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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 NBA Finals Preview

This isn't so much a preview of the NBA Finals as a celebration.  I'm not making any predictions here.  I am taking this opportunity to express my excitement for this NBA Finals series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.

Star Power.   The NBA is a star-driven league.  More so than any of the other professional sports leagues.  The 2015 NBA Finals features two of the brightest stars in the game in LeBron James and Stephen Curry.  These two stars have arrived at this same place through very different different routes.  LeBron James came from a single parent family and was anointed as a basketball prodigy as a young teen.  Steph Curry is the son of an NBA player and yet had only one Division I scholarship offer.  The physical feats that LeBron James accomplishes on the court are mesmerizing while Steph Curry's graceful style of play is beautiful to watch.  LeBron James is the greatest basketball player on the planet, but Steph Curry is the 2015 league MVP.  It's an intriguing matchup of two great and contrasting stars.

Festus Ezeli.  A name that cool doesn't need a catchy header.  The Warriors' center's backstory is even cooler.  Festus Ezeli was born in Nigeria and graduated from Nigerian high school in 2004 at the age of 14.  Ezeli then moved to the United States so that he could pursue his career goals.  But those goals were in medicine, not on the hardwood.  Prior to arriving in the United States, Ezeli had not played any organized sports.  In just a few short years, Ezeli learned the game and earned numerous Division I scholarship offers.  Ezeli chose Vanderbilt because of its academics and enrolled as a biology major in 2007.  Ezeli switched majors partway through school and graduated with a degree in economics.  The Warriors picked Ezeli in the first round of the 2012 draft.  Although he is not the starting center for the Warriors, Ezeli makes significant contributions off the bench.  Ezeli's unique background makes him extra fun to watch.

Hungry Cities.  Sports are important to me.  Therefore, it is important to me that deserving fan bases get to enjoy the thrill of winning a championship.  Warriors fans and Cavaliers fans both fit that description.  The Golden State Warriors play their home games in Oakland, CA.  The bay area has seen a fair share of success in recent years with the 49ers and the Giants, but those teams both play on the other side of the Bay Bridge.  The Warriors share a home with the Raiders and the A's.  The Warriors have not won a championship since 1975.  Nonetheless, Warriors fans have turned Oracle Arena into one of the rowdiest gyms in the league.  But, the Warriors' 40 year drought is nothing compared to the pain that Cavaliers fans have felt.  The Cavs have never won a title.  In fact, no Cleveland team has won a championship since 1964 when the Browns won a pre-Super Bowl title in the NFL.  Cleveland's sports suffering is summed up in a series of iconic phrases.  The Drive.  The Fumble.  The Shot.  The Decision.  Cavaliers fans are hoping and praying that LeBron can lift them out of the doldrums of defeat and make "The Return" the lasting phrase from the 2014-15 season.

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