The Golden State Warriors proved in Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals that they are nearly unbeatable. The Cleveland Cavaliers played well enough to win, tired out late and finally succumbed to Kevin Durant and his All-Star teammates. Plenty of factors went against the Warriors, but their unparalleled star depth has appeared to create a situation in which it takes too many terrific performances and good breaks to eke out one measly home win. Every fear from last summer about Durant ensuring the Warriors a championship appears to have come true.
Not surprisingly, plenty of fans and analysts have claimed that such a one-sided finals and the potential for several seasons of similar dominance are bad for the NBA. There is certainly a case for that position, but the player who stands to lose most from the Warriors’ excellence says it’s not fair to judge. Here’s what LeBron James had to say at practice on Thursday:
Oh, I mean, it’s part of the rules. The difference between my situation is — well, the best thing with Golden State’s situation is a lot of their guys are drafted. They drafted a lot of their guys. Three of their best players were already drafted, so they were able to hold on to them because they own the Bird rights, if everybody knows the CBA. So they’re able to keep Steph, Klay and Draymond and able to go out and sign someone else like they did this past summer by just getting rid of a couple pieces in Harrison Barnes and not re-signing Barbosa and Bogut and guys from last year’s team. So that allowed them to go do that.
My case, going to Miami, we had to clear a lot of space because they didn’t have anybody as far as guys that they wanted to keep as far as Bird rights besides U.D. [Udonis Haslem] and D-Wade. They had the opportunity to go get two of us, and they did that in me and Bosh, and then we were able to finagle a way to get Mike Miller because some of us took pay cuts, and got some other guys. We had Rio [Mario Chalmers] because he was drafted. But it was a different situation. Totally different. Totally different.
But is it fair? I don’t care. I mean, I think it’s great. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game. I mean, who am I to say if it’s fair or not? No matter who I’m going against, if I’m going against four Hall of Famers, like I said before the series started with Draymond, Klay, Steph, and K.D., or if I’m going against two or whatever the case may be, I’m always excited to play the game. And I’m not one to judge and say if it’s fair or not if guys are adding players to their team.
So that’s what you want to do. Is it fair that the New York Yankees in the ’90s was adding piece after piece after piece after piece? I mean, if you have the opportunity to do that — is it fair that the Cowboys added Deion Sanders?
I mean, listen. It happens. It’s sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody. Appreciate it.
It’s easy enough to understand why LeBron isn’t too upset at the way the Warriors came together. He has exercised more organizational power than any single player in league history and has expressed a desire to make decisions as an owner once his on-court career is over. For James, supporting Durant’s ability to join a readymade contender is a no-brainer. He will be for anything that allows a star player to make his own decisions and benefit as he pleases.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 8, 2017
What’s most interesting about his comments are what they say about his competitiveness. To LeBron, the mere fact that the Warriors created this team within league rules means that it’s fair. It’s up to everyone else, including him, to reach their level and prove themselves in competition. He’s excited to face the challenge, even if he’s currently unlikely to beat them.
Holding this mindset is the only way LeBron can ever hope to beat the Warriors. If he worries about fairness, then he’s essentially conceded that Golden State will be better than him for the foreseeable future. It’s only through appreciating their talents that he can hope to create the same sort of juggernaut in Cleveland. Otherwise, he’s bound to fall short.
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