NBA Championship

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Please forgive me while I gloat a little while. Last season the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors met to decide the NBA title. The Warriors eventually prevailed, but I said at the time I thought they were lucky. Kevin Love, one of the Cavaliers’ better players had been hurt in a previous series and couldn’t play. Kyrie Irving, their other star, was hurt in the first game against the Warriors, and was unable to retur Cleveland played well enough to win the first game of the series (but didn’t), then won the next two. At that point though, the Warriors’ superior depth began wearing the Cavaliers down, and they won the final three games pretty easily. But this season was different.
Yes, the Warriors set a record by winning 73 out of 82 regular season games, mostly with the greatest of ease, but the playoffs were different. Before meeting Cleveland the Oklahoma City Thunder gave them a lot of trouble, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Golden State came back and won, but they were probably tired entering the Cleveland series. It didn’t show though in the first four games, of which the Warriors won three. I began watching with the fifth game, which is where the series began turning around.
It’s not unusual for teammates to score twenty or more points apiece. Thirty apiece is less common, but by no means unheard of. But forty points apiece IS virtually unheard of. That’s what James and Irving did to Golden State in the fifth game, which was at Golden State. One observer said he thought that Golden State expected to win that game easily, and weren’t able to adjust when they didn’t.
In the sixth game Irving played well, but not as well as the previous game. James was the transcendent star of the game, scoring some time during the second half eighteen straight points when no one else was scoring for Cleveland. Apparently no one could stop him. He also rebounded, fed teammates for baskets, and blocked shots. The block he made in the seventh game may have been more dramatic because the score was tied at 89 and the game was almost over, but I doubt it was any more skillful than several blocks in game six.
I watched the first half of game seven, then had to go to work, so didn’t get to see much of the second half. It wasn’t like previous games, in which the Cavaliers got off to a big lead and won. The game apparently was close just about all the way to the end. Kyrie Irving hit a three to give Cleveland the lead, and that was when LeBron made the block so many people are talking about to preserve the lead. James ended by leading both teams in scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks, and maybe steals. Not many players have dominated the way he did in this series.
He had led Cleveland to the finals once before, but they simply didn’t have the talent then to compete. He then decided to go to Miami, a decision I didn’t care for, but could understand. He knew what kind of level he was playing on, and wanted to win championships. He won two out of four times there, and evidently learned what it takes for a team to win on the NBA level, seeing both what succeeded and what failed. His return to Cleveland took me by surprise, though.
Some commentators pointed out that his return gave him a lot of power, which is unusual for any athlete, even a professional, to have. That was true, but I think he actually wanted to bring a championship to Cleveland, since he had grown up in that part of Ohio. When he got there Irving was already there (and was probably one of the reasons that persuaded James to return), but there wasn’t a great deal of other talent. More was obtained his first year back, as Cleveland traded its first round pick to get Kevin Love, and management went out and got several role players who contributed. The first season they ran into bad luck, but this year they succeeded.
I remember the last time a Cleveland sports team won a championship. It was in 1964 and I was fifteen. There have been several agonizing near misses since then. At least once the Browns almost won a playoff game, but John Elway took the Denver Bronchoes on a long drive to win. The Cavaliers came close to beating the Chicago Bulls, but Michael Jordan kept that from happening with a basket as time ran out. And the Cleveland Indians went to the World Series twice and lost twice, the second time in extra innings. Their drought wasn’t as long as the Boston Red Sox before 2004 or that of the Chicago Cubs. The difference is that NO Cleveland team won for 52 years. In Boston the Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots all won. In Chicago the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, and White Sox all won. The current edition of the Cleveland Browns has never won (the previous team went to Baltimore and became the Ravens), the Indians haven’t won since 1948, and the Cavaliers had never won before this season. Up until the 1960s Cleveland was a pretty important city, but it has become less important since the steel mills left. So having a championship team is a nice thing for the city. It may not contribute anything of economic substance, but it definitely makes Clevelanders (including those of us who are transplants) feel better.
Will the Cavaliers or any other Cleveland team win another championship any time soon? Probably not immediately, but it’s not impossible. The Indians are currently leading their division, but that doesn’t mean they’re a real contender yet. The Browns seem to be lost, so I wouldn’t expect much from them. But while it’s unusual for any team to repeat, I wouldn’t necessarily count the Cavaliers out of the running the next few years. LeBron James is still at his magesterial best, and probably will be for a few more years. He may decide not to stay with the Cavaliers, but I hope he decides that Cleveland is home. He’s now won three championships (although in seven tries), and I’m sure would like to win at least one or two more. Cleveland may not be his best bet for doing that, but it’s not impossible that they’ll stay good for several more seasons. At least I hope so.

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