When you think about it, the Warriors and LeBron James are a lot like family.
They see each other at the same "family" gatherings, year after year: once on Christmas, once on MLK Day, once for a weekend in February, and finally, for a two-week long reunion every June.
That’s how it’s been the last three years, anyway.
That cycle begins to repeat itself for a fourth time when the Warriors and the Lakers meet in the NBA’s primetime Christmas Day matchup Tuesday. They’ll play each other on MLK Day as well, and all the usual suspects likely will be at All-Star Weekend. But with James now in the Western Conference, we know it can’t end the same way this time around.
Sure, some variance will be a welcome change to many. But for both LeBron and the Warriors, their sibling rivalry has only made each other better.
And from a Golden State perspective, there’s no non-Warrior more responsible for the historic levels of success they’ve reached over the last four years than LeBron.
In the beginning, he gave them something to which to aspire. Even the very attempt to get a free agency meeting with him in the summer of 2014 was a tangible step toward improvement for the franchise.
When LeBron led the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals, he forced the Warriors to look in the mirror. On July 4, 2016, their new and improved reflection -- and Kevin Durant -- smiled back.
When LeBron publicly goaded the Splash Brothers with cookies mocking their June failure, he made the Warriors angry. They’ve won back-to-back titles in the two years since.
Asked Klay Thompson about those Cavs cookies here in Portland, and he had a very Klay answer: "Yeah, I don't get it, cuz I'm not dead." pic.twitter.com/O8M71zcqi6— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) November 1, 2016
And when James signed with the Lakers as a free agent this past July, he refocused the Warriors’ attention. King James is even more front and center now, if that’s even possible.
In rivalries, it’s easy to let the moments of animosity drown out the admiration. But make no mistake: For every setback the Warriors have endured as a result of James, they’ve come back stronger. He pushes them. He prods them. He’s a supreme villain and motivator, all in one.
You don’t have to like him. You can be sure the Warriors don’t always, either. They’re a lot like family, after all.
But for the Warriors to reach the heights they have and for LeBron to become who he is, where he is today, one could not happen without the other.