OAKLAND, CA — It’s been 52 years, but the so-called curse on the city of Cleveland is finally over. In one of the greatest seventh games in NBA history, the chosen one, LeBron James, delivered on his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland after making the famous decision years ago to leave that city and sign with Miami.
Angry fans, spurned by their native son, had burned his jerseys in Cleveland. He has been heavily criticized nationally by many after going to South Beach and winning back-to-back championships in Miami. After four years, James returned to Cleveland and gave his word he would bring that city a championship as well.
“Just knowing what our city has been through, what northeast Ohio has been through, as far as our sports and everything for the last 50 plus years, they deserve it and it was for them,” James said. He, J.R. Smith, and Coach Tyronn Lue were all emotional, battling tears and soaking up the championship moment. James and his leadership were special; he never stopped believing Cleveland would win it.
Signed, sealed and delivered: It was 93-89 Cleveland in game seven on the road at Golden State, the defending NBA Champion. What a finish! The game was tied 89-89 in the final minute, and James saved a sure Warriors basket by swatting off the glass a certain go-ahead lay-up basket by Andre Iguodala. The Cavaliers defense held the Warriors to just 13 points in the fourth quarter of game seven.
Then his young point guard, Kyrie Irving, who had a great Finals, hit one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history, a coldblooded three-pointer in the face of Stephen Curry. Lights out! Game over! Cleveland becomes the first team in NBA Finals history, after previous teams in the same position went (0-32), to rally from down 3-1 in the Finals to win three straight and capture the NBA Championship.
Not since the 1978 Washington Bullets with Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Bob Dandridge went west and beat Seattle had a road team captured game seven. Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue becomes only the seventh to win the title as a rookie head coach. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr did the same thing, winning last season in his first year.
“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of tough nights,” said Lue, “but I give credit to the team for sticking with me and beside me. Also our ownership Dan Gilbert, Nate Forbes, Jeff Cohen and GM David Griffin having the confidence and belief in me to get the job done. I knew we had the talent to do it.
“The biggest thing was just bringing us together,” Lue said, “playing the right way, sharing the basketball, and holding each other accountable. And I thought we did a great job of doing that.” As great as James is, Irving was brilliant, also with 26 points and six assists plus the game-winning three-point shot.
Just like Kevin Garnett was traded by Minnesota to Boston and captured the crown, ex-Timberwolves star Kevin Love played big in game seven with 14 rebounds to lead the Cavs and scored nine points. His one-on-one defense on Curry in the final seconds was critical.
“It feels so good — unbelievable experience,” said Love. “It’s tough to put into words, you know — NBA Champion. I never got really trapped by the dogma and living with the results of others people’s thinking. I just continue to fight through it, and I knew that tonight I just had to have one great game.”
James, the first player in 50 years to reach six straight NBA Finals, led the Finals in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocked shots and steals. He joins elite company also with his third career title.
He unanimously wins his third NBA Finals MVP award. He averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. He joins Michael Jordan (six), Shaquille O’Neal (three),Tim Duncan (three), and Magic Johnson (three) who have won at least three titles and three Finals MVP honors.
History can be cruel. The Warriors, losing game seven after setting a regular-season win record of 73, join the 2007 New England Patriots (18-1), who were 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the New Giants (17-14). Golden State finished 88-18 combined regular season and playoffs, the most wins ever. However, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) were 87-13 including playoffs and won the title.
Don’t blame Draymond Green. He was brilliant in losing with 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. He’s the first player since Walt Frazier in the 1970 New York Knicks to score 22 points in the first half of an NBA Finals game seven.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.