Sorry, Steph: LeBron Is Bruce Willis and the Warriors Are the AsteroidAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Up until around the seven-minute mark of Game 5, I’d been an equal fan of both the Cavs and the Warriors. I wasn’t really concerned with who won any particular game, only that each game was entertaining and interesting. Every time something great happened, I’d get excited for the team that did the great thing and sad for the team that’d had the great thing done against them.
The Warriors eking out Game 1 in overtime, Delly stealing that rebound and hitting those free throws to effectively win Game 2, LeBron going into Thermonuclear Mode to give Cleveland its first-ever home win in the NBA Finals in Game 3, the Warriors turning back into the Warriors and blowing Game 4 open — all of those things inspired both happiness and sadness simultaneously. And I’d assumed it’d stay that way for the whole Finals.
Then, in Game 5, LeBron, after receiving a panicked pass from Iman Shumpert with the shot clock winding down, hit that 3 from a step inside the center logo to put the Cavs up one with just under eight minutes left. The shot came from so far away but was done so effortlessly that the arena, filled with Warriors fans who are wholly used to seeing astounding 3-pointers made, gasped. It seemed like there was real fear in the Oracle — and then Steph went behind the back, probably said something like “Crocodile Dundee sucked,” and hit a 3 over a helpless Matthew Dellavedova, who gave an admirable contest of the shot despite having been put in a sinkhole. Soon after that, Klay Thompson hit a 3, and Igoudala hit a 3, and Igoudala made a ridiculous layup, and Curry hit another 3, and all I felt was sadness and maybe even a slight bit of anger.
LeBron James has obviously been unreal in the Finals. He’s been so dazzling that his brilliance, usually a thing we’re only allowed to observe and worship and fetishize, has become something we can understand. While that’s not the same as being able to empathize with it, it’s the closest we’ll ever get.
For the first time in his career, LeBron, a villain just five years ago when he left Cleveland for Miami, has become a sympathetic figure. He’s been so incredible that anybody else but him winning the championship is unfair. I understand that the universe is not a fair place, but this is just too far. And so now here I am, in a bizarre spot I’d never have imagined I’d be: LeBron’s overwhelming greatness has pushed me beyond just rooting for him, and now I’m rooting against the Warriors, possibly the most unstoppably likable team in the NBA since the 2005 Phoenix Suns, and I’m also rooting against Steph Curry, the most unstoppably likable professional basketball player I have ever seen in my life.
I love Steph Curry. I LOVE HIM. Watching him do anything makes me a happier person. It can be something he does with a basketball, like when he turned Chris Paul into pasta …
… or the other time he turned Chris Paul into pasta …
… or the other-other time he turned Chris Paul into pasta:
But it can also be something he does without a basketball, like that one time he turned my heart into mush …
… or the other time he turned my heart into mush …
… or the other-other time he turned my heart into mush:
He’s amazing. He’s amazing and he’s perfect. He’s amazing and he’s perfect and he’s gorgeous, in both a basketball sense and a philosophical one. Were this any other scenario, it’d be impossible to pick against him. If LeBron had one more weapon — just one — one single other person he could toss the ball to and not have the Cavaliers offense turn into a disaster movie, then it’d be fine. LeBron-plus-one versus five or six or seven others is fair enough — that’s how good LeBron is. Instead, he has an Australian point guard who was just exorcised on national television and a shooting guard who’s quietly wishing for the low stakes of February basketball in New York.
LeBron deserves to win the NBA championship. He’s not going to, but he deserves it. LeBron by himself, attempting to thwart the juggernaut Warriors and their historically great offense — it’s too much like Liam Neeson versus the wolves in The Grey. It’s too much like King Leonidas versus Xerxes’s infinite army in 300. It’s too much like Bruce Willis versus the Earth-ending asteroid in Armageddon, and you’re insane if you think I’m ever rooting against Armageddon Bruce Willis.