The Kid From Akron Gets It Done

I’ll be honest, I had an article written about LeBron James’ legacy going forward now that he was 2-5 in his NBA Finals’ career. After losing in Game four in Cleveland, I was for certain that the series was over.

Then the best player in the NBA stepped up and proved me wrong.

Watching Games 5-7 of these NBA Finals was something I have never seen before. All my years of watching James play what I always thought was his best basketball comes nowhere close to what happened on the court in the last three games of the Finals this year. I, along with every other person watching, saw the best player take all the criticism he had received his whole career, and turn it into a performance for the ages.

James’ entire career had been based, in part, on him not doing the things that fans and analysts alike wanted him to do, and what we all thought he was capable of doing. Every disappointing game, every game-winning drive to the basket turned down to pass, it all came down to this series.

The mental switch from Game four to Game five shows LeBron’s greatness. Not many are able to shake off the critics, close themselves off, and continue to hold the belief that they are the best. To continue that into Game 6, having back-to-back 41 point games, and bringing it to an unlikely Game 7 once again was almost video game-like. At that point, one had to think momentum was on the Cavs’ side, and that Cleveland could not be heartbroken once more.

But going into that final game, there were still several things that LeBron and the Cavs has to overcome. One being  the fact that the Warriors were the “greatest” regular-season team of all-time. The second being that no team had come back from being down 3-1 in a Finals’ series to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Finally, the game was in Oakland, where the Warriors have only lost twice during the regular season. It was amazing that the Cavaliers had come this far, but it still seemed like they would not get it done. Yet, something unbelievable happened.

Game 7 was what we all wanted for the first six games. Close throughout with great play by both teams. 20 lead changes with 11 ties makes for a classic. The biggest lead by either team was eight by the Warriors. Former Spartan Draymond Green showed up with 32 points, while James finished with a triple-double. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry, however, finished his poor Finals series with a pedestrian game as he shot 4-14 from three-point range. Meanwhile, the man guarding him most of the series, Kyrie Irving, had a series that could be the start of a hall-of-fame career as he had 26 points and a three with 53 seconds left that essentially won the game for the Cavs.

Of course no  game including James comes without drama. With 10 seconds left the superstar went up for a dunk after a beautiful pass from Irving for game-ending and historical dunk.

However, with Green fouling him, James came down hard on his wrist. The man who has played the game since he was 18 has gone his entire career without one serious injury was rolling on the court in pain. There was no way, in the final moments before he brings home a title to the city he promised one to, that he was going to get hurt. Yet, the man who has endured so much in his career, got up to finish off what he pledged two years ago. One free throw later, and a great defensive sequence by Cleveland, the “Chosen One” finally accomplished what he set out to do 13 years ago.

This title is something that many in sports seemed to think was a foregone conclusion. With a former No. 1 pick in Irving, a star in Kevin Love, and the phenomenal leader and all-around player that is James, the Cavs had what seemed like an easy title winner for years. However, as we all saw, it is not that easy. Chemistry, leadership, and coaching are just a few factors that come into play when a team wants to make the leap to greatness. James, being the behind-the-scenes coach, general manager, and owner, controlled this team. That is why he got all the hate for losing last year to the Warriors. All of it was deserving because this was the team he wanted. But, that is also why he deserves all the credit. Yes, his teammates obviously carried him at points and showed their own flashes of brilliance. With that being said, James led by example in every way. That is why when the team was presented the trophy, it immediately went to James.

He took the weight of an entire city, even a state on his shoulders, and responded.

As a member of the media, I immediately wanted to look forward for the Cavs. Can they repeat? Can LeBron bring another title to the city that went so long without one? As important as these questions are, I think we should let them be asked at another time. Taking in the moment of greatness that we witnessed, and appreciating a once-in-a-lifetime talent that is James is foremost to any speculation for the future. What just happened never happened before, and may never happen again. A kid from a small town in Northeast Ohio grew before our eyes. He matured but left the people that loved him. He then learned, came back with a promise, and got it done.