LeBron James may not want to say that Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry, but Tyronn Lue had no hesitation during an appearance on ESPN’s Mike & Mike.
“I think any time a team plays back-to-back years in the NBA Finals, and a lot of fans around the country are looking to that third match-up, especially with those guys acquiring Kevin Durant, I think it’s a rivalry,” Lue said. “I think these two teams, they want to get there, they want to play each other, and it’s some dislike there. They want to compete and play well against this team, and it’s okay. That’s what sports should be all about. If you get a chance to have a rivalry and an opponent that you look forward to matching up with, that you want to play. If you go to three straight Finals, that to me is a rivalry.”
Well, that’s certainly refreshing. This, by every available metric, is a rivalry. LeBron has in the past cited that battles the Lakers and Celtics had in the 80’s as evidence that this doesn’t stack up, but if the Cavaliers and Warriors make it to their third straight Finals against each other, that will match how many times Bird and Magic played each other in the Finals for their careers as well as the first time we’ve ever had the same Finals matchup three years in a row.
LeBron’s unwillingness to admit it’s a rivalry is also likely a bit of headgames at play. James probably thinks he has the mental edge right now, and to not acknowledge that he cares could be a way to irritate the Dubs.
That said, he obviously does care, and this rivalry has plenty more chapters left for us to parse through. For now, it’s nice to see that LeBron’s coach is able to concede that these two teams don’t love each other.