Today, LeBron James will play in his eighth straight NBA Finals.
King James and his Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Golden State Warriors for the fourth year in a row.
LeBron and the Cavs are the clear underdogs.
In fact, the Warriors are historic favorites in the 2018 NBA Finals. The reigning NBA champs are favored by 10 to 1 odds to win their third title. The Warriors are favored by 12.5-points in tonight’s Game One: the largest point spread in recent Finals history.
So, despite the odds — why do I believe LeBron James has a legitimate shot to win his fourth NBA title?
I have three simple reasons:
He’s LeBron James.
He’s having an historic year.
And I hate Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors.
Full disclosure: I’m a Cleveland boy, born and raised. I’ve been a Cavaliers fan since the franchise was launched in 1970 — and Austin Carr led them to the ‘76 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, losing valiantly in 6 games.
The Cavs had their moments after that — making 10 playoff appearances from 1985 to 1998. But they rarely made it past the first round.
In 1989, for instance, Michael Jordan famously dashed their hopes by draining a first-round series-winning buzzer-beater over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo. It was Game 5 of a 5-game series. (Remember those?) And Cleveland was playing at home.
Man, that was painful.
Then came LeBron James.
James played high school basketball in Akron Ohio – just 40 miles from Cleveland.
Already a national sensation as a teenage high school player, his hometown Cavaliers made LeBron the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft .
As a 20-year-old kid – in just his second year in the NBA — LeBron poured in 56 points against the Toronto Raptors, setting Cleveland’s single-game scoring record and was named to his first All-NBA Team. (This year, in his fifteenth season in the league, he earned that honor again.)
In his third season in 2006, LeBron was named the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and finished second in the NBA MVP voting to Steve Nash. He led The Cavs into the playoffs for the first time since 1998, losing to the Detroit Pistons in the second round.
LeBron’s fourth year in the league marked him as a true superstar. He led the Cavs to 50 wins for the second year in a row and took his team all the way to the 2007 NBA Finals against one of the NBA’s greatest teams: the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron and his overmatched Cavs were swept in four games – setting the stage for his infamous “Decision” to jump to the Miami Heat.
LeBron’s years with the Heat are well documented.
At the time, I went on the record that I didn’t blame LeBron for leaving the Cavs. Far from burning his jersey like some bitter fellow Clevelanders, I cheered him as he won two NBA championships in his four years in Miami – then welcomed his Northeast Ohio homecoming.
It didn’t take long for LeBron to return the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. He did it in his first year back. And if Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving had been able to play in the 2015 Finals against the Golden State Warriors they might have won.
Anyway, LeBron led the Cavs to victory the following year – my hometown’s first major sports championship since Jim Brown, Frank Ryan and Gary Collins led the Browns over the Colts in 1964!
Then LeBron and the Cavs lost to Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the Warriors in last year’s Finals. It was The King’s seventh straight NBA Finals appearance.
And tonight’s tip-off marks Lebron’s eighth straight Finals.
Okay, I know that Bill Russell and his 1960’s-era Celtics made a shitload of NBA Finals. In fact, Russell made 10 straight Finals. Bill Russell is certainly one of the all-time greats — but let’s look at a typical NBA playoff bracket from Russell’s playing days.
Do you notice something?
For most of those ten dominant years, Russell and his Celtics played just 2 or 3 rounds in the playoffs. And they usually played only two. LeBron James – like all of his modern NBA contemporaries — has faced four grueling playoff rounds every single year. Just sayin’.
And then there’s this business about Kevin Durant vs. LeBron. Don’t compare Durant’s playoff success with LeBron’s. (How far did The Slim Reaper ever take the Thunder?) And please don’t equate Durant’s jump to the Warriors with LeBron’s move to the Heat.
When LeBron went to The Heat, it had been 5 years since they were in the Finals and won an NBA championship. Durant joined Golden State the year after they had made two consecutive Finals appearances and won their first NBA title.
Kevin Durant is a front-runner. LeBron James is something else altogether.
As both teams prepare for tip-off tonight, I am confident that LeBron James will burnish his legacy in these NBA Finals.
