Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue hoists the trophy after beating the Boston Celtics 87-79 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Sunday, May 27, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
An exhausted Cleveland Cavalier team, led by the iconic LeBron James, had just finished an improbable game 7 Eastern Conference Finals victory over the storied Boston Celtics, but then the news came that as great as LeBron was in Boston playing all 48 minutes in the clincher, he will have to be even greater if the Cavaliers are to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals which begin on Thursday in Oakland.
This is a city that a prominent sports documentary chronicled all of the failures of Cleveland sports teams, depicted its vicious snow filled winter elements, loyal, passionate and rabid fan base, and of course its utter and sheer disappointment in ‘Believeland’
"Believeland" is Cleveland to the core. It's the story of the fans whose love and loyalty have endured despite half a century of losing, and the spiritual and economic impact of sports in a city that has suffered more than its share of scorn. Above all, "Believeland" is a testament to the unique power of sports to create communal bonds faith and love, regardless of the final score, according to the film’s director Andy Billman.
Then the Cavaliers went on the capture the city’s first sports championship in more than 50 years with an upset for the ages topping the unbeatable Golden State Warriors in 2016.
After losing three straight and being on the brink of elimination for the next four, the Cavs won four consecutive games, including game 7 in Oakland as LeBron captured MVP honors.
That was the second time the two teams had met in The Finals, and since then, the NBA Championship has been decided by these two teams, representing title starved cities as unique as the players donning their uniforms.
The Warriors, miffed at the Cavs and LeBron’s domination went out and wooed Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder, titling the balance of power in the NBA for the foreseeable future.
Already equipped with a The Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Akron born Steph Curry, two home run hitters who have transformed the landscape of the NBA and basketball forever.
No team in the NBA has proven capable of shooting the 3-pont shot, the lowest percentage shot in all of basketball, with such a high frequency that it minimizes athletic ability, shrinks height and defies the logic of most coaches.
That is why they are such a prohibitive favorite to win their third NBA title in four years, and why the gleeful optimism of 2016 has fallen to the improbable failures of ‘Believeland.”
For the Cavaliers to even be playing in The Finals, is short of a miracle. The season began with star guard Kyrie Irving demanding to be traded, citing his playing side kick with LeBron was over.
The trade immediately boxed in the Cavs front office brass, and elevated the panic of losing LeBron at the end of this season if nothing dramatic was done to field a championship team.
Ironically, Irving went to Boston for a return of players that failed miserably. Boston had already landed Gordon Heyward, a coveted prize free agent from the Utah Jazz. In the end Heyward, who suffered a gruesome season ending ankle injury against the Cavs in the first game of the season and Irving with late season ending knee surgery were relegated to watching the Eastern Conference Finals from the sideline.
In hopes of salvaging their season, the Cavs traded the key pieces from Irving trade, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and championship holdovers Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and team favorite Richard Jefferson.
Arriving at the February trade deadline was veteran guard George Hill from Sacramento, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson from the Lakers and talented Rodney Hood from Utah.
The team had previously signed veteran wing Jeff Green for the minimum salary, and hence through all of that this team, this Cavaliers team in playing for yet another NBA championship.
“One of the most challenging seasons I’ve had,” said James, who may be playing the best basketball of his life right now at the end of his 15th season.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” said James, who is seeking a fourth ring in his ninth finals appearance overall. “It’s been good, it’s been bad. It’s been roses. There have been thorns in the roses. There’s been everything that you can ask for.”
“Everybody doubted us,” Cavaliers forward Jeff Green said. “Everybody had their opinions on what our team was, what we would do, what we can’t do, from the start. ... And now, I mean, we’re where we want to be. We’re where we set out to be and where we knew we could be at this point.”
The Cavaliers are here and while few will give them any chance to beat the Golden State Warriors, all they need do is look back at the journey that brought them here and playing in The Finals can’t be any worse than that.