BOSTON – For the third year in a row (a first for an NBA Finals), the last two teams standing in the NBA are Cleveland and Golden State with each winning an NBA title.
This NBA Finals will do more than just break the 1-1 title tie between these two the last two seasons.
It will have a rippling effect on the legacies of several players, notably LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
James will be gunning for his second straight title with Cleveland, which came after having won a pair of titles with the Miami Heat.
And then there’s Durant, who left Oklahoma City in the offseason to join the Warriors – the team that prevented the Thunder from getting to the NBA Finals last season.
James is looking to add to his already-impressive legacy that when all is said and done, will stack him up favorably with the all-time greats to have played in the NBA.
For Durant, winning his first title will validate in many ways his decision to join an already loaded Golden State team in addition to taking him off the list of highest scoring NBA players (Durant has a career 27.2 points per game average) in league history to never win an NBA title.
Durant has tried to downplay the significance of the Finals in terms of what it would mean to his legacy.
“I'm just trying to be the best me I can be,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “That's the only pressure I worry about. If I don't play up to my standards, then that's what -- that's when I get upset. I have bad games, but it's just a matter of me just trying to be the best me I can be, go out there and work extremely hard on my game and try to showcase it.”
Although James arrived in the NBA four years prior to Durant, the two have what James calls a “very good” relationship.
“Our relationship consists of, if someone needed something, we can always reach out to one another,” James told reporters. “And if not, then it doesn't take away from it. We have always had a mutual respect of one another, being competitors. I've always wanted to -- because I was in the NBA before him and when he came in, I watched him and things of that nature, even before he came in I always gave him just an, ‘if you need anything to bounce off’ or someone to bounce something off, you can always use me because I had experience being drafted to a franchise that now they're expecting you to be the franchise player.
James added, “I've always had an open-door policy with K.D.”
Regardless of how this series turns out, James will walk away a champion having won an NBA title three times previously.
That has led many to believe the pressure to win a title and thus cement his legacy as one of the greats of this generation, lies squarely on the shoulders of Durant.
"As far as pressure, I think pressure is what you make it,” Golden State’s Draymond Green told reporters on Wednesday. “To say he's going to be under pressure because everyone is going to try to make it like he's under pressure, I don't think that -- I know that doesn't matter because I know as a competitor and as someone who tries to reach greatness every day and knowing that Kevin, who reaches, tries to reach greatness with every single thing he (does), from going through an individual workout and every move he (does) is hard.
Green added, "That's how focused he is on being great. No one would be able to put more pressure on him than he's going to put on himself or expect more than for what he's going to think of himself, that decision is what it is, it was made a year ago, and it's behind us.”