And if Kevin Love is healthy enough to make his usual All-Star contribution on the boards and from the 3-point line – and Kyle Korver or J.R. Smith or Jeff Green or George Hill step up and hit some shots – then I like my team’s chances, despite the long odds against them.
One thing is certain.
I’m not betting against LeBron James.
I’m not betting against The King.
An Exclusive Interview with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III.
As President Trump pumps out Tweet after shameless, petty Tweet and his TV lawyer Ruby Giuliani lies outrageously on any show that will give him a microphone – the American body politic is left to wonder, “What would Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller say?”
In recent weeks, Trump and his mob have launched a campaign to discredit Mueller and his investigation – but standing placidly amid the faux outrage and bombast, the man fixed in the dead center of Trump’s target has remained silent. Owing to his sense of duty, propriety and professionalism – the veteran U.S. Marine officer and former FBI Director Robert Mueller III has kept quiet.
I was stunned when my iPhone buzzed this morning at 7:00 AM ET. I was expecting a call from my pool maintenance guy to say what time he was coming over to fix the light bulb in my hot tub – so imagine my surprise when it was the Special Prosecutor himself!
Mr. Mueller explained that he enjoyed my recent blog post on a hike my wife and I made in Yellowstone National Park – and that he needed to let off some steam without winding up on the front page of The New York Times. I wasn’t entirely sure it was a compliment when he told me that he was certain nothing I wrote on my blog was going to make headlines anywhere.
Mueller didn’t have much time to chat. He, Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray had to leave shortly for a breakfast meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Of course, Mueller told me, they can’t really talk about anything with Sessions because (A) he’s recused himself from the Trump investigation, (B) he’s likely to leak info to Trump and (C) they suspect he’s angry because he’s lost his magic powers and can’t remember where he buried his pot of gold. You can’t trust a bitter ex-leprechaun.
In the short time we talked, Mueller got a number of things off his chest.
He said I could ask him anything I wanted.
What follows is a transcript of our phone call.
ME: You’re getting a lot of pressure to wrap up your investigation…
MUELLER: Hold on, what do you mean by pressure?
ME: You know. Giuliani and the President are waging a campaign to discredit you…
MUELLER: (Laughs) Oh, that? You call that pressure? I’ll tell you what pressure is – and Donny Bone Spurs has no clue – but pressure is trying to keep a squad of young soldiers alive when you’re waist deep in a muddy rice paddy taking incoming fire from an enemy you can’t see. That’s pressure. This is no deadly jungle firefight. I can see Trump and his impotent bullies coming a mile away. Nothing they say affects me.
ME: But it does seem to affect public opinion.
MUELLER: That’s not my concern. I’m not hosting a popularity contest – I’m running a criminal investigation. Facts matter to me. I don’t give a rat’s ass for anyone’s opinion. And certainly not a flack like Sean Hannity or a soulless, Mephistophelean mouthpiece like Kellyanne Conway. Funny. Her husband actually sounds like an intelligent guy. That’s a real odd couple there.
ME: But what do you say to those who complain that your investigation has gone on too long and has spent too many taxpayer dollars?
MUELLER: You mean what do I say to my fellow Republicans who say that?
ME: Oh, that’s right, you are a Republican.
MUELLER: Have been all my life. So are Rod Rosenstein and Chris Wray. We’re rock-ribbed members of the Grand Old Party. Accent on “Old”.
ME: So, are your fellow Republicans correct? Is it time to wrap this thing up?
MUELLER: First of all, not every Republican wants to end this investigation. There are still quite a few in Congress who want to see it play out and justice be done.
And between you and me — many of my fellow Republicans won’t say it publically, but they’d love to have me indict Trump and his whole White House mafia so I’ll rid them of the disaster they helped to create.
Secondly, let’s dispense with this bullshit about how long my investigation is taking. Does anyone remember Whitewater? That took more than 5 years. Never heard any GOP flacks complain about that. Benghazi? Please. That shit show ran longer than the Watergate probe. And those idiots in the House Freedom Caucus still want to investigate Benghazi some more! And how about “Uranium One?” It’s madness! Those ginned-up, penny-ante cases are nothing compared to my investigation. We’re trying to get to the bottom of how a hostile foreign power managed to meddle in an American Presidential election.
ME: I see, but…
MUELLER: I mean, Putin and agents of the Russian government fucked with our most scared democratic process! They even tried to hack into our voting systems. That should set my fellow Republicans’ hair on fire. And when I get done, they’ll want to set Trump’s hair on fire, too. What a blaze that’ll be! Not since I saw napalm in Vietnam…
ME: But Trump and Giuliani are certain you haven’t found any evidence of collusion.
MUELLER: Collusion? I don’t give a fig about collusion. I’m running down a conspiracy: a criminal conspiracy. And it’s a big case.
It’s like a vast all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s so much perjury, malfeasance, chicanery, money laundering, petty grifting, influence peddling, and conspiracy to defraud the American electorate that you simply can’t pile it all on your plate. You can’t digest it all in one meal. If I tried to ingest this immense, illegal feast all at once – I’d explode like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
ME: What about Trump and his allies calling for an investigation of the origin of your investigation?
MUELLER: I could care less. This probe started long before I took charge of it. It began because our brilliant and patriotic intelligence community learned that folks working on the Trump campaign had all sorts of sordid contacts with Russian oligarchs, the Russian government, Wikileaks and, possibly, Putin himself.
MUELLER: Trump’s mysterious man crush.
ME: Okay. Trump’s relationship to Putin is notably homoerotic – but let’s stay on point…
MUELLER: And your point is…?
ME: Are you going to indict President Trump for conspiracy with the Russians to manipulate the vote in the 2016 elections?
MUELLER: Certainly. Eventually. And a whole lot of other things, including that crazy sale of his Florida mansion to some Russian for a half-million more than it was worth.
ME: Well, when?
MUELLER: Look. Here’s the thing. Because of what Comey did during the last Presidential election, I have to be careful. I can’t make any kind of public statement that might affect the mid-term elections.
ME: You can’t?
MUELLER: No. Think about it. If before this year’s critical midterms, I laid out the litany of crimes that I intended to charge Trump and his mendacious mob with — there wouldn’t be a Republican elected dogcatcher outside of Wyoming and the Dakotas.
ME: Would that be so bad?
MUELLER: That’s not my call. I’m not about politics. I’m not about public opinion. I’m all about the law.
ME: Is there any way you can tell us more about what you already know? Must we rely on Michael Avenatti to keep us informed?
MUELLER: I love Avenatti! I wish I could be like Mike!
MUELLER: Of course! Mike’s a bull in the china shop. I can’t behave that way. But without giving away the whole game, I’m sure he and I will end up in the same place.
ME: Are you saying that President Trump and his minions are guilty?
MUELLER: Guilty of what?
ME: Of criminal conspiracy and everything else!
MUELLER: I can’t reveal that information. It’s classified. Let’s just say that Trump and his lying legions will ultimately be connected to a Russian conspiracy to screw with the 2016 Presidential election.
MUELLER: And to make money and effect policy during – and after — the campaign.
ME: That should be revolutionary!
MUELLER: It should be. But it may not be.
ME: Why not?
MUELLER: Because the end of this legal drama is up to the American people. I may or may not be able to indict Trump (there’s this whole Presidential thing) – but even if the Supreme Court says I can’t indict Trump – the Congress can impeach him. This government is yours. You can let your representative know that Trump should be impeached,
Donald Trump is a cheap criminal. And I’ve got the goods on him — in spades. I can’t wait to bring the hammer down on this un-Presidential prick.
ME: You don’t sound very objective…
MUELLER: I’m completely objective.
ME: So, do we American lovers of democracy have anything to fear in the near future?
MUELLER: A low turnout in the midterms.
ME: Why so?
MUELLER: Because, you liberal morons, if you don’t elect a Democratic majority in the House, they’ll never impeach Trump — let alone convict him in the Senate.
MUELLER: Sorry, I’ve gotta go. Jeff wants to push our breakfast meeting by a half hour (he’s texting Trump) – and move it from Denny’s Diner to the nearest Waffle House.
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