Three of the past four Finals I’ve wanted the LeBron James-led team to lose. When Golden State overcame a 3-1 deficit against Oklahoma City it marked the first time since LeBron’s first title that I wanted his team to win.
It’s funny how things change. Think about how Cleveland built their roster immediately after LeBron signed there. They had lottery picks Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, and then shortly after they acquired Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even after LeBron said in his letter that it’d take some time before Cleveland would build a winner, people knew that Cleveland was the team to beat in the East. That happened before Warrior David Lee was injured in preseason to force Steve Kerr to start some guy named Draymond Green at power forward. In January 2015 Cleveland traded for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and then Timofey Mozgov. But in back-to-back seasons, the Warriors had the far superior team to Cleveland’s super team even though Cleveland had staggering good talent. Somehow, someway Golden State created a new way of basketball. The team’s primary source of scoring came from two guards who like to take shots from deep. Mix those shooters with two hyperactive wings, an Aussie not afraid of anyone and a