Of course, the Warriors will have to beat LeBron and the Cavs again to win it all, as soon as the Cavs finish off the Celtics. And, of course, it will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the same two teams will play the NBA Finals three years in a row, and it really will feel like the basketball version of Ali-Frazier III.
Everybody knows that the only time LeBron ever got swept in the Finals was the first time he made it, 10 years ago when he was 22, and his teammates were Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden and Booby Gibson and Larry Hughes and Anderson Varejao and Eric Snow. Cleveland beat the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals, made most memorable in Game 5, when LeBron scored 29 of his team's last 30 points and the last 25 in a row. Then the Cavs did get good and swept by the Spurs.
LeBron has played six more Finals since then, winning three and losing three, and is working on the eighth of his career. Nobody expects him to get swept by the Warriors.
But what if he is?
What if the Warriors win out, end up winning them all in this playoff season? What if the 12-0 they've got going for them becomes 16-0? What if they really can make it through the playoffs unbeaten? Would that be the single greatest accomplishment in the history of team sports in this country?
Put it another way: Would 16-0 be a more historic achievement than the Dolphins going 17-0 in 1972 in pro football? No kidding: Of all the things that teams have ever done in team sports in America, would the Warriors running the table be the biggest thing ever, and make them the biggest thing ever?
This isn't about whether or not you think they can get four straight games off LeBron and Kyrie Irving and the rest. The Warriors, coming off a historic regular season one year ago, their 73 wins beating the 72 that Michael Jordan and the Bulls got one time, found out for themselves just how hard it is to get four games off LeBron James at this time of year, even when you've already got three; even when you've not only got three and a 3-1 lead, but you're going home for Game 5.
You know what happened after that and the Warriors know and if there's life on Mars, they know on Mars: Draymond Green got suspended from Game 5, and the Cavs won, and LeBron and Kyrie went a little bit nuts after that, and finally came back to Oakland and won Game 7.
So betting on a sweep in the Finals as soon as they get ready to do it again isn't the way for any reasonable person to bet. But again: What if the Warriors can do it? What if the presence of Kevin Durant makes this rivalry as much of a mismatch as it looked like the second time the two teams met during the regular season?
Would it make the Warriors the biggest thing ever, bigger than the Dolphins, bigger than anything we've seen? You know the old Dolphins traditionally raise a glass of champagne every time another unbeaten team finally gets defeated deep into the season. You have to remember that it was the Dolphins in '85 who gave the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears their only loss that year, on a Monday night in December, when people were ready to call those Bears the greatest pro football team ever assembled.
And you know that in February of 2008 that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and the Patriots were 18-0 going to Glendale, Ariz., for the Super Bowl against the Giants, were a big favorite for the big game that year, with the whole world ready to call the Patriots the best professional sports team of them all if they could win that game. Only they could not. Osi Umenyiora put Brady on his back the first time Brady dropped back to pass that night, and the Giants stayed in his face all game long, and this turned into the old Tyson line, about everybody having a plan 'till they get hit.
When it was 14-10 for New England late in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning threw a ball to David Tyree that somehow Tyree pinned to his helmet and the Giants kept going from there. Eventually, Eli threw one to Plaxico Burress in the left corner of the end zone and Brady missed Randy Moss with a last-gasp bomb after that, and the Patriots were 18-1. It took a while that year, all the way to the first Sunday night in February, but the old Dolphins were drinking champagne again.
"It's thrilling for us to still be alone in Perfectville."
The Patriots came as close as you could come, but hadn't made it to Perfectville. You wonder if anybody ever will in the National Football League. But now there is a chance for the Warriors to take their shot at a different kind of perfect record in sports: 16-0 in the NBA playoffs. There was the time back in 1983 when somebody asked the late Moses Malone for a prediction about the playoffs, and he said, "'Fo 'fo 'fo," meaning he thought the 76ers would win four straight in three straight series, when all you had to do was win three series to win the title. The 76ers only lost one game in that run, to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
In all of NBA history, the best run through the playoffs belongs to Shaq and Kobe and the Lakers in 2001, when the only game they lost in the postseason was to the 76ers in the Finals. It meant that they ended up with a playoff record of 15-1, because the first round was still best-of-five in those years.
Now Durant and Draymond and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are 12-0, at a time when the Cavaliers have a chance to get to 12-1 for these playoffs against the Celtics on Thursday night in Boston. The two teams have turned the rest of their sport, and that includes a terrific Spurs team, into nothing more than an undercard. The Warriors won two years ago, after Kyrie got hurt. The Cavs won last year after Draymond got suspended. The rubber match is supposed to be something to see, without question.
But that's not the question for today. The question for today is about the Warriors: What if they just keep winning in June the way they have since the regular season ended? Not saying that they can. Not saying that they're going to. The sports fan in me wants to see the Warriors and Cavs go the distance again; wants to see another Game 7 in Oakland like the one last year, when LeBron came from the Bay Bridge to block Andre Iguodala's shot and then Kyrie made the jump shot that brought a championship back to Cleveland at last.
But what if the Warriors are just too good, and that great? What if they're good enough to go 16-0? All this time later, would that accomplishment be bigger than the Dolphins?
Maybe the old Dolphins won't be raising a glass of champagne as soon as the Cavs get a game in the Finals. Maybe they should.