Very rarely, the Content Gods bless us so plentifully that the sheer overabundance of stuff-we-gotta-watch becomes downright overwhelming. Now let us praise the Old Gods and the New Gods, the Basketball Gods and the TV Gods for Sunday is one of these holy occasions.
Game 7 of the NBA Finals is perhaps the most anticipated pro basketball tilt in years. “The Battle of the Bastards” is the current Game of Thrones season’spenultimate episode; it promises a baroque level of blood, guts and combat. It too has been thirstily hyped.
Game 7 and “The Battle of the Bastards” air simultaneously on Sunday, causing inner turmoil for the content-dependent.But the two spectacles are more similar than you might think, with Sunday’s Game 7 representing nothing less than than a battle for for basketball immortality between LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors.
“The Battle of the Bastards“features a colossal clash for Winterfell, the Stark family homeland.At stake are the legacies and futures of the emo Jon Snow and the odious Ramsay Bolton. The episode’s scale is sure to be enormous, even by GoT‘s bloated standards.
Sound familiar? Game 7 is a war for everything the NBA world has to offer.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers win, James bolsters his case for greatest player of the modern era. If league MVP Steph Curry can guide his Warriors to the title after their record 73-win season, Golden State makes a case for best team of all-time.
Now, who’s the villain? That depends on who you ask.
Both Curry and James are transcendent on the court, and exemplary citizens off it. Both work hard and are overall good role models.
But that’s if you ask us.
James and Curry are equally loathed by pockets of NBA observers that extend beyond their respective opposing fan bases. To be sure, both are beloved by many, if not most. But both are also reviled by others as arrogant, inauthentic and generally repellent. To employ the slang sense of the term, some might even call them…
I hate that curry called it lol cocky bastard but he can ball but I hate him
meeks (@shoumikitiki) May 31, 2016
Lebron you arrogant little bastard
Hao Xuan (@kokhaoxuan) June 17, 2016
I despise steph curry. Smug little arrogant bastard
Ronimal_2.0 (@I_AM_RONIMAL) May 31, 2016
LeBron James is one cocky bastard…..
Danielle (@dprzyc) June 17, 2016
I do not like Curry I hate that cocky bastard
Chris Reed (@_Blueee3) June 3, 2016
Both Curry and James have shown their less admirable sides during a heated, chippy NBA Finals that’s featured trash talking and much more.
In Game 4, James antagonized Warriors forward Draymond Green into an altercation that included Green delivering a cheap shot to LeBron’s groin. Green was entirely at fault, but a player as intelligent as James clearly saw the potential of baiting an emotional opponent like Green into a potential overreaction.
The Warriors still won Game 4 to take a seemingly commanding 3-1 series lead but everything has changed since.
In the post-game press conference, James made an indirect campaign to the league to review Green’s behavior which struck some as violating basketball code. Green was indeed suspended for Game 5, and the series has been all Cleveland since, with two Cavs victories forcing Sunday’s Game 7.
In the harshest reading of that mini-saga, James acted meddlesome and dishonorable.
The low-point of Curry’s series and one of the low-points of his career came in Game 6. Called for a dubious sixth foul late in the fourth quarter, Curry briefly became unhinged. He had to be restrained from the referee and flung his mouthpiece into the crowd. (He inadvertently hit a fan with said mouthpiece, to again demonstrate his uncanny accuracy.)
His wife Ayesha then tweeted a hot-headed conspiracy theory about the NBA Finals being “rigged,” which didn’t help, either.
In the harshest reading of that melodrama, Curry acted like an entitled brat.This, however, is nitpicking lowlights from two players who are to be exalted.
Both Curry and James are capable of reaching the pinnacle of basketball genius, but only one has been at his peak lately.
James was nothing short of masterful in the past two games with Cleveland facing elimination. He registered 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in Game 5 as the Cavs stayed alive. In Game 6, he scored 41 points, dished out 11 assists and snatched eight rebounds.
James became just the fifth player to put up back-to-back 40-point games in an NBA Finals series. But howhe did it all is more impressive.
James was at his most jaw-dropping Thursday. He shot deftly with his left hand, crushed down thunderous dunks and flicked passes to teammates as if skipping rocks across a pond. This Game 6 highlight reel is almost 10 minutes long, but somehow still worth your time.
Now Cleveland is one win away from its first championship in franchise history.
The Warriors will need Curry to summon some of his old magic to stop that from happening.
It’s a testament to Curry’s absurd level of greatness that he scored 30 points in 35 minutes Thursday yet still left critics wanting more. But something has been undeniably off with the MVP this series. Is he beleaguered by injury as rumored? Or is he simply mentally and physically exhausted by a year balanced at the pinnacle of American celebrity?
Thursday’s fit and mouthguard fling were tremendously out of character. Relatively weak efforts to start the NBA Finals 11 points in Game 1, 18 in Game 2 didn’t much matter when the Warriors were winning. And he did go off for 38 in Game 4.
But rarely by his lofty standards has Curry been able to find that ethereal groove that had ballerinas gushing and made him the league’s most Vine-worthy star. Kyrie Irving is getting the best of their matchup at the point guard position.
The Warriors won a league-record 73 games this season, largely behind Curry’s brilliance. Not clinching the title would leave a sour taste in the mouths of Golden State fans after making history before the playoffs. And it would poke a deflating hole in any argument for this team as best-ever.
If James can stop Golden State’s quest, he won’t just deliver Cleveland’s first championship. He’ll do so against a favored opponent after the biggest series comeback in NBA Finals history. He’ll move into still more exclusive sections of the basketball pantheon.
All the while, Snow and Bolton will be slashing and bellowing in Game of Thrones‘ hotly anticipated “Battle of the Bastards” episode. There will be immense bloodshed. There will be synapse-tickling aerial shots of armies charging into battle. Legacies and family histories are on the line. The implications moving forward are enormous.
But with Game 7’s clash for basketball immortality, Game of Thrones is just Sunday’s undercard. Let the real battle the NBA Finals Game 7 battle begin.
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