Jones: LeBron, against all odds, yet again
And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it...
It's almost unfathomable that any team that is led by LeBron James could be as big an underdog as the Cleveland Cavaliers are as they take on the Golden State Warriors for a fourth consecutive time in the NBA Finals.
Just how big, you ask?
Five minutes after the Warriors' Game 7 win over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals on Monday night, Golden State had been installed as an 11.5-point favorite for Game 1, which will be played Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
Three minutes later, the line moved to 12.
In terms of the series, the Warriors opened as -$1,000 to win the series, meaning in order to win $100 on Golden State, you'd have to wager $1,000.
Five minutes later, that number jumped to -$1,200.
In other words, no one expects LeBron, even playing at the height of his superpowers, to lead the Cavaliers past the mighty Warriors, who defeated a Cleveland team that included Kyrie Irving in five games last season, in this Finals.
It has all the feel of LeBron vs. The Monstars.
Or LeBron vs. the Western Conference All-Stars (well, four of them, anyway).
Or, LeBron and the Warriors are the two best teams in the NBA -- that's why they're in the Finals, again.
Unlike in 2016, when Golden State made the mistake of tugging on Superman's cape, the Warriors didn't fall into that trap after disposing of the brick-hoisting Rockets, they of the 7-of-44 shooting performance from beyond the 3-point arc, including an almost-impossible 27 consecutive misses, Monday night (when James Harden is soon named the MVP, we can all share a laugh... what an absolute joke).
"It’s going to be a fun one, an exciting one, LeBron’s playing --- I don’t even know...," Kevin Durant, who wasn't part of that 2016 team that won 73 regular-season games and spit the bit by becoming the first team in NBA history to go down after holding a 3-1 lead in the Finals, said. "I can’t even describe how he’s playing, it’s like next level basketball, so we got our work cut out for us."
Draymond Green, channeled his inner Brad Stevens after the win when asked about facing the Cavaliers for a fourth consecutive time in the Finals.
“We know everything goes & stops with Lebron James," he said. "So our game plan has to be to make everything tough on him and take all the other guys out of it.”
Of course, the narrative has been -- pretty much all season -- these Cavaliers are LeBron and a bunch of extras from The Walking Dead.
The great Rick Noland of the Medina Gazette pretty much summed up the NBA landscape's feelings about Cavaliers-Warriors Round IV:
The tagline for the original Rocky was, "His whole life was a million-to-one shot..."
Frankly, that's what this feels like, but that's why they play the games.
Bill Russell never faced a challenge as great as this. He had Hall of Famers all around him.
Neither did Michael Jordan. He had Scottie Pippen as his sidekick. Before Pippen joined the Bulls, the record of the Chicago Jordans in the playoffs was 1-10.
Perhaps the only man who could feel what LeBron will be feeling as the Finals tip off Thursday night was the late, great Wilt Chamberlain, who had to get past Russell's Celtics for the Philadelphia-moved-to-San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt and Russell faced off 142 times in their storied rivalry and while Wilt overwhelmingly won the battles in terms of statistics, Russell won the war, his teams winning 11 rings.
That seems like what we're about to... witness.
Or, perhaps LeBron can better relate to Lakers legends Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, who went 0-8 and 1-8 in Finals appearances, respectively.
LeBron has already won three rings, which match the total won by Wilt (2), Baylor (0) and West (1) combined, and while the odds are obviously huge against him adding a fourth ring, that's the beauty of sport.
He has now led two different franchises to the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons.
Bet against him, if you will, and that's definitely the smart play.
But while doing so, take the time to enjoy what he's doing, night in, night out, at age 33 and in his 15th NBA season.
There's no shame in going out on your shield, as LeBron did in 2015 in the Finals, sans Irving and Kevin Love,against the Warriors. This matchup has the same feel of that one... only worse.
But, the man gives no quarter and asks for none.
After he's finished playing, we aren't likely to see anything like him again, at least not in our lifetimes.
We should all enjoy the show while we can.