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Golden State Warriors And Cleveland Cavaliers Face Off For NBA Championship


We're going to talk sports now. It's a big night for basketball. Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors face off in their seventh and final match for this year's NBA championship. And, yes, it's a face-off between the sport's biggest stars - LeBron James and Steph Curry.

Here to set the stage is Kevin Blackistone. He is a columnist with The Washington Post and appears on ESPN. He was nice enough to spend part of his Father's Day with us. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Thanks for inviting me.

MARTIN: So for anybody who hasn't been following the finals, can you just give us a little bit of a sense of the drama of it all?

BLACKISTONE: Sure. Well, this has been one of the biggest back-and-forth finals that we've ever seen, in the sense that all six of these games spread out over the last two weeks have been blowouts. We've never seen this before. Every game has been decided by double digits. So maybe tonight we'll actually see a close game.

However, despite the lack of beauty in the basketball being played, it's been as theatrical as anything. We've seen performances from LeBron James that we've never witnessed before in NBA Finals history. He leads every category in this series - points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals. We've seen a team come in that set a record for wins in the NBA season - the Golden State Warriors with 73 wins - and all of a sudden they are teetering. They are a game away from losing in the postseason as many games as they lost in the regular season, which was just nine.

So that in itself is amazing. And no team that has been up 3 games to 1 in a seven-game series in the NBA Finals has ever lost the finals. We've had so much theater, so much drama, that this is much-watch TV.

MARTIN: So talk about what this would mean for LeBron James and for Cleveland.

BLACKISTONE: Well, you know what, I feel like just a few games ago when the Cavaliers were down 3 to 1, people were saying, well, this is going to tarnish LeBron James' legacy. Now that he's led them back with this superhuman performance, people are saying this just shows that, win or lose, he is the MVP.

And also, you know, this would really validate much of the reason for which he came back to Cleveland - one, to bring his home state a championship for the first time in over half a century. But also, just to bring inspiration to black youth like himself who - on this Father's Day - grew up without a father, who see him as someone who can provide them the inspiration to continue on with their lives and to be successful and - no matter what path they choose.

And so I think that this win would do a lot more for people in Northeast Ohio and Cleveland. And kids would look up to Lebron James, really, than the fans who just want to see the Cavaliers win.

MARTIN: And finally, what about Steph Curry? I mean, he's - no pun intended - kind of the golden child. Do you think there is quite as much at stake for him?

BLACKISTONE: You know what? I think that there is, in the sense that he has been anointed kind of as the new face of the NBA. And he has really taken his lumps in this series. He has not been the enjoyment to watch that he was during the regular season.

So I think that this is going to speak to his early legacy and remind people that, you know, this is a really difficult game to play. You can't make it look like it's a computer game all the time.

MARTIN: All right. Kevin Blackistone, something to watch on this Father's Day.

BLACKISTONE: That's right, a nice way to end dad's day.

MARTIN: That's Kevin Blackistone. He's a columnist with The Washington Post. He appears on ESPN regularly and teaches sports journalism at the University of Maryland. He was kind enough to join us here. Kevin Blackistone, thank you.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.