Behind stellar play from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers erased a 3-1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals to win their first championship since coming into the league in 1970.
In the playoffs, James averaged 26.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 7.6 assists in the playoffs, while Irving picked up the slack whenever James struggled, as the duo asserted themselves as one of the best in the league.
The performance by James and Irving has since been compared to playoff performances by a Los Angeles Lakers duo, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant who won three straight championships from 2000-02.
One person was around both teams though is Tyronn Lue, who is currently the head coach of the Cavaliers and was a teammate of O’Neal and Bryant’s on those Lakers teams.
Lue compared the two duos, via Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
“It’s like it’s the same,” Lue said. “Shaq was already established and was older than Kobe, and he was the most dominant player in the league. And Kobe was always striving to be better—to be the best player ever. That was his goal.
“After winning the championship last year, Kyrie had the chance to go win the gold medal. Coming back this year, you can tell he’s really worked on his game—and he’s worked on his body. He wants to take that next step. He’s very capable of doing it.”
When the Lakers won their first of the three championships O’Neal was 27-years-old and Bryant was 21, and this past season James was 31, and Irving was 23, so it does have that similar feeling of a veteran established player coming together with a young, hungry player to win a championship.
James and Irving have two more championships in a row to go if they want to reach the dominance that O’Neal and Bryant achieved, though, which will be a tall task considering what the Warriors did this offseason to improve.