The Rematch

By Michael LeCompte

Curry/LeBron II tips off on Thursday night and for the second straight year the NBA Finals are set to showcase the two best players in the league.

Last year the storylines going into the Finals were Curry, LeBron, and the Championship fates of two long-suffering franchises. The sharp-shooting “Splash Bros” of Curry and Klay Thompson prevailed and Golden State captured its first title in 40 years.

This year Curry and LeBron are again the headliners, but unlike last season Cleveland is now healthy enough to compete against the Warriors. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are healthy and ready to support LeBron and Cleveland is poised to win its first major sports Championship since the Johnson administration (the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964).

Why Cleveland will win:

LeBron is the best all-around player the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan. He can score, defend, and he is big and physical. The only thing he hasn’t done extremely well is win in the Finals. “King James” is making his 6th consecutive trip to the Finals, yet he only has rings on two fingers.

This year could be different, though. LeBron came home two years ago to win a Championship in and for Cleveland and he has shown something beyond the impressive numbers this season-hunger. The one knock on LeBron throughout his career has been his mental toughness. When the games got hard, especially in the Finals, when his shooting touch ran cold, he often shrugged or threw his hands in the air, or started complaining to the refs.

Not so this year. Perhaps incensed by falling short to the Warriors last season and then having to watch them march through the regular season, winning a record 73 games, he has played with a hungry urgency, almost refusing to let his team down. This newfound hunger after twelve years in the league should serve the Cavaliers well in the Finals during those inevitable moments when Golden State seemingly can’t miss from beyond the arc.

Why Golden State will win:

Of course, the Finals still must be played and the Warriors won’t roll over for a suddenly hungry LeBron. After their record-setting regular season the playoffs have been anything but a cakewalk for Golden State. Perhaps that is what this historically good team needed, though, and why they just might repeat as champs.

The regular season looked ridiculously easy for Curry and company and until they were finally tested in the playoffs-falling behind 3-1 to the Thunder-it was unsure if this team had the resiliency to repeat.

The criticism of the Warriors is that they don’t play a good brand of basketball, that they are nothing more than a bunch of sharpshooters, willing and able to pick opponents apart from long-range without getting physical inside. Perhaps after winning it all last season they weren’t really hungry until the Oklahoma City series, but when they fell behind big in the Conference Finals, when every game became an elimination game for them, they dug deep and found a way to pull it out. That resiliency proved that as a team Golden State does indeed have the collective heart of a champion.

Toss Up:

Curry is healthy and the Warriors seem to have righted themselves in time for the Finals. The “Splash Bros” continue to launch from long-range and Golden State still has one of the deepest benches in the league.

LeBron has a healthy complement of sidekicks this time around and is shooting 55% from the field in the playoffs. As a team the Cavaliers have only lost twice in the playoffs and-perhaps taking a page from the Warrior’s playbook-have been relying on the three-pointer along the way.

The Pick:

Curry vs. LeBron II, the Rematch, is the perfect Championship matchup. It’s the showdown sports fans love, the two best players in the game-at the top of their games, in their primes-for the title.

This time, though, LeBron should have enough help to get it done and end Cleveland’s 52 year title drought.

The Pick: Cleveland in 7 games.

Why Air Jordan Will Always Be Better Than King James

By Michael LeCompte

Throughout the NBA Finals, which the Warriors won 4-2, commentators constantly compared LeBron James to Michael Jordan. These comparisons are nothing new, they’ve been made since James entered the NBA right out of high-school and he’s been touted as the NEXT GREATEST ever since, but the legend comparisons seemed to reach a crescendo during the Finals.

Really, though, there is no comparison to be made. As LeBron showed in falling short in the Finals yet again, he is no Jordan.

The NBA Finals were a compelling matchup and produced the highest TV ratings since Jordan’s last Championship with Chicago, but that is where any and all ties between Jordan and James as basketball players end.

Much was made of LeBron’s Jordan-like performance in the Finals, both in minutes played and points scored and a compelling case could be made that he deserved the MVP award, however, the only statistic that matters concerning LeBron and his legacy is that he lost in the Finals…again.

