Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — The 2015 NBA Finals kicks off Thursday night between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers with teams and players hoping to make history.
When the Warriors host Game One in Oakland, California, at 9 p.m. ET, neither side can necessarily claim to be underdogs. Two-time NBA champion LeBron James, 30, leads his hometown Cavs and this year’s league MVP Stephen Curry, 27, is the Warriors’ star shooter with basketball running through his blood.
Here are five storylines driving the drama of this year’s NBA Finals:
1. Steve Kerr wants another title after the Bulls.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, 49, may be the team’s rookie coach, but he’s also a five-time NBA champion who was a major player alongside Michael Jordan for the Chicago Bulls.
Chosen by the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the 1988 NBA draft, Kerr played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for the next three years. He then joined the Orlando Magic before joining the Bulls in 1993.
Since the glory years of the Bulls, the 2014-2015 basketball season has been quite a year for Kerr, who holds the record for most NBA regular season wins as a rookie coach.
2. Can LeBron be a champion in Cleveland?
King James is back home with the Cavaliers after a four-year hiatus in Miami and he is eager to help bring Cleveland’s first NBA title. The only other year besides this year that the Cavaliers have been Eastern Conference champions was back in 2007.
The city of Cleveland seems to have forgiven the bitterness that resulted from “The Decision” back in the 2010 off-season and is eagerly hoping to forget it entirely with a championship victory.
3. Curry’s daughter steals the show.
Two-year old Riley Curry made a splash when she showed up for her dad’s news conference after game one of the Western Conference Finals, demanding her dad be quiet and peeking under the table skirt. She made a second appearance during the news conference after the Warriors beat the Houston Rockets in Game Five to advance to the NBA finals. Fans wanted more. She had fun handing a staffer her gum and singing Drake’s chorus in “Big Sean – Blessings.”
Between making appearances on the cable show of Curry’s wife, Ayesha, Cookin’ With the Currys, online fans can’t get enough of Riley’s cuteness.
4. Golden State vies for first title in 40 years.
After injury scares for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson during the Western Conference Finals, Golden State fans are ready for their first NBA championship victory in 40 years, when Golden State beat the Washington Bullets to win the title in 1975.
In a major upset that year, the Warriors swept the Bullets in four games with the help of Jamaal Wilkes and Rick Barry.
Thompson is the son of former NBA player and two-time NBA champion Mychal Thompson. Curry is the son of Dell Curry, a 16-year veteran of the NBA through the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.
5. Star players you may not know.
Besides the star players with recognizable names during this year’s NBA Finals, there are foreigners with flair. There’s Australian Warriors player Andrew Bogut, who joined the Warriors in a multiplayer trade in 2012. The 30-year old is a 7-foot-1 center who is a key member of the team’s defense. Draymond Green is another player who has been noted as one of the team’s keys to success.
Alongside LeBron James are three former Knicks players: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Russian Timofey Mozgov, also a 28-year old center. Formerly a player for the Russian National Team under Cleveland’s coach David Blatt, Mozgov will block or rebound to his heart’s content at more than 7 feet tall.
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