It’s amazing how the narrative of a story can change in just one week. How many of you reading this had the Cleveland Cavaliers dead in the water a week ago? Be honest.
Facing a 3-1 deficit against the defending champs and the reigning MVP Steph Curry, it was hard not to think that way. But in the end, the will of LeBron James was stronger than the magical season of the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
Since the Cavs lost the finals to the Warriors in six games last year, we’ve waited for these two teams to meet on a collision course. The Warriors were the most consistent team in the Western Conference all year and a Cavs bulldozed through the Eastern Conference. But before we could blink the finals were here and the Warriors had a 3-1 lead over the Cavs.
It had to be at that very moment that it dawned on James that a 3-4 record in the Finals looked a whole lot better than 2-5.
We know James’s much-maligned struggles in the finals. Collapses, meltdowns, embarrassing performances, dissipated expectations. But this year he had no excuse if he were to lose even though he had to face the statistically winningest team in NBA history. The King had to find a way to get it done.
James had the coach he wanted in Tyronn Lue after the ousting of David Blatt. Barring two losses to the Toronto Raptors, the Cavs had an easier path to the NBA Finals than the Warriors. Last but not least James had help in fellow stars Kevin Love and more than enough help in Kyrie Irving who put Steph Curry and the league on notice that he’s every bit as good as, if not better than the league’s first ever unanimous MVP.
Having said all that Cleveland still managed to find themselves facing an improbable 3-1 deficit. This wasn’t just any 3-1 deficit. The Cavs were facing a team who won the most games in the regular season in NBA history, set the record for highest points-per-game, just overcame a 3-1 deficit in their own right against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and had the back-to-back MVP leading them. The odds seemed insurmountable.
With three chances to win one game, two of them on home court, the Warriors had more than enough opportunities to close out the Cavaliers. Not to mention they had history on their side seeing as how home teams had gone 15-3 in game 7 of the NBA Finals and no team ever erased a 3-1 deficit in the championship series.
That was until last night. Words can’t fully express what we witnessed. It took back-to-back 40+ scoring performances and a triple-double in game 7 for James to secure his third NBA championship. We can argue over whether Irving deserved the Finals MVP over James, or if perhaps they should have been Co-MVP’s, but it’s safe to say they equally needed each other to win this series.
The Warriors become the latest powerhouse regular season team to fail to win the big game. They now join the ranks of the 2007 New England Patriots and the 2015 Carolina Panthers.
.@warriors We know how you feel, friend. First round is on us.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) June 20, 2016
Despite a tremendous effort by Draymond Green in game 7, the other two members of their big three in Klay Thompson and Curry failed to show up. And in the biggest game of his career, Curry managed to score a pedestrian 17 points.
Before Sunday night’s game, 32 teams tried to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals and 32 teams failed. The difference between those teams and this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers team is that they didn’t have LeBron James, who was determined to bring Cleveland their first major sports title in over 52 years.
In the end the will of LeBron James proved too much for either of the Splash Brothers to contend with. And that three-pointer by Irving over Curry turned this season for the Warriors from 73-9 to 73-and-who cares?
There’s a thin line between being on the right side of history or the wrong side of history. In this series both teams found that out. For all the wins the Warriors accumulated this season, they were unable to secure the final 16 needed to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. On the other hand, Cleveland was.
Job well done King.
Marcus Lamar is a New York-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.