LeBron was playing in his fifth straight Finals (the previous four with Miami) and sixth overall (Cleveland in ’07). King James has now played in the same number of Finals as Air Jordan, yet he only has two rings to show for it.

Granted LeBron hasn’t always had the supporting cast in Cleveland that Jordan enjoyed in Chicago, but the fact remains that Jordan never lost in the Finals, while LeBron has now lost four times with rings on the line.

Perhaps it is unfair to even compare two players from different eras, but LeBron has been compared to Jordan since the age of 18, so why not highlight his shortcomings?

At 6’6″ and 215 pounds Jordan was the perfect mix of speed, power, and grace on the court. It looked as if he was gliding down the court and floating above it as he did seemingly whatever he wanted with the ball in his hands. Even if one were rooting against Chicago in the 1990’s they couldn’t help but marvel at the athleticism of Air Jordan.

On the biggest of stages, the NBA Finals, Jordan always seemed to be at his best (even when he felt his worst: the flu game in ’98). His competitive nature is legendary. When the Bulls made the Finals he simply refused to lose, elevating his game to otherworldly levels, regardless of the shortcomings of his team or how the game was being called.

That is perhaps the main difference between LeBron and Jordan. LeBron lacks that will to win that Jordan had. With the game on the line it always seemed as if Jordan couldn’t miss, while LeBron missed several clutch shots in these Finals. LeBron also seems to let outside forces affect his game in a way Jordan never would. Sure Jordan might bark at a ref when a call didn’t go his way, but then he would lower his head and take over the game, whereas LeBron whines, shakes his head, throws his arms up in disbelief, then proceeds to miss his next few shots.

Maybe it all happened too fast for LeBron. He entered the league out of high-school and has been told he’s great ever since. Maybe the multi-millions soften the blow of defeat for him and make losing acceptable in a way that it never could be for Jordan.

Jordan was perhaps the most marketable athlete ever, but he earned that privilege in a way LeBron didn’t, resulting in a stronger psyche and a better basketball game.

Jordan conditioned his body and polished his game for four years at the college level, while LeBron opted for the immediate millions of the NBA after high-school. Jordan spent his first six years in the NBA on mediocre Bulls teams and didn’t win the first of his six Championships until the age of 28.

At 30 LeBron he has now played in as many Finals as Jordan, however, with the minutes he continues to pile up, as exhibited in the Finals, it is certainly fair to speculate how many injury-free years he has left.

Standing 6’8″ and weighing 250 pounds LeBron’s game is more about power, overwhelming his opponent with blunt force, rather than the athleticism that Jordan exhibited.

Most agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever. The problem with the NEXT BIG THING (in this case LeBron James), though, is that we’ve already seen the original BIG THING. We’ve already seen the greatest, so while some love and some hate LeBron, most basketball fans outside of Cleveland can simply take him or leave him.

After Cleveland’s game 5 loss in the Finals LeBron said, “I’m not worried, I’m the best basketball player in the world.”

Perhaps the best basketball player in the world would not have to tell people he was the best, though? Jordan certainly never would have said that, he just would have shown it by going out and destroying the competition.

The comparisons between LeBron and Jordan will continue until the end of LeBron’s career when his legacy can be fully evaluated. The only stat that truly matters in discussions of “the greatest,” though, is Championships. Jordan went 6-6 in the Finals, LeBron is 2-4.

That, quite simply, is why Air Jordan will always be better than King James.

Who Is Larry O’Brien?

By Michael LeCompte

We’ve all seen it, usually in the hands of superstar basketball players as they celebrate winning the NBA Finals, the Larry O’Brien trophy, that shiny gold basketball dropping into a net, but who is Larry O’Brien and why does his name grace the championship trophy?

Larry O’Brien (1917-1990) was actually a longtime Democratic Party political strategist. In a political career spanning over twenty years O’Brien advised or served in the Cabinet’s of Presidents and at one point the party seriously considered making him a Presidential candidate.


After earning his law degree O’Brien went to work for the Democratic party and was the national director of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Presidential campaign.

In November of 1963 O’Brien, organizing Kennedy’s re-election campaign for 1964, accompanied the President on his fateful trip to Dallas.

When Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the Presidency after Kennedy’s death he appointed O’Brien the United States Postmaster General. O’Brien served the Democratic party into the 1970’s and his name was even put forward as a potential Democratic rival to Richard Nixon for President in 1972, although he was never nominated.

The second act of O’Brien’s career took him from the political arena to the sports arena and is how his name came to be on the NBA Championship trophy.

O’Brien served as NBA Commissioner from 1975-1984 and oversaw the merger of the ABA and NBA. He also worked with the player’s union to clean up the NBA’s image, which was suffering from a drug problem, and successfully implemented the leagues first official anti-drug policy.

Under O’Brien the NBA began to flourish. He brokered the leagues first cable deal and made the Finals the televised spectacle that we have come to know and love.

O’Brien left the Commissioner’s office in 1984 and the Championship trophy was re-christened the “Larry O’Brien Trophy” in his honor.


The trophy itself stands 2 feet tall and weighs 14.5 pounds. It is made by Tiffany and Company of sterling silver with 24 karat gold overlay.

Cavaliers Vs. Warriors: A Finals Preview

By Michael LeCompte

The NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers begin on Thursday, offering a rather refreshing championship matchup between two teams unaccustomed to playing basketball in June. It will not be Miami or San Antonia taking home the title this year, but rather one of two title-starved organizations.

In Cleveland the suffering has been long for a dedicated sports fan base. The Indians have not won the World Series since 1948, the Browns have never won the Super Bowl and the Cavaliers have never won the NBA Finals, but the fans have never wavered (sure they may have turned their collective backs on certain players who left town, going so far as to burn jerseys, but their belief in and support of their teams has been unflinching). When LeBron decided to come home last summer hope was renewed in Cleveland and now Ohio’s current favorite son has the Cavaliers four victories away from that elusive championship.

Likewise the Golden State Warriors enter the Finals in the midst of a decades long championship drought. The Warriors last went to (and won) the Finals in 1975. Since then, however, the team has often been mediocre at best, often ignored by fans and the rest of the league, just like its home city of Oakland.

Warriors fans have persevered, though, and now led by current MVP Steph Curry and a coach, Steve Kerr, with a Championship pedigree (basketball fans will remember him coming off the bench and making some clutch baskets for the Bulls in the ’90’s) they find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of being Finals favorites.

The Oakland A’s have not won a World Series since 1989, the Raider’s haven’t won the Super Bowl since 1983, but as in Cleveland, fans in the Bay Area have long-hoped, and now in an ancient basketball arena in downtown Oakland they are being rewarded.

Of course the cities of Oakland and Cleveland are not playing each other, the Cavs and Warriors are and no matter how many stories we hear about depressed cities or Championship droughts, the games still must be contested on the court and these Finals promise some intriguing matchups.

The most hyped matchup is of course LeBron vs. Curry. Two superstars, arguably the two best players in the game right now competing against each other has the potential to be epic. There will undoubtedly be moments in these Finals where LeBron and Curry trade baskets, situations also might arise where one or the other takes over the game, finding themselves in the zone, seemingly scoring at will. We’ve been seeing LeBron do this for years now, and Curry has done it all season.

However, as exciting as LeBron vs. Curry will be, basketball is a team sport and these Finals could depend on secondary players, as well as which team has the better bench (think Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs last year). Both LeBron and Curry will draw crowds defensively so their ability to find the open man is essential.

Curry has routinely been double and even triple-teamed this year and his teammates have benefited from the opportunities this presents them. The Warriors seem to be a more evenly balanced team than the Cavaliers, with three players averaging career highs in points this year.

Golden State would also seem to hold the advantage in terms of its bench, which is crucial in a seven game series as stars will undoubtedly deal with foul trouble or fatigue at some point. As a team Golden State is about as deep as the San Francisco Bay, with several players who can contribute valuable minutes and scoring off the bench, while in Cleveland it seems to mostly be LeBron and everyone else.

Two Championship-starved cities, two long-suffering fan bases, and the two best basketball players in the game mean the NBA Finals could be a classic matchup.

The pick: Golden State in 6 games.