LeBron and Cavs Break Championship Drought With Comeback Win Over Favored Warriors
By: Jake Wolf and Daniel Lively
After 52 years, all is right in the city of Cleveland. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving completed a stunning comeback that gave Cleveland fans their first championship since Otto Graham and the 1964 Browns. The Cavaliers faced off against MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a matchup for the ages.
The Warriors, led by versatile power forward Draymond Green, took a seemingly insurmountable 3–1 lead in the NBA Finals. However, the tide turned when Green was suspended from Game 5 of the series for amassing too many flagrant fouls. Without having to face Golden State’s defensive stopper, James and Irving became the first pair of teammates to score over 40 points each in a single game. Green returned in Game 6, but the momentum had already shifted to the Cavs, and James scored another 40 points, carrying the team to a decisive Game 7.
Despite the dominance of James, many doubted that the Cavs could overcome Curry, the first unanimous MVP in league history, who was backed by a Warriors squad that accumulated 73 regular season wins, an NBA record. The Warriors were able to get open shots for Green, and he converted many of them, scoring 32 points on 6-of-8 shooting from three, picking up the slack left by the slumping Splash Brothers, Curry and Klay Thompson. Green also added 15 rebounds and nine assists, but it was not enough to hold off the surging Cavs.
Cleveland was led by Finals MVP James, who had his 15th career playoff triple double. Kyrie Irving also had a three pointer to put the Cavs ahead for good with 53 seconds left. The Cavs became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3–1 deficit and win the Finals.
James, a four-time league MVP, grew up under an hour away from Cleveland. He was a high school star who was drafted by the hometown Cavs in 2003. James left the team in 2010 via free agency in a highly publicized decision that led to outrage in Cleveland. After winning two championships with the Miami Heat, he returned to the Cavs in the 2014 offseason.
The Cavs had a tumultuous season on their road to the finals. Highly-criticized power forward Kevin Love had to deal with trade rumors swirling all season, and the entire team had difficulty adjusting to a coaching change. Second-year coach David Blatt was fired in January, and assistant coach Tyronn Lue was hired to take his place. While the team struggled at first, they eventually adapted to Lue’s fast-paced coaching style, and earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
While Cavalier Nation was certainly holding their breath when Curry took a potential game-tying shot with seven seconds left, they were even more worried when James hurt his wrist on the ensuing possession. However, rather than leaving the game, he calmly hit one of his two free throws to clinch the victory and put the final score at 93–89.
The championship parade was well-attended, with hundreds of thousands of people present to celebrate the first championship in franchise history. Memorable moments from the celebration were plentiful, including shooting guard J.R. Smith partying shirtless, James holding up the trophy and thanking the city of Cleveland, and wing Richard Jefferson announcing that he will play one more season, after announcing his retirement the previous day.
The Cavs will look to defend their championship next season, with only three players set to hit free agency. The Warriors hope to bounce back, but are ready for a potentially major shake-up this offseason, as both Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, two of their major contributors, will be free agents, and rumors of a Kevin Durant pursuit continue to swirl.