In the book "Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable" by Tim Grover, Grover breaks down the levels of “super-stardom” as they apply to a variety of settings, especially in professional sports. So, what qualifies Tim Grover with the cache to do define these levels? To those who may find his name unfamiliar, some of the most iconic NBA players ever: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James have had Tim Grover as their personal trainer. They've worked so closely with him in fact, that in the book Grover discloses some secret stories about some of these players without revealing their identities; giving the fans a real inside scoop of what goes through these players' minds when it's time to perform.

There’s likely no other person in the world who has a relationship closer with all of these players than Tim Grover. In this book, he breaks down the levels of super-stardom into three categories: Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners. To paraphrase, Grover describes each level of stardom as such;

Coolers are the stars who fill the stat-lines and often state they want the spotlight to close a game; at least, until the moment arrives for them to do so. In the "clutch" moments, the most opportune moments, it is very rare that these players choose to make their impact on the game regardless of whether they're called upon to do so or not. For the first 90 percent of the game, their impact remains consistent.

But in the last and most important 10 percent of the game, their impact is little to nonexistent. An example of a cooler's mentality is when LeBron James ran away from that moment in the last four games of the 2011 NBA Finals.

Closers are players who can handle themselves when present in the clutch moments. These players still have to be called upon by their teammates and or coaches in order takeover.

Often times, it has to be communicated with these players when exactly it is their time to deliver and what they have to do in order to do so. If they are not directly called upon, they will more than likely defer and allow someone else to make an impact. If they aren't excelling in their specialty, they're reluctant to step up in other ways.

Though these players may possess the skills in order to take over in the waning minutes of a game, they do not necessarily possess the "Ruthless Mentality" that the Cleaners have when it's time to take over the game.

Cleaners are the special type of superstars that, regardless of the situation, regardless of who may or may not call upon them, regardless of however they've been performing so far, their game stays the same until it's time to elevate it in the most important moments. From day one they've asked for the spotlight and they've delivered in these moments. Whether the moment requires them to hit the game winning shot, guard the other team's best player, or simply orchestrate the right play, under NO circumstances do Cleaners hesitate to elevate their game in any way.

These are the guys that deserve to be paid what NBA pundits call "Max Dollars". In other words, it's these players that you pay as much money as you can because you don't have to worry about their mentality in crunch time. Dwyane Wade's performance in the NBA Finals in 2006, averaging 34.7 points a game, is an example of this. He was someone who recognized and captured the moment as he was driven by his obsession with winning.

The 2017 NBA Finals doesn't need any more hype surrounding it. What's more exciting than witnessing two teams compete in the sports version of a nuclear arms race and meet up in the NBA Finals for the third straight year? We know the stats, the stories, and the key matchups in this series.

It's simply a matter of who's going to rise to the occasion and who's going to shrivel up in the moment. As we prepare to watch what has the potential to be the greatest NBA Finals in the history of basketball, the only question that needs to be answered is: Who are the Coolers, the Closers, and the Cleaners in this series?


Kevin Love

Remember, Coolers simply DO NOT want the pressure of performing to fall on their shoulders. However, of all of the Coolers in this league, Kevin Love has the best opportunity to elevate into the Closer category of superstardom. But his reputation as a player has been slightly tainted by the team that made him their franchise player only four years ago; the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Last season, Tyronn Lue hadn't even put Kevin Love in the game during the fourth quarter in 14 games during the regular season. By definition, he is a Cooler. Not to mention his performance in the NBA Finals last year when he averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds. However, in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, he proved to be more assertive in his shot taking and scoring in the low post. If he can at least show that he is capable of performing in the fourth quarter at all, he can elevate to the Closer category in this year's matchup against the Warriors.


Kevin Durant

Being a cleaner is simply a mentality. It accounts for only the most crucial moments within a game. Production and stats are not heavy factors into these labels because, without the right mentality, players wouldn't be productive.

With that being said, unfortunately, I learned nothing new about Kevin Durant over the course of this season. I've seen him close out games throughout his career. But it is in the rare times when LeBron James is on the floor, somehow, Kevin Durant fails to step up in the most crucial moments. This seems to be a common trend for Kevin Durant only when he's facing LeBron (otherwise he’d be a Cleaner). Even in the 2012 NBA Finals against LeBron and the Miami Heat, there were more moments than not when he just gave the ball to Russell Westbrook and got out of the way. Cleaners don't do that. In one way or another, they make their presence known without even being told to do so. The only thing Kevin Durant has left to prove is that he can be everything he's supposed to be against LeBron on the biggest stage and in the biggest moments.

Klay Thompson

Unfortunately, Klay Thompson suffers from Chris Bosh-Syndrome. He’s the third offensive option behind two superstars while still having superstar qualities himself. It’s a tough and frustrating situation. Nonetheless, a situation like that will prevent anyone from being a Cleaner. Because he's not the first or second option scorer he doesn’t quite have the status to demand the ball at the end of the game. His number has to be called. However, this is the same player who put up 37 points in the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings, this is the same player that showed up to Oklahoma City in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and dropped 41 points (15 in the fourth quarter).

If Klay is given the ball and told to take over by his teammates, everyone is in trouble because there is NO player who becomes more lethal to a defense when he heats up.

Draymond Green

Draymond Green is a closer, but he's a different kind of closer than KD, Steph, and Klay. Draymond Green is by far the hungriest and most emotional player on the Golden State Warriors. Both of which are actually the intangibles that a Cleaner would possess. However, Cleaners always... ALWAYS have the overall task in mind when it comes to decision making on the court. There is absolutely NOTHING that anyone can do to force a cleaner to make a decision that doesn't lead to winning. With that being said, what keeps Draymond Green from being a Cleaner is his behavioral decisions on the court.

When someone wears their raw emotions on their sleeve the way Draymond does, it can sometimes become too much and actually hurt the team. Getting himself suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals after swinging at LeBron James and cursing at him is a prime example of this. The Warriors had a 3-1 series lead over the Cavs without Draymond Green going into game 5. Yet, their first loss in the three-game losing streak is widely believed to have been simply a result of Draymond Green not being there. If Draymond Green can find a way to remain a calculated decision-maker and not be sidelined by “in the moment” decisions, while still being the emotional leader, he may soon find himself in the Cleaner category.

Stephen Curry

The Baby-Faced Assassin. It’s his nickname not only in the literal sense that his face resembles that of a child, but because his demeanor, play style, and stature are the exact opposite of intimidating. Steph won’t scream in your face, he’s a terrible trash-talker, he doesn’t dunk on people or perform chase-down blocks. Yes, this is the same Steph Curry who casually who pulled up from half court to bury the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, the same guy who’s hit soul crushing clutch shots against multiple teams. He’s a player that has no problem hitting a shot from half-court in order to demoralize your whole team. However, when his shot isn't falling, he fails to step up his game.

A Cleaner only cares about winning. Even if it means stepping up in other areas of the game when they aren't excelling in their specialty. Steph Curry shot 40 percent in the 2016 NBA Finals. His shot was just plain off. Yet, he played terrible defense on Kyrie Irving and made careless passes that led to turnovers at the end of games. When his shot was off, he had little to no impact on that series. This year he has a chance to redeem himself. Even if his shot is off again this year, he can claim his Cleaner status by stepping up in all other facets of the game.

Call in the Cleaners!

Kyrie Irving

If game 4 against Boston in this year's Eastern Conference Finals didn't show you that Uncle Drew is a Cleaner, you'll never see it. His performance in the 2016 NBA Finals speaks for itself. But the icing on the cake were the big shots he made in the final minute of game 7 of the 2016 Finals and against the Warriors again on Christmas day this season. I don't care what current superstar you have on your team. If you just need someone to drop some timely BUCKETS, find Kyrie because he’s utterly fearless and nearly unstoppable.

LeBron James

On the biggest stage possible, the universally-claimed best player in the world only scored eight points in game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals on 3-11 shooting en route to average just under 16 points on 15 shot attempts per game over the last four games. This was considered to be the worst NBA Finals performance by a superstar considering that throughout EVERY previous game he averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. But when it was time to take over, not only did his game not elevate, it substantially dissipated. However, it wasn't simply the fact that his game didn't elevate that made him a Cooler. It's the fact that the moment kept him from wanting to perform.

But a lot has happened since his Cooler-like performance in the 2011 NBA Finals. He's conquered giants, he's heading to his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance, and he's showing NO signs of slowing down. He hasn't always been the player that you see him as today. But now there's no moment that scares him. He's the king and he's fully aware of his status. He's the best player in the world. Part of the definition of a Cleaner is someone “who doesn't need to show everyone who’s in charge, everyone already knows.” (Grover, The Relentless 13). Now he's not quite the superstar that comes to mind when you need someone to get a bucket in crunch time. But, whether he's making a play for another Cleaner or whoever needs the ball in those moments, LeBron James needs to be the primary decision maker when it really matters. He's the ultimate playmaker.

Sometimes, stats do lie. Especially in a series where the two teams are so familiar with each other that there is no true tactical plan that can be used in order to completely stop the other team. It comes down to one thing, who wants it more? This series will only highlight the amount of heart each basketball player has in their chest. When it comes to determining these players' legacies, including LeBron's, there will be no series that anyone will look at more closely than this one.