“I gave it everything I had both mentally and physically, so obviously I’m drained right now, I’m ready to get home.”
–Lebron James, after Game 3 of the NBA Finals
It’s not surprising that Lebron James, the favorite son of Akron, OH/the Cleveland area, is exhausting all that he has for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. What is surprising is that his Energizer bunny-like effort has not translated to any wins in the championship series versus the stacked (under statement) Golden State Warriors.
And, for Cavs fans, the possibility of a 4-game sweep increased greatly last night. Not simply because the Warriors have a 3-0 series advantage, but because of one person:
The Golden State Warriors are playing great basketball. However, the Cleveland Cavaliers (truthfully) have a squad equipped to handle and defeat the Warriors. True story. But that’s regarding last year’s Warriors team that the Cavs defeated 4-3 for the NBA title.
If the first three games in the 2017 NBA Finals has revealed anything, it’s that Kevin Durant is the prized x-factor and the one player the Cavs have no answer for. Not only does Mr. Durant score a lot of points, block a lot of shots and generally influence Cleveland’s play in myriad ways, but he simultaneously takes pressure off of his teammates (who may be struggling) and stretches the Cavs defense far too thin for 4 quarters.
Odds are very, very high that the Golden State Warriors will win this year’s NBA championship. And Cleveland’s personnel deficit against Kevin Durant is proving to be too costly thus far in this series. Still, the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from being down 3-1 to win the series 4-3 in last year’s NBA Finals. The question is whether the Cavs can strategically figure out how to minimize Kevin Durant’s impact on the court.
Stopping Kevin Durant seems unlikely, but anything is possible. And yes, that sentiment that “anything is possible” does include a chapter in which a professional sports team in Cleveland won a league championship in the 21st century with a surreal, magic run. If a 3-1 series comeback was magical, how would a 3-0 series comeback be described?
Thanks to the 2016 NBA Finals, people in Cleveland, OH have a legitimate reason to dream such wild things. And that’s part of the underlying magic of sports:
It’s unanimous: The Cleveland Cavaliers are the NBA Champions!
Favorite son LeBron James, who was forgiven for “taking his talents to South Beach” based on his personal letter rededicating himself to his hometown and the people in northeast Ohio, led the Cavaliers to Cleveland’s first professional championship since 1964 (more than half a century) by making NBA Finals history.
The Cavs beat the Golden State Warriors (regular-season record 73 wins) in game 7 in Oakland 93-89 in dramatic fashion. At 92-89, LeBron attempted to put an exclamation point on the title and went for a spectacular dunk with around ten seconds left, but was fouled by Draymond Green and fell awkwardly.
Akron’s superstar was on the court, curled up in agonizing pain having fallen on his right wrist (shooting hand). This ending was almost “too Cleveland.” After missing his first free throw, he managed to put in his second shot to give the Cavs a four-point lead. Stephen Curry had a chance to put up a 3 with about four seconds left, but nobody fouled him and he missed anyways.
The voice of Al Michaels popped into every fan cheering for Cleveland and answered in booming fashion, “Yes, I do believe in miracles!”
LeBron James was his MVP-self (third player ever to earn triple-double in game 7 of an NBA Final), Kyrie Irving proved he’s the best point guard in the NBA, Kevin Love showed up on the boards when it mattered, Tristan Thompson was a beast down low, J.R. Smith hit clutch shots on the perimeter and Richard Jefferson was a force off the bench.
For the first time in NBA Finals history, a team trailing 3-1 came back and won the championship. That statistic alone will keep the people of Cleveland smiling for generations.
“You remember the time when…”
For so many reasons, that was the only way Cleveland should have and could have won the NBA title. With their backs against the wall, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the basketball giants in the Golden State Warriors with three-straight wins (twice in Oakland).
We all witnessed Cleveland’s hometown king raise an entire city from a place of heartbreak and lifelong struggles to renewed belief and an almost incomprehensible victory that extends far beyond sports.
The Drive. The Shot. The Fumble. The Curse.
Last night, today and tomorrow, Cleveland will be known for The Win.
Congratulations to my fellow Ohioans with connections to Cleveland!