By: Jeffrey Newholm
Americans have always seemed obsessed with the idea of a hero, a white knight who rides in to save the day.
Politicians, religious icons and athletes are oftentimes expected to save the day for the ordinary, unwashed masses. It’s only fitting, then, that the hero that was supposed to save the benighted Cleveland Cavilers from 48 years of mediocrity was a black knight-Lebron James, or just “The King” to his many followers.
Lebron was reviled by Clevelanders when he famously took his talents to South Beach, but was quickly welcomed back with open arms when he announced his intentions to return to Cleveland. His first season was full of ups and downs, but in the East Finals The King single-handedly dispatched the 60 win Hawks, who proved to be mere pretenders.
However, the Warriors proved to be too tough an opponent to overcome without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Yet it was easy to rationalize Lebron’s failures. It was his first year with a new team. He couldn’t do it all himself. The Dubs had to scratch and claw to beat a one-man team.
This year, there seemed to be no reason to offer excuses, and no cause to give them.
True, the Cavs didn’t exactly bludgeon the NBA in the regular season, but they seemed transformed in the playoffs. Wicked three-point shooting buried the Pistons and Hawks, and then the Cavs switched styles with ease against Toronto.
The King and has court outmuscled the Raptors in the paint and easily shook off two losses where their effort was wanting. Going into the Finals, the team was rolling and fully healthy. Standing in the way of “The Land’s” first pro title in 52 years was, of course, the record-breaking, awe-inspiring 73-win Warriors. The Cavs would fare better this time around, the fans claimed. Through four games, however, it seemed the 2016 campaign would just be more fodder for the trolls.
Apart from a strong game three performance, Lebron hardly played like a hero.
He was too deferential to his teammates, who couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Love ended up benched and Irving’s playmaking, while often dazzling, wasn’t nearly enough. As the Cavs committed foul after foul in the last minute of game four, the hometown fans hearts’ sunk. It seemed they were wrong in trusting in their black knight. Surely the Dubs would close the series out the next time in Oakland. But at least for one night, The King lived up to his moniker.
Golden State raced out to an early lead with typically fanciful shooting, but Lebron refused to let his team fall too far behind. For once he was the orchestrator of the show, the maestro of Oracle Arena. He aggressively attacked the paint, drawing fouls and hitting nylon. He was the oil that greased the team’s engine, leading with seven dimes and 16 boards.
Meanwhile Steph Curry, the unanimous regular-season league MVP, looked out of sync.
Staring at a chance to finish the series, he blinked, shooting only 38% from the field and 33% from three. Irving was equally as magnificent as Lebron, adding the same 41 points his teammate earned. With a minute left, it was now the Warriors Fans’ turn to make an early exit, as their frustration at being denied a celebration at the hands of the detested King became too much to bear.
Of course, should the Cavs still lose the series, many will opine that game five meant nothing. But even if confetti do rain down on Golden State again, Lebron’s heroics, at least for one fan base, won’t soon be forgotten. He proved that he, indeed, could be trusted with the label of savior.
Losing would surely hurt, but Cleveland fans could still hope, in good faith, that Lebron could someday be their promised hero–The Black Knight.