Written by By Ellie Turner, CNN
There are two athletes whose recent dominance of NBA basketball have highlighted just how strong the league is — and how thirsty the public remains for its sports more than ever before.
Kawhi Leonard, former NBA Rookie of the Year and San Antonio Spurs star, was understandably voracious of a sneaker collector.
But at the age of 30, with a TV show under his belt and an expanding non-basketball acting career, he seemed unlikely to acquire many new pairs.
A 3-1 Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors two years ago was painful, but the reception that the team received from fans around the world took even them by surprise.
The tweet from Spurs point guard Tony Parker that started it all.
@tonyparker I agree…. we still the best team in the league. Don’t go that route. Only time we lose a championship is to the Warriors.
The Curry-led Warriors are currently three games away from clinching the coveted “three-peat” of championship titles after surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. They are also the hottest team in the NBA, currently on an undefeated streak that would make a winning squad feel like a contender of the most prestigious sports team in history.
LeBron James, on the other hand, has struggled mightily, missing the playoffs last year and failing to establish a record contract with the Los Angeles Lakers this year. His reputation for fierce on-court competition has been heightened with the rise of Kevin Durant.
Ex-NBA star and commentator Tracy McGrady tells CNN that the competition is only going to increase.
He told CNN’s @Jayne5Zero in Barcelona: “LeBron James, I still think he’s a favorite, and the Lakers. I think they still have some of that star power, but Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) are more of a clear-cut team that I just don’t see them losing.”
For McGrady, the player-vs.-teammate competition of the Warriors has been the impetus for the squad’s success, where James has found his team without his drive, but a similar role, almost serving as a supporting player.
“I think the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, they’re the best in the NBA, without a doubt. Their combination of players — offensively and defensively — it’s going to be a hell of a run.”
To beat the Warriors, McGrady says a contender needs to start the game with “dirty play” to alleviate pressure from the defense.
“Going against them is not fun, but it’s the game of basketball. You got to be the tough, tenacious teammate,” said McGrady.
The alternative is to just hope for a miracle.