By: Rob Botts
LeBron James did exactly what he said he was going to do upon his second life in a Cleveland Cavalier uniform. That was bring a title to his starving city. It had been 5 decades if you hadn’t heard. Mr. James was outstanding in this series and was most deserving of the series MVP, but he had somebody riding shotgun who almost wrestled that title from him. That is one Mr. Kyrie Irving. It was before, but now more than ever, it is their land.
The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals 93-89 to take home the championship hardware.
The four time league MVP in James had already had two out of state championships under his belt and over a decade of personal achievement and spectacular play. Irving was a star from Duke who has had flashes of amazing offensive explosions followed by long periods on the pine due to various nagging injuries over the years. The injury bug was the one opponent he seemed unable to shake with his sick handle. Until this year that is. Both seemed to find their absolute best when they seemed to be at their absolute bottom.
What defines bottom in an NBA finals other than losing the actual series? Well that would be non other than a 3-1 series hole. We all know the story. No team in Finals history had come back from that NBA abyss to win the trophy. No team until now obviously. Somewhere the members of the 2004 Boston Red Sox(the team who came back from a 3-0 hole to bounce the NY Yankees from the ALCS and ended up breaking the curse of the Bambino)knew that the Cavs had it in them.
James did everything in this series the last 3 games of the finals. He played defense, made deft passes, rebounded, hustled, dunked, drove to the hole and was hitting his jumper. The latter making it almost impossible to guard him. He was also watching movies like “The Godfather”, that helped cool the blood in his veins that enabled him to make offers to the basketball gods that they couldn’t refuse.
Irving flipped the switch to the “on” position so everybody across the world could see what this dude is capable of offensively. The in and out dribble, splitting of the doubles, fade away and pull up jumpers and of course his daring drives to the cup that would often end in “and ones.” He also kept incredible pressure on Steph Curry which often had the Warrior star in foul trouble most of the time.
All this work and focus by the Cavs two best players, led to two signature moments that defined how the team closed this deal for the city of Cleveland. The first was a moment that will be known simply as “The Block.” It was LBJ’s chase down swat of Andre Iguodala’s lay in attempt on the fast break. The game was tied and it looked like Iggy was about to give Golden State the lead with a breakaway layup. That is when LeBron came swooping in for his signature from behind block. Boom! Game changed. Game saved. Then Kyrie went to work on the back to back NBA MVP Steph Curry on the perimeter. Kyrie and Curry have a very similar skill set and both can get crazy hot in a split second. The game in the 4th quarter had become a defensive wrestling match begging for a big shot to be made. Kyrie has got a whole lot of cold blooded clutch in him and he supplied the three point fadeaway bomb that snatched the heart from the Warriors. Live by the three, die by the Kyrie.
The city of Cleveland will be celebrating this victory and title for quite sometime. Gone around all the local businesses and watering holes are the stories of Earnest Byner’s fumble or Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo. With each glass being raised, will be the new story about how their Cavs had brought home the NBA trophy. How these two men in James and Irving closed championship escrow on “The Land.”
Congratulations Cleveland. You deserve it!
Editor’s Note: This post also appears on Nuts and Bolts here, a content partner of INSCMagazine.