the chosen one vs. the inferior one (the final chapter)

Welcome to The Final Chapter: The Chosen One vs. The Inferior One. Looking back on the journeys of Wardell Stephen Curry and LeBron Raymone Jones, I wasn’t quite sure their paths would meet in the National Basketball Association. From LeBron’s ridiculous high school career, accolades and accomplishments, to Curry’s journey from largely unknown, to NCAA and then NBA star; it seems more fitting when I sit back and think about it. For as much of an underdog that Stephen Curry is, let’s not forget that he was a lottery pick in the toughest league to make it; two rounds and sixty players in the entire world are taken in the NBA draft. Sixty.

Most of those guys don’t make it. A lot of them end up living in the D-League for the rest of their careers, moving overseas to play professionally, or becoming largely forgotten in our media-driven world. You don’t produce, you don’t make it in The League. Period. With 82 games a season, and travel to a new city every night, the NBA isn’t what the average person thinks. Although I will never know from experience, I can imagine it is just as much of a mental grind as it is a physical one. Reading interviews, player write-ups and watching videos throughout the years, most of the veterans have one piece of advice for these young guns coming into the league: take care of your body. If you don’t, it will catch up to you and it will tarnish the remainder of your career.

The Players’ Tribune (www.theplayerstribune.com), an amazing website started by Derek Jeter, provides journalistic insight from the players’ point-of-view. Recently, they have kicked off their video production with an interesting series focusing on veteran professionals and their rookie counterparts:

The NBA, while being one of the best professions out there, is a grind, man. It’s just that simple. Last season, this grind came to fruition as the Cleveland Cavaliers faced off against the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals. Riddled by a grueling season, tough luck and the way the cookie crumbles, the Cavs lost out on two of their key players. Kevin Love was outed in the first round against the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving was out after Game 1 of the Finals. Such is life. Being a Cincinnati Bengals fan, I know how this goes. Must be an Ohio thing, huh?

Either way, what ensued was one of the better finals I’ve watched in the past 10 years. Great crowds, emotional storylines, Steph Curry, LeBron James; the list goes on and on. And, this performance:

Whoa. For as much flack as LeBron has caught this season (Coach Blatt, team chemistry questions), he was a man possessed in last year’s NBA Finals. Even his haters can’t deny it. If they do, then they don’t know a damn thing about basketball…this guy was on another level. Unfortunately, people don’t remember the losers. LeBron knows this, the media knows this, and Cleveland fans sure as hell know this. It’s the way of the sports world, and Cleveland learned this the hard way in 2007, and once again, in 2015.

So, where does this leave us with The Chosen One vs. The Inferior One? Was last season a sign that the Golden State Warriors are here to stay and might become the NBA’s next dynasty? The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs, part of the Miami Heat (although it could have been fourstraight titles); these teams have come in and taken the NBA by storm. With Curry on board, and Iguodala taking the Finals MVP honors, these guys are here to stay. After winning the regular season MVP last season, and potentially becoming the first unanimous winner in this year’s “race,” The Once-Inferior One ain’t playing any more games:

Whoa, again.

Closing out the final chapter of this series is tough. Throughout the writings, I’ve discovered different aspects of each player’s game that I hadn’t watched closely enough. When writing, doing research and watching video clips, certain aspects of LeBron’s and Curry’s games have come to life right in front of my eyes. Memories fade, mix together, alter and are completely different than you remember them being at the time. It’s just the way the human brain works. We don’t remember events as we think we do, hence why eye-witness statements can be such a slippery slope in the courtroom.

Listening to an array of comments coming from the NBA community at this time, Stephen Curry aka “The Inferior One” is the best player in the world. After watching him these past two seasons, I can agree with that statement. However, when I go back and watch those clips from last season’s finals, LeBron is still a 3-time League MVP for a reason. Kobe Bryant is retiring after this season and has been on an emotional journey ever since. For as talented, hard-working and transcendental as a player he has been, Bryant has only won one NBA MVP award. Steph Curry is on pace to win his second this season. No one talks about that, really. I know Bryant still has five rings, which is a testament to his drive and competitiveness, but he’s only been voted the best player in the regular season one time in his 18-year NBA career. That is crazy. Steph Curry is about to be voted the best player in the NBA, twice, and it feels as if he still has many years left in the tank.

Will Cleveland power through the East and end up back in the NBA Finals? Can Curry and Golden State break the Bulls’ historic 72-win season, get through the ridiculous Western Conference and end up back where they won it all last season? I’m not sure, but if I had to take a bet, I like my odds. Now, no one is talking about the San Antonio Spurs, who are 53–9 and only three games back in the West. But, this Golden State team just seems special.

Will the Warriors beat the Bulls’ record, win the West and get back to the NBA Finals for their second straight championship? Or, will their epic run be spoiled? Can The Chosen One with the help of Kyrie, Love, JR Smith, and Mozgov get back for revenge? If so, and if these guys stay healthy, will Love and Kyrie be the ultimate deciding factors in another epic NBA Finals? Man, I just hope the fans get to see it.

Here’s what we could potentially see — Curry playing at peak form, Iguodala looking to re-claim his MVP-performance, LeBron helping to bring that coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy to CLE for the very first time, Steve Kerr going for his second NBA Championship in as many seasons, James potentially returning to his sixth straight NBA Finals — I think you get the point.

So, what’s it going to be? Well, with the second half of the season officially underway, we’re going to have to wait and see. Patience is a virtue, my friends. Selfishly, I need to see The Chosen One vs. The Inferior One in the 2016 NBA Finals. Aside from the fact that it will make a great follow-up series to this installment, I believe it will be one of the most entertaining Finals we’ve seen in years. Kyrie, Love, LeBron, Curry, Green, Iguodala, Barnes; we’re talking some high-octane hoops here. So, with that said, I need everyone to say a little prayer for the upcoming NBA Finals; as fans, we deserve it.

The Chosen One vs. The Inferior One — I’m ready. Are you?