History is on the line tonight.
If Cleveland wins, it will be the city’s first championship. It will be LeBron’s 3rd ring, and they will have knocked off the greatest regular season team in history. If GSW wins, it is the cherry on top of a legendary season, and the 2016 Warriors will be discussed and debated as one of the greatest teams of all time. Steph will be a back-to-back MVP and a back-to-back champion.
But let’s a deep breath before we start letting this game define these two players legacies. Defining the legacy of a player in real time is (and I’m putting this nicely) stupid. Yes, tonight matters for both LeBron and Steph, but it is hardly the final statement on their respective careers. A loss tonight, for either player, does not define their basketball lives. Just as a win tonight does not define their lives. Their futures are still to be written, and their pasts are already pretty great.
LeBron is a 4 time MVP, and has won 2 rings. That won’t change. He’s also perhaps the most durable player in NBA history. When you compare minutes played (especially playoff minutes played) LeBron is in a category of 1. His physical gifts are entirely unique and throughout his career he has drug wretched teams through the playoffs. Look back at his career and envision those teams without LeBron. It’s hard to see those teams getting out of the first round, or in some cases, even making the playoffs. A loss tonight changes none of that.
Curry is a back-to-back MVP and the first unanimous MVP. He has a ring, and from a pure shooting perspective has put together a resume that is unparalleled. If his career ends tonight, then he might already be the greatest shooter of all time. The Warriors also won 73 games this season, largely behind the play of Curry. If the Warriors lose tonight, that won’t change.
Curry has a long career ahead of him, and LeBron has at least 5 more years of being a top level player. Tonight matters, but it is a paragraph in the book of their lives (if it’s an especially thrilling game it might equal a chapter). If we try to define these players in the pantheon of basketball history, as history is happening, then we’re going to look like idiots in 20 years. If Cleveland loses tonight, it won’t be because LeBron is overrated and a choke artist. Ditto for Curry. Tonight is a piece of evidence we will use in codifying the success of these great players, but it isn’t the only piece. Furthermore, it doesn’t invalidate what they’ve already done. It matters. It absolutely matters. But if either of these players rattle off 2 or 3 more titles, then it simply becomes an interesting anecdote in their histories. A win is amazing, but it doesn’t guarantee a great future. Just as a loss doesn’t mean failure forever.
Game 7s are amazing. They absolutely matter. But be careful with your hot takes today. You might end up looking like the idiot who compared Steph to Jeremy Lin halfway through the OKC series. Or you might sound like Skip Bayless refusing to acknowledge LeBron’s achievements.
Only a few hours now. Get ready.