As an example, On Saturday night, Steph Curry scored 40 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 115-80 shellacking of the Houston Rockets.
Curry finished 12-for-19 from the floor, 7-for-9 from behind the three-point line, and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. He also had seven assists and five rebounds.
Because of Curry, the consensus NBA MVP this season, the Warriors are now just one win away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years. That’s right, 40 years.
Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, LeBron James scored 37 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-111 overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
James recorded his first triple double of the playoffs, finishing with 18 rebounds and 13 assists to go with his 37 points as Cleveland pushed the Hawks to the brink of elimination. James started 0-for-9 from the field and was 3-for-16 at halftime, but still fought through a number of injuries to dominate Game 3.
I’m probably not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but the NBA is a one-man game.
It’s been a one-man game since the days of Bill Russell and all those NBA championships in Boston. Sure the Celtics had other great players, but mostly they had Russell in the middle and he didn’t lose. Then there was Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and then the battles between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and then there was Michael Jordan and then Tim Duncan and now there is Curry and James.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the Houston Rockets won a couple of titles and the Detroit Pistons (who had the indomitable Isiah Thomas) won a bunch, but for the most part, if you don’t have one big-time, superstar dominant player, you can’t win in the NBA.
Now that Curry has reached his potential, the Golden State Warriors are a threat to be NBA champions. James is a classic story. In his first stint in Cleveland, he took the Cavs to the NBA Finals. Then he took his talents to South Beach, won two NBA championships and made the Miami Heat an annual favorite to win. When James left Cleveland, they became a last-place mess. Miami was a good team that became great. Now that he’s back in Cleveland, the Cavaliers will likely face Curry and the Warriors in the NBA final.
Think about it. In 2013-14, the Cavaliers were 33-49, third in the Central Division, out of the playoffs and little more than a postscript to the NBA season. In 2014-15, the Cavs got LeBron and went 53-29, first in the Central and are now one win away from the Finals.
Sure they also had the gifted Kyrie Irving (a player they had when they were lucky not to be last) and Kevin Love (who has been hurt for most of the post-season), but without LeBron, they aren’t playing now. In fact, without LeBron, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs.
It’s a one-man game and that’s exactly what Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers fans have to remember when they look at this year’s draft and next year’s team.
As an example, if say Andrew Wiggins does what Steph Curry did and grows into that one-man show, the Timberwolves could compete, but quit analyzing the club from a team perspective and stop worrying about “what the ‘Wolves need to do.”
What they need is their own LeBron or Steph Curry or Michael Jordan. Teams don’t win NBA titles. Single superstar players do. And until the ‘Wolves — and the Magic and the Sixers and on-and-on — get one, they aren’t going anywhere.