He’s a villain to many, and infamous to some. But right after Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James finally fulfilled his promise to his home city, Cleveland Ohio, it desperately coveted for 52 futile years.
Wearing the Miami Heat colors in the postseason of 2014, James and the rest of the South Beach squad got hammered by the San Antonio Spurs in five short games in the championship. A little over a month later, he released a statement that gave hope to his hometown, which almost placed him to their shortlist of enemies on his decision back in 2010.
James was put into realization after winning two titles with the Heat. In his Cleveland return essay, he mentioned “When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time.”
In addition, he stressed on giving the city of Cleveland it deserved for a very long time, and give the passionate fans experience the feeling of being a champion – a feat that Cleveland was not accustomed to, on all major American Sports.
“I always believed that I return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.” uttered James. “I’m coming home.”
They came up short last year, despite taking a 2-1 series lead against the 2015 NBA Champs Golden State Warriors. The lack of support due to injuries to two of their main guys Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love affected the performance of the Cavs. However, James provided a good fight, posting norms of 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rbg and almost nine assists in six games. These godly numbers, unfortunately, were not enough to stop the firepower Stephen Curry and the rest of his crew had in that series.
Curry and the Warriors were the talk of the present, as the Warriors were predicted by some to repeat in 2016. For them, their championship had somewhat an asterisk due to doubts in the injured players they had to avoid in their path for last year’s title. They were on the mission on the ‘15-’16 season, breezing their way to a 73-9 regular season finish, breaking the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72 victories.
Whoever came out of the West was favored to win it all, and everyone thought that the Cavs will easily come out from the Eastern Conference. True enough, it was the two teams who got the chance to clash once again. This time, both teams having a full set of rosters.
The Warriors steamrolled in the first two games to jump out of the series early. Cleveland bounced back in Game 3, but collapsed late in the next match that gave the Warriors a 3-1 series lead.
With their backs against the wall for the remainder of the series, LeBron had no choice but to lift his squad to save their season. In the fifth game of the series, which was played in a rocking Oracle Arena ready to celebrate a back-to-back championship, James and Kyrie Irving both had 41 points to cancel out any parties that night.
As if they weren’t done, they hammered the Warriors in Game 6 back at the Quicken Loans Arena with another 41-point outing from James. What was once a seemingly done deal became a series all of a sudden and LeBron knew this was his golden chance to fulfil his promise.
Prior to this series, James came in with a 2-4 win-loss slate in his Finals stint. One of the two, of course, came with an asterisk, as Ray Allen’s iconic three-pointer in 2013 saved the Heat from the Spurs. Coming to Game 7 of this series, as much as he wants his Cleveland to win, he wants to save his legacy, proving to his doubters that he is still ‘The King’ in the league.
As the final game of the season went underway, James kept his team afloat, as they shrugged off hot shooting from the Dubs and LeBron having four of his five turnovers in the first quarter. He had three blocks, all coming from chase downs, which were potential momentum-shifting baskets for the Warriors. To seal the deal, his free throw with 10 seconds extended the game to a two-possession affair, which was enough for the Cavaliers to win it all.
An emotional James was seen after the grind-it-out game, a picture which was not seen in his two titles in Miami. He defeated the two-time MVP Curry and managed to defeat the Warriors for three straight times in the whole season. He looked like the King once again. At that point, he knew he accomplished his mission.
“I set a goal, two years ago when I came back to give a championship to this city. I gave everything I had, I put my heart, my blood, my sweat, and my tears to this game against all odds.” he said in his post game interview. (Jan Christan Gonzales)