The Warriors and their Rivals: Oklahoma City and Cleveland


In today's NBA, the Warriors have two rivals: the Cavaliers and the Thunder. Lebron disagrees, but there's a huge difference between the opinions of players and the opinions of media and the fans. The main difference for me is that the player's view of the game is very narrow. Their focus is solely on the next game to be played and what they can do to get a victory. In contrast, the view of the media and fans is like a radio telescope. Its reach is vast and unrelenting. Fans love to watch their teams win but they also love the drama and playful arguments that the media cooks up. For Lebron, every team is his rival because he plays every team throughout the season, every game is important to him. For people outside of NBA locker rooms, the postgame interviews and early morning debate shows are almost more entertaining than the games themselves. The fans want more than just the game, they want to discuss the legacies and future happenings of NBA players and draw upon the teams and rivalries that have come before our time.

Engaging athletes and gripping storylines are what makes a sports league tick. Where would the NFL be without OBJ making that one-handed catch a few years back? Their rating have dropped this year, possibly because of commercial breaks, but OBJ brought a sense of wonder and astonishment back into football. The MLB had the Cubs winning the World Series this year, something that is still weird to read and write about, and the soccer world was shocked last year to see a Philadelphia 76er-like team rise to the top of the richest soccer league in the world. Watching sports is great on its own but when you bring the history of the leagues and the vastly different opinions that come out of them, you have a perfect sports storm.

Ben Rohrbach of Ball Don't Lie seems to think that the only way Lebron can see someone as his rivals is via "animosity and familiarity in the playoffs." I couldn't agree more. And that is why the Warriors current rivals are indeed the Cavs and the Thunder.

The Cavaliers

I was in the house for the Warriors-Cavaliers game on Monday night at Oracle Arena and let me tell you: Oakland Hates Lebron, with a capital H. After Draymond Green softly clotheslined Lebron, causing Lebron to jump to the floor (yes, he jumped and then hit the floor), the crowd boo'd the King every time he touched the ball. Warriors fans haven't like Lebron for some time now but the flop felt 'round the world brought those feelings right back up to the surface and out of the water. Jabs back and forth the past few years between Warrior and Cavalier players (Steph's champagne comment, the Cavs halloween party, Lebron's sideswipe at Curry's 2nd MVP) have created the sort of animosity that rivals are made of and after Lebron got booed and his team demolished Monday night, it's safe to say the hate is certainly there on both sides of the court.

Because they're in different conferences, the only way the Dubs and Cavs could meet in the playoffs is in the NBA Finals. Luckily, we've all been able to watch those meetings the past two seasons and for right now, Lebron is technically correct in saying that they've only met in the Finals twice, so there's not really a rivalry. What he's missing is that part 3 will most likely be happening in 5 months and the fans and media have had that in the back of their heads ever since Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors. Lebron doesn't even think beyond the next game, so he doesn't understand the magnitude of the games between Golden State and Cleveland. But looking at the bigger picture, with all the talk back and forth, the close games and blowouts, and the possibility of a 5-year stretch where these two teams could meet in The Finals again and again and again, sorry Lebron, the Warriors and Cavaliers are rivals. And it's the best rivalry the NBA has seen in a long, long time. 

The Thunder

Russell Westbrook and Lebron James are built the same way. They're incredibly competitive and heavily focused on the task at hand so I'd imagine Westbrook's response to the question "Are the Warriors and Thunder rivals" to be a solid no. However, whether Russ likes it or not, these two teams have been destined to be rivals since their epic Western Conference Finals series last May. And Kevin Durant leaving OKC to join the Warriors only turned up the heat on this Western Conference rivalry.

Westbrook and Durant haven't spoken to each other since KD left for the Bay Area but we got a little taste of their first encounter in months in the Dubs-OKC Thunder game Thursday night. A little chirp here, a little chirp there, it was nothing major. But it just goes to show how intense these matchups will be come playoff time, if these two teams meet. The hate was there in the playoffs last year, (mind you, just on the court because Draymond and KD had been chatting like buddies throughout the year) and the hate is absolutely there right now. Even Zaza Pachulia, the mild-mannered Georgian who we all thought was going to ruin the Warriors' superteam, decked Westbrook and then stood over his crumpled body, like a hunter watching its kill struggle to hold onto life. In terms of familiarity in the playoffs, I think the drama surrounding Golden State's comeback in last year's WCF coupled with the great play of both teams this season, meaning a playoff matchup could be in store, points in the direction of another Warriors rivalry.

This past week's games were just a quick peek at what's to come. The next time the Warriors and Thunder play each other will be on February 11th, the first game back in OKC for Kevin Durant. Talk about hate! Holy moly, I can already hear the boos. What's even more exciting than that is that the only way the Cavaliers and Warriors play against each other again this season is if they both make the Finals. The Warriors just have to get by Russell "The Energizer Bunny" Westbrook so they can move onto Lebron "The King" James.

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