At the moment, the only sense I have of the Cavaliers championship celebration was the second of jubilation I saw just before I grabbed the remote control with sweaty palms, with my stomach beginning a three-day plummet into the depths of disappointment, my face totally hot with disbelief and disgust. I only got the briefest moment of exposure to the joy and elation of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and all who pledge allegiance to their cause, before I turned the television off for the rest of the night. It was enough. I saw the black-shirted wraiths beginning to bloom from the bench; an unidentifiable Cavalier pumping his fist in the rhythm reserved for professional athletes beginning to live out one of their earliest dreams: a championship at the highest level of competition. That was enough. That was plenty. I watched a second of their celebration, and then turned the television off. And in the silence, there was a stark, jolting certitude about what had occurred. In the silence, there was a conclusion to a season that always seemed surreal; always seemed just a little too good to be true.
I know it’s over. There’s nothing left to brace for; no need to find anything else in, on, or around my body to gird. I wouldn’t wish the NBA Finals on my worst enemy. Do you understand me? I wouldn’t wish the NBA finals on my worst enemy. It settles over your entire life, usurps everything that you hold dear. It turns sumptuous food into gummy slop, bland piles of puff that you push back and forth on your plate. It transforms your favorite activities into arduous chores; tedious tasks that must be completed before tip-off begins. Work days become staccato affairs as surreptitious glances at smartphones draw dirty glares from colleagues. Intimate moments with loved ones are punctuated by sharp, impatient quips, or watered-down by blank stares, as the mind shifts gears from hardcourt proceedings to real-world events. The NBA Finals become a stock template to organize both external behaviors and internal thoughts; all individuality is muted while the games are occurring. For the feeble mind of a fan, it is both terrific and terrifying; each moment a new emotion, each second nearly unbearable. So I need you to understand me. I would not wish the NBA finals on my worst enemy.
Because you see, the weight of each possession was agonizing, especially when it all went to hell. With each clank off the back rim on wayward hoists from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, on shots that fell so easily in the regular season, and at absolutely the worst time possible, there was a feeling of hopelessness and puzzlement. With each missed defensive rebound, and subsequent second-chance field goal from a lanky, bull-driving Cavalier, came a pain, which rose from a dull hum in game 5, to a full-throated roar by the end of game 7. Every one of the Warriors minor weaknesses, brilliantly masked by the tremendous abilities of Curry and Thompson, were suddenly put on full display by a smart, capable, and fully in-control Cavaliers team. A Cavaliers team that, as the series unraveled seemed to grow bigger and stronger with each possession, to the point where they seemed almost physically overpowering. A Cavaliers team that knew that beating the Warriors involved gaining a decisive psychological advantage. For 12 horrific quarters, the Cavaliers doled out punishment on multiple fronts. They launched successful assaults on the bodies and minds of the Warriors. It took 12 quarters – 144 minutes of dismantling; 8,640 seconds of throttling – to undo a joyride that was unspeakably exhilarating and dreamlike.
Basketball is continuing, and the Warriors didn’t disappear from the face of the planet after they lost Game 7. But I don’t know it. There is no Twitter on my phone anymore. I swipe the apps on my phone right and left in a repeating sequence; my thumbs not quite sure what to do with themselves now that there’s no timeline to troll. The Warriors drafted somebody. They may have drafted somebody else, as well. I’m not sure. The Warriors are probably interested in signing available players free agency. There are probably reports about Kevin Durant. It’s entirely possible that the other 29 teams are doing things as well; tucking in their shirts and rolling up their sleeves for another go at fixing everything that ails them in a few short summer months. I’m not sure. At the moment, I am in denial about the offseason, growing hot and sticky with each passing day. The pulsating throb of the NBA finals still drums endlessly on; my brain waiting for a best of 9, or best of 11 series. But I know it’s over. I know the focus is not on internal reflection and correction, but rather, external additions and situational augmentations. The 73-9 Golden State Warriors, a team that was sought after like the grail, now belongs to the historians and the haters. Those Warriors are now a was and and a were; they can no longer can bask in the radiant glow of is and are.
I would like to find a rhythm again. I’d like to be galloping; I’d like to be be soaring; I’d like to be be well on my way to new heights. But I cannot find the center. It’s the way it is, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I swear it. I’m not supposed to be frowning like this, trying to find some sort of basketball catharsis by typing into a text box on a small, dying corner of the internet; trying to avoid every hint that the Golden State Warriors fell short of their goal. I’ve lost myself. I see wraiths. This isn’t supposed to be happening. This isn’t the summer I had in mind.