally live up to the hype and deliver even more than its predecessor.
Instead, after the Warriors took a commanding 3–1 series lead in those Finals, it appeared evident that this sequel was destined to be a Jurrasic Park: The Lost World level flop. The Warriors would presumptively win Game 5 at home and, as Hollywood has become accustomed to, the second act would fail to live up to the original.
Thankfully, LeBron provoked Draymond Greene into the nut shot heard round the world in game 4, and instead we got clutch Kyrie going full Uncle Drew, embarrassing fools and outplaying his counterpoint unanimous MVP (and America’s sweetheart) Steph Curry for three straight games. We got the defining play of LeBron’s career, A.K.A. “The Block,” and a thrilling Game 7 that wasn’t decided until the final minute of play.
Yes, just when the series looked destined to end up like so many other summer bombs, it turned into The Godfather Part II, Terminator 2 and The Dark Knight of NBA Finals.
We even got a new NBA meme to reach the rarefied air of “Jordan Crying Face” level played out. You know what I’m talking about; The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead Meme. A meme still going strong and one that has become so ubiquitous that even fast food chains are taking part. Just yesterday, responding to a tweet about a customer coming in to one of their establishments wearing a Steph Curry jersey, Wendy’s responded with:
He gets a 4 for $4 and eats one item
4 – 1 is 3….
Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the finals.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) June 6, 2017
The adrenaline rush and “holy shit” moments of those final minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals even induced within me some happy Back to the Future flashbacks from my adolescence. Images and feelings which apparently had been buried deep down inside, stuck somewhere within the tangled ball of other less favorable repressed childhood memories. As a kid, watching that film for the first time, I was completely enthralled, struck by the shear genius of the picture and ignorant to the fact that they had made multiple films.
After an exhilarating ride, everything wraps up nicely for Marty McFly. He gets the car, he gets the girl…seemed like it was concluding with a nice little standard happy ending. Accordingly, I stood up from my chair satisfied, expecting nothing more, content to going back to playing Nintendo and devouring the remaining Fruity Pebbles in front of me.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Doc Brown busts in with dire news from the future. My ass sits back in that chair in a hurry and before I can put down the Pebbles I’m hit with, “Roads?!? Where WE’RE going we don’t NEED roads.”
The Delorean levitates off the ground, starts fucking flying into the screen and we’re left with a “To Be Continued…” sign flashing in front of us. That sequence absolutely blew my feeble little mind. To a child nothing could be cooler than a flying car or getting to see what a future world would look like. Shit, to an adult there is still nothing cooler.
At that moment, I knew that I had one and only one mission in life. I had to see Part II and I had to see it now! Fortunately for me, that could be accomplished quite easily, as the local Blockbuster was within walking distance of our home. I can’t imagine being in the theater in 1985, watching that final scene and realizing that I would have to wait for God knows how long to see Doc and Marty again. To see them exploring a future world, a world with cars flying all over the place. I wouldn’t have had the patience.
Maybe it was that buried childhood memory finally revealing itself or (more likely) having become accustomed to the “On Demand” world of today, that has made me forever impatient. For, I must admit, as soon as the 2016 Finals ended, before LeBron’s tears even had the chance to dry, I had already made the pilgrimage to my local Bed, Bath and Beyond in search of the “Click” remote. (As I described in a previous article).
We were destined for a Cavs vs. Warriors Trilogy anyways. And once Durant signed with the Warriors it was even more of a foregone conclusion. If the first two acts were this good, I had to see, no I DEMANDED to see what was in store for Part III. And I had to see it NOW.
Still, in the back of my mind, I knew.
Back to The Future? Great film. Back to the Future II? Still pretty darn good. Back to the Future III? For the love of God, please shield the children’s eyes. They can’t un-see Doc and Marty in Western garb doing the same old tired shtick.
Obviously, a great movie sequel is rare. But, a great movie trilogy? That’s damn near impossible.
Unfortunately for NBA fans, it looks like Cavs vs. Warriors will fall short of producing the great dramatic trilogy we were all craving. All hope of a long competitive series was dashed last night in Game 3 when Kevin Durant dribbled straight down the court and without hesitation hit the shot of his career, a dagger three pointer right in LeBron’s mug:
No team in NBA history has ever rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series and it’s not about to happen to this historically loaded Warriors squad. The Warriors started the series with 7/1 odds to sweep and become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated through the Playoffs and they are primed to do just that.
Then again, if you’re a Cavs fan in search of a glimmer of hope, in search of the slightest of signs from above, you may take some comfort in one of the few film franchises that was able to pull off a phenomenal trilogy. The rare film franchise that actually got progressively better, even winning a Best Picture Oscar for its third film. The title of that Part III? The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
By Danny Kohan