By AVERY BRAXTON (@Ave_Braxton)
Photo credit goes to chron.com.
When you saw the shot go in…you just knew. You knew that Kyrie Irving had just ended the championship drought in Cleveland – a 52-year professional title drought that has been punctuated by disappointments at the 3-yard line, the 11th inning and The Finals.
As the buzzer sounded at the end of the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was like a weight had been lifted off the city of Cleveland and every Cavaliers fan in Oracle Arena. Everyone could take a deep breath and let it sink in.
This one was theirs.
LeBron James, the savior of Cleveland sports, was in tears. He had finally led the state of Ohio, his home, to the Promised Land. In his postgame interview with Doris Burke, he could only express joy.
“CLEVELAND, THIS IS FOR YOU!”
As historic as the championship is for the city, it may be equally as historic for the NBA. The Cavaliers pulled off the greatest comeback on the biggest stage the game has to offer: down 3-1 to win three straight games and Game 7 on the road, the first team to do either in The Finals.
Oh, and they defeated the greatest regular season team in NBA history, the back-to-back and unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry and the defending NBA champions.
No big deal.
It’s hard to say that any team with LeBron James is the underdog, but in this case the Cavaliers were. Head coach Tyronn Lue and his team accepted the challenge and refused to lose.
“When you win a championship together, it’s like a blood transfusion,” Lue said at the postgame press conference.
The rookie head coach, who assumed the mantle after David Blatt’s midseason firing, led his team to a championship. Lue, who perhaps had been laughed at more than anyone else in the league after being embarrassed by Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals, laughed last.
But the story isn’t about Lue. It’s about James.
LeBron James (left) celebrates with his teammate Kevin Love (right) after winning his third NBA title with teammate. Photo credit goes to USA Today.
The 31-year old Akron, Ohio, native delivered on his promise. He brought a championship to Cleveland and did so after a nasty breakup with the city in 2010. He took his talents to South Beach and forced Cleveland to watch as he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh brought two Larry O’Brien trophies to Miami.
Fans burned his jersey, they cursed his name and paraded destroyed dummies of James through the streets. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert criticized LeBron, calling him narcissistic, cowardly and a traitor.
But like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, all is forgiven when the son comes home. Cleveland welcomed LeBron back – some begrudgingly, some with open arms – and after one more Finals disappointment in 2015, the self-proclaimed King delivered on his promise to bring a championship to the land.
“Our fans, they’re ride or die. No matter what’s been going on. The Browns, the Indians, the Cavs and so on and all the other sports teams, they continue to support us, and for us to be able to end this, end this drought – our fans deserve it. They deserve it. It was for them,” James said in his postgame press conference.
James finished The Finals with a strong stat line, to say the least. He averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks. Game 5 and Game 6 were particularly special, as James had back-to back 41-point performances in must-win games. He capped it off with a triple-double, the seventh of his career in the NBA Finals.
It’s a story book ending if there ever were one. The King brings prosperity to the land after severe championship drought. He vanquished warriors that would stand in his way. He wins Finals MVP.
The King won.
Long live the King.