He did it – he finally did it.
The kid from Akron made good on his promise. Ever since he announced to Sports Illustrated that he’d be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, optimism sprung eternal in northeast Ohio, and now the reality is finally here:
LeBron James – Ohio’s native son – has brought home a championship.
The one thing that has always eluded James was bringing a title to Cleveland. After reaching the NBA Finals last year, it was almost a lost cause for a Cavaliers team led by James himself due to the injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. They stood no chance, but LeBron kept them in it – only to eventually fall to the Golden State Warriors in six games and watch Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green celebrate on their home court in Cleveland.
Not this year.
Those around the NBA believed that last year’s Finals performance might have been James’ best – but he decided to top that.
Down 2-0 early in the series and back in The Land, James’ 32 points led the Cavaliers to their first win of the series. The optimism was quickly thrown out when the Warriors roared back to a Game 4 win. Then it happened.
King James took over.
Going full Miami-heel mode, LeBron began to make this series his own – putting up 41 points in back-to-back nights in Games 5 & 6 to will the Cavaliers to one last shot – Game 7 IN Oakland – with a chance to not only bring home Cleveland’s first title in 52 years, but to become the first team in NBA History to win a championship after being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.Adding all the outside factors, last night’s Game 7 could very well have been the biggest in NBA history. Consider the following:
- The Warriors were trying to build upon their case for the title of Best Team Ever following their 73-9 regular season – “Don’t Mean A Thing Without No Ring!”
- Stephen Curry and the possibility of being a back-to-back MVP & title holder
- The mental toughness of the Warriors after a meltdown in Game 6
- LeBron’s legacy – a Finals record (2-4) at stake
- The first Cavaliers title and first title in Cleveland in 52 years
- The Cavs becoming the first team ever to come back from a 3-1 deficit
- Winning Game 7 on the road in Oakland – where the Warriors had lost TWICE in the regular season
It was the type of Game 7 that we as sports fans wanted: a tight-knit back-and-forth contest that comes down to the final minute. If you were anything like us, you were pacing, eyes glued to the television in awe of what was taking place:
What might have been the greatest NBA Finals performance of all-time.
There was Love’s resurgence on the glass, J.R. Smith hitting a string of clutch shots, Irving’s 3-pointer – which proved to be the game-winning shot – with less than a minute to go, and of course what will now be known as “LeBlock” – perhaps one of the most clutch defensive performances of James’ career.
James took over again, posting a triple-double with a line of 27 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds – joining Jerry West and James Worthy as the only players in NBA Finals HISTORY to post a triple-double in a Game 7. It was amazing to watch.
As the final buzzer sounded, James and Love embraced as The King was left in tears. He crumbled to the floor on his hands and knees, crying out loud for the world to hear. The Finals leader in all offensive categories for both teams had finally done it: he brought a title to Cleveland AND regained his seat on the throne as the best player in the NBA.
Love him or hate him, you can’t knock the talent. On the world’s biggest stage with the odds heavily stacked against him, LeBron James rallied his teammates, told them to get on board, and he carried them to a championship. Not just any championship – the Cavaliers’ first and the end of a drought in Cleveland. He proved it to the haters.
What happened last night in Oakland will shape the NBA landscape for years to come. Will the Warriors re-load? Will James actually stay in Cleveland now that he’s done it? How will other teams gear up for a title run?
Those questions will be answered in due time. For now, we should revel in the fact that we’ve been able to watch LeBron James on a nightly basis. Appreciate the greatness, because we may not see it again for a long time. You may not like to hear it, but LeBron has silenced the critics and the haters – at least for a night.
One thing is for certain: the King came home, achieved his greatest accomplishment to date, and is finally vindicated.
The LeBron story is literature. The Prodigal Son of Ohio is born, he thrives, he betrays, soars, laments, returns, struggles, then delivers.— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) June 20, 2016
Go nuts, Cleveland.