LeBron James delivers titleBy Matt Verderame
When LeBron James decided to come back to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014, it was with the intent of winning a title for the city he hailed so closely from.
On June 19, 2016, LeBron James accomplishment a mission that was 52 years in the works. Cleveland finally got its championship, becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in beating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 at ORACLE Arena on Sunday night.
While the immediate story is about Cleveland finally getting a chance to celebrate a professional sports championship for the first time since the Lyndon Johnson administration (and rightfully so after Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, the 1995 and 1997 Cleveland Indians and The Decision), the historic point is about James.
After going 2-4 in his first six Finals appearances with a devastating defeat against the Dallas Mavericks included, James was fighting history. The greatest players of the last 45 years always come out even or ahead in the Finals, whether it be Michael Jordan (6-0), Isiah Thomas (2-1), Magic Johnson (4-4), Larry Bird (3-2), Kobe Bryant (5-2) or Shaquille O’Neal (4-2). James was looking at a legacy of being a tremendous, transcendent player who fell short in the brightest moments.
Now, James has one of the most important championships in NBA history. It is not about the Cavaliers winning their first title since they became a franchise in 1970. This is about James leading his team back from a deficit never before overcome at this stage – including two road wins at a venue that yielded exactly that many wins for opponents throughout the regular season – against a historic team.
The Warriors were a record-breaking 73-9 in the regular season, getting some people to call them the greatest team of all-time. Golden State then rolled through the first two playoff series behind a startling collection of talent including the two-time Most Valuable Player in Steph Curry and his sidekicks of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Golden State has the deepest bench in the game (Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala) and a coach with a fistful of championship rings.
Yet, James rose about with a flurry of great games to finish the Finals. In Game 5, James went for 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. In Game 6, the wunderkind flashed for another 41 points with 11 assists and eight boards. Then, in Game 7, James became the third player in NBA Finals history to record a triple-double in the ultimate game with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.
When James retires and becomes a memory, this will be his enduring moment. Crying on the hardwood of ORACLE Arena, having delivered the title he promised to starved fans after 52 years of misery and jokes at their expense.
After being called it for years, LeBron James is truly The King.