The Golden State Warriors are going for their fourth NBA championship in eight years in the NBA Finals versus the Boston Celtics.
As of this writing, the Cavs hold a 3-2 lead in the series.
Golden State won each of their previous three titles in the Stephen Curry era against the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron James’ second tenure with them.
Naturally, comparisons are going to come up between this Celtics team and those Cavs squads.
According to Draymond Green, playing against James and those Cavs was a different and possibly a greater overall challenge.
“Well, it doesn’t compare to mentally playing against LeBron James, who I think is arguably the smartest guy to ever play this game. Not one of, he is arguably the smartest guy to set foot on a basketball court,” Green said on the practice day before Game 6. “To say that it compares to that, it’s disrespectful to LeBron and it’s a lie to you.”
Green did add that the Celtics are “super athletic,” but he implied that they simply don’t have the immense intelligence that James possesses.
James And The Cavs Were The Team That Seasoned The Warriors
The first time the Warriors and Cavs met up for the world championship, James was without his first mate Kyrie Irving, who left Game 1 late with a knee injury and didn’t return for the rest of the series.
Still, although he shot poorly throughout the Finals, James was able to get Cleveland to a 2-1 series lead.
At that point, all of Northeast Ohio was starting to feel like the seemingly impossible could actually happen.
But head coach Steve Kerr went small and inserted Andre Igoudala into the starting lineup, and Golden State won the next three games and the title.
The next year, it won a record 73 regular-season games, and after taking a 3-1 series lead versus the Cavs in the Finals, it looked like they were done.
But they staged one of the more amazing comebacks in league history and took Game 7 in the Bay Area to give Cleveland its first world championship in any sport since 1964.
In 2017, Cleveland had a better bench than the Warriors, but it fell in a meek five games in the championship series.
There is an old saying that iron sharpens iron, and it was during those years that the Warriors became the tough, battle-tested team the world has seen of late versus Boston.
One thing that sharpened the metal of the Warriors was having to neutralize James’ incredible basketball IQ.
James Is A Basketball Savant
By the time he returned to The Land in 2014, James had gone from a great player to an all-time great who was a good leader and a coach on the floor.
Even though he is nominally a forward, he is, for all intents and purposes, a point guard, and playing point guard in the NBA is much like being an NFL quarterback.
A point guard serves as the brains of a basketball team, and he must have a highly developed innate feel for the game, which feeds his ability to instinctually know what to do in every situation.
James not only has that type of knowledge at an encyclopedic level, but he is a strong leader who gets his teammates to buy in and execute his vision.
— NBA Philippines (@NBA_Philippines) October 3, 2020
LeBron’s basketball IQ is off the charts, sees the double, literally just waits for the perfect moment to hit Westbrook who has Mills guarding him directly under the hoop pic.twitter.com/N5lgaKRbff
— The NBA Expert (@RealNBAExpert) January 26, 2022
When he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, he played full-time point guard in the 2020 season, and he directed a fast-break team to the NBA title while leading the league in assists.
Many players possess incredible athleticism, but when someone like James combines that type of athleticism with smarts on a similar level, he becomes almost unstoppable.