Social Update: A Retrospect of Athletic Dominance
As the NBA finals approach, beginning Thursday, the anticipation for the event continues to grow. The third epic clash between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, the first time two teams have faced each other in three consecutive finals, will most likely be one of the most watched finals in history - or not.
With how the playoffs have played out so far, with the Warriors and the Cavaliers decimating the competition in their respective conferences, the watchability of playoff games has been down compared to past years. Even matchups that pitted teams against each other that seemed competitive on paper, like the Warriors playing the Spurs or the Cavaliers playing the Celtics, have been quick, effortless series for the eventual NBA finals representatives. The two series were affected greatly by the lack of superstars on the losing teams, as Kawhi Leonard and Isaiah Thomas were injured for the majority of their respective series.
The Warriors come into the finals having not lost a game, completing a perfect 12-0 romp through the Western Conference. The Cavaliers nearly matched the feat, going 12-1 in their path through the Eastern Conference. Though both teams experienced minimal difficulty on their way to a chance at a championship, there were still many reasons to watch these playoffs, as there are also plenty of reasons to watch other sports when teams go through stretches of complete dominance.
When teams or sports players dominate their respective sports for an extensive period, there is still ample reason to watch their games. Think of Roger Federer in tennis, Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR, Alabama in college football, the Yankees during a couple different stretches or even the Lakers and Celtics way back when; each person or team defined their generation in ways that cannot be repeated. While someone like Roger Federer, Tom Brady, or LeBron James dominating their respective sport can become monotonous and even downright annoying for fans of other teams, the pure greatness of what they are achieving is worth cherishing rather than to be fought against.
Someone like LeBron James, now entering his seventh straight NBA finals, an unprecedented feat for a individual player, is unlike any basketball player that has come before and most likely any that will come after. He combines the passing ability of Magic Johnson with shooting ability of Michael Jordan, all while taking as much scrutiny from the media as any player on the planet. Yet, beyond all the critiques he receives and arguments that he’ll never be as good as MJ, he continues to year in and year out do things that have never been done. This is why he is worth remembering, as are all the other generational superstars.
These are the athletes that people will tell their kids about - how they saw Tom Brady play in a Super Bowl, about when they saw Mike Trout hit a homerun, or even when they watched Tiger Woods sink a birdie putt to win a major. All of these moments right now seem extraordinary, but are always compared to the past, always criticized against a time that can never be replicated, just as what is happening today will never again repeat in the future.
As fans of sports, watch these players and teams and at least acknowledge moments of greatness. As the established stars of all types of sports begin to reach retirement, like Tom Brady, Tiger Woods and Albert Pujols, their careers begin to come into perspective. Their numbers and achievements are officially matched up against their peers of both the current and past and put in context to truly determine where they may stand in the pantheon of greats. But during their historic careers, oftentimes their milestones go overlooked, put down as a player reaches records previously thought unattainable. While sports will always be compared to years past, it is forgotten sometimes to savor what is being achieved now, rather than at the end of a career.
Playoffs are taking place right now for both the NHL and the NBA and for some players in the finals of these respective sports, a great deal of their legacy is one the line. Sidney Crosby, the star of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Lebron James, can both cement their place in the history books for their sports if they win multiple titles. If they lose, more debate will continue to be had over whether they have tarnished their legacies forever.
For sports fans around the country, these milestones and legacies are apparent, but the pure entertainment of the game consistently remains the most important. The competition - getting to see players perform as hard as they possibly can in the last games of their season, is why fans watch. If the Warriors or the Cavaliers continue their dominance into the finals or the Penguins win two Stanley Cups in a row, fans may leave disappointed, not acknowledging that an aspect of history has been made that will only be realized and cherished years down the road. With both the NHL finals and the NBA finals already underway, both teams are surely readying themselves for intense, high-pressure series, no matter how easy the road was for them to get there.