The Golden State Warriors are four wins away from capping off the best season in NBA history. Superstar Steph Curry has already secured his back-to-back MVP title, and now looks to once again top the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and repeat as champions.
The Warriors beat the Cavs 4-2 in the best-of-seven series last June, but starting June 2, 2016, a better foe likely stands in their way. Cleveland was without two of its stars, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, for much of the 2015 Finals, and Channing Frye has been a welcomed addition.
It marks LeBron James’ sixth straight trip to the NBA Finals, and his legacy is at stake in the minds of certain sports analysts. The four-time MVP is just 2-4 when the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy is on the line, including two loses in the last two finals.
James believes he’s still the best player in basketball. After Curry was once again awarded the MVP title, James pronounced, “I think sometimes the word ‘valuable’ or best play of the year, you can have different results.”
But to solidify his beliefs, James must find a way to lead his Cavs over the Warriors, a team that went 73-9 during the regular season.
Vegas Not Believing
A city without a professional sports title since 1964, Cleveland was dubbed “Believeland” by a recent ESPN “30 for 30” episode. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, Las Vegas isn’t buying in.
The morning after the Warriors solidified their position in the NBA Finals by overcoming a three games to one deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder, oddsmakers in Nevada published opening lines for the series.
It isn’t pretty for Cleveland.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has the Warriors at -210 to the Cavs at +180. According to SuperBook Manager Jeff Sherman, the most likely scenario is Golden State in five.
NBA Finals Exact
Cleveland in 4: 20/1
Cleveland in 5: 12/1
Cleveland in 6: 9/2
Cleveland in 7: 8/1
Golden State in 4: 10/1
Golden State in 5: 15/4
Golden State in 6: 9/2
Golden State in 7: 3/1
James is saying all the right things heading into the NBA Finals, and when it comes to what Vegas is saying, he could care less.
“I don’t get involved in all that, underdog, overdog, whatever the case may be,” James told reporters during practice in Cleveland. “It’s stupidity.”
When asked about whether he’s recognizing the monumental nature of the rematch with the Warriors, LeBron dismissed the notion that it could be a defining moment in his hall of fame career.
“I don’t really get caught up in that. For me, it’s just how well I can get my team prepared mentally and physically and go out and battle.”
James’ high school coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, Dru Joyce, made no secrets about the stakes.
“Coming back here, home, and winning an NBA world championship, what better final chapter could you ever write?” Joyce said to USA TODAY Sports.