The 2019 NBA Finals provided an exciting six game set of back and forth action with all of the elements that should be included in a championship series. This series had a villain in the Golden State Warriors, playing in their fifth straight NBA Finals, going for a third straight winning campaign. This part of the 2019 NBA Finals lacked parity. The team that most observers expected to make the Finals were proven right for another year.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have become well known characters to even the most casual of fans with their chemistry, individual skill sets and intensity. Each of these organic components to the Warriors didn't disappoint either, fulfilling their usual roles as they had the previous four seasons.
This series had the added drama of an injury to an even larger star in Kevin Durant. The debate over whether or not Durant should play and the ever building anticipation of his return factored into each contest. After his return in Game 5, the Warriors desperation seemed to subside. But that didn't last long with Durant going down in short order with a torn Achilles tendon. The aftermath of this decision and the kind of impact this injury has on Durant in the future is another story to watch closely for next year.
This year's NBA Finals didn't have LeBron James as a recurring character either, having been a part of the last eight championship runs for the Eastern Conference, split between Miami and Cleveland. For fans who just tuned in to watch LeBron fail against a loaded team like Golden State, this year's series didn't provide that kind of spiteful joy. It also failed to draw major interest from LeBron worshipers who follow his every move and view him as one of the greatest to ever play basketball.
But the Raptors provided plenty of added side stories and parity to make this year's NBA Finals interesting for fans. The Raptors won a championship without a single lottery pick, Kawhi Leonard included, on the roster. In a league that has drifted toward players joining forces through free agency to dominate competition, this was a refreshing sight. Toronto built a roster organically, made the right off-season moves, and did enough to win without stacking the deck against the rest of the league. While the Warriors roster is mostly of their own doing, the addition of Kevin Durant made them almost unfairly talented compared to the rest of the league. The Raptors also have an international presence being the stand alone NBA team outside of the United States.
While it may seem like a bad look for an American league to have a Canadian champion, this provided an interesting change outside of the ordinary. The NBA has been phenomenal at globalizing the game of basketball in recent years. The NBA hasn't been shy either at borrowing international concepts to improve their own product. The increased scouting of international players and the widespread implementation of more player movement and perimeter shooting, have all made the NBA better for team owners and fans.
For players like Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis who are set to play together in Dallas next season, it makes the game more appealing across the globe. This year's NBA Finals even had pop culture ties with rapper Drake being included as a celebrity endorser of the Raptors.
But the biggest surprise and most entertaining aspect of this year's NBA Finals was Kawhi Leonard and his stoic style of play, leading Toronto to a championship. In a world that relishes covering the loudest, most obnoxious people in a room, Kawhi was silent. In a league that has encouraged interacting with fans on social media, Kawhi doesn't even bother being on those platforms. In a game where players often show emotion to impose their will onto others, Kawhi just played, and more importantly won. Kawhi was criticized this season for his awkward laugh in a preseason press-conference.
While it was indeed awkward, it is Kawhi who is laughing all the way to the bank as a pending free agent and a 2019 NBA Champion.
Jimmy Kennedy, who believes this year's NBA Finals provided plenty of excitement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org