WON FOR THE LAND
The Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate the NBA Finals championship, becoming the first tem in history to over come a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to defeat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 on Sunday June 19 in Oakland to capture the franchise first crown and erase a 52-year championship drought for the city. [Photo Associated Press]
The most improbable comeback in the history of the NBA took two weeks, The Block took about 10 seconds and the shot took about 23 seconds, and finally the 52-year draught for Cleveland was over.
If only the journey for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first NBA championship was that simple, but one could say that it took divine intervention for the Cavs to erase a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals.
More than likely, the power from the highest order fueled the greatest performance in an NBA Finals Game 7 ever for LeBron James to will the Cavs past the Golden State Warriors 93-89 on June 19 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.
We all know how it happened and that it DID happen, but no one saw this coming.
It was the most unlikely scenario ever played out in team sports, but one that will be celebrated for another century in Northeast Ohio.
It all started when the Cavs dropped a critical Game 4 at home in Quicken Loans Arena after losing the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter. Then, two days later, Warriors star Draymond Green was suspended for a groin kick against James. The Warriors held a commanding 3-1 lead going into game 5 at home where they had lost only two games all season. Then to spice things up, James was being shamed on social media by Warriors players Klay Thompson and Mareese Speights. Things got ugly.
The Cavs changed from their blue uniforms to black. Fueled by James’ 41 points and Kyrie Irving’s 41 points, the Cavs pulled out a desperate 112-97 victory.
So-called experts and pundits forecast that for sure the Warriors would win the title on the Cavs home court in game 6 as they did the year before; and most certainly there would not be another 41-point performance. That would be crazy!
James would say later that they had to go home anyway.
For sure they did and magically, James scored another 41 points carrying the Cavs, 52-years of misery and generations of broken hearts on his back leading the Cavs to 115-101 victory to force game 7.
If James looked tired during Game 7 it’s because he was. He could not sleep the night before. The Warriors had only lost two games in a row twice all year and never three consecutive. After all, there hadn’t been a game decided by fewer than 14 points in the series.
Secretly, the Cavs had put together a puzzle with only one missing piece remaining. That piece, The State of Ohio.
Reserve James Jones had come up with the idea, binding the band of brothers for this one glorious ride, a wobbly, rugged ride.
Things that worked so flawlessly for the Cavs in the first three rounds, The Big 3 of James, Irving and Kevin Love did not flow in this series.
Love was hit in the back of the head by Harrison Barnes and suffered a concussion in a woeful game 4 and was out of game 5, replaced by the now retiring Richard Jefferson.
When he was cleared to return he was benched in favor of Jefferson, but as fate would have it, it was Love’s contribution in game 7 that was critical to the Cavs winning the championship. His plus 19 numbers were better than any player in the game. He could score, so he rebounded and rebounded and rebounded. One could say he rebounded.
The deal sealer was the remarkable James block of a lay-up attempted by 2015 Finals MVP Andre Igudala and then the step back pull-up trey in the face of back-to-back league MVP Steph Curry by ‘Mamba’-possessed Irving for the title clincher.
The lead up to Game 7 was heightened with Cleveland Indians announcer Tom Hamilton declaring it was a big weekend after the first place Tribe opened a three-game home stint with a victory over the reeling White Sox.
It was indeed a big weekend, and James made sure there would be none bigger, ever…
There were thousands of people throughout the region tepid but prepared for a breakthrough.
In Akron at James’ high school, an ESPN reporter erroneously called it St. Vincent St. Michael. She wasn’t corrected with the actual name of St. Vincent-St. Mary, but today who cares.
Downtown Cleveland was closed down after tens of thousands crammed into bars, the double sold out watch parties and even stood on parking structures to view the watch party. Only in Cleveland, huh?
It was the first day before summer, but the heat was on as it had been for the past 52 years in a region that is capable of producing two or three seasons and climate changes within a matter of hours.
A rare strawberry moon hovered above the orbit, yet another ominous sign that something strange was about to unfold.
Something good for a change for the title-starved fans of Cleveland.
We remember the fumble, the drive and the blown save in the World Series. All horrific nightmares that just would not go away.
The Art Modell jinx it was called.
Hall of Fame icon Jim Brown was in attendance at a couple of Cavs home playoff games. A physical reflection of the last championship won by this city in 1964.
Cavs announcer Austin Carr, the first No. 1 in the history of the franchise had seen it all. The great players had come and gone. Perhaps he had settled with the idea that it would just never happen…
Who could blame him if he had? Not many hands will go up.
Then in 2003, Cleveland was blessed with drafting one of its own, its prodigal son LeBron James straight from high school.
That was a sure sign that if nothing else, this doormat town would be jumping.
Jump it did. For seven years there was hope a championship was within reach. Then, the unimaginable happened. The prodigal son left and took his talents to South Beach.
Hearts were shattered, No. 23 jerseys were burned, and team owner Dan Gilbert penned a scathing letter ripping his former star.
Gilbert promised the Cavs would win a championship before James would.
James had promised Miami, not one, not two, not three…
In four years away from home he won two, but played for four.
The Cavs were picking in the lottery while he was contending for championships.
One of those lottery chips, a blessing to James leaving, was Irving. Another was Anthony Bennett. Although a bust and now out of the league, but coupled with the pick of gem Andrew Wiggins landed Kevin Love in James’ homecoming.
Some say that he is not as beloved as he was before, but he is revered. He’s promised kids in Akron an opportunity to attend college through his foundation and he promised to WIN ONE FOR THE LAND upon his return.
This latest Instagram post says it all:
“They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the rear view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates too much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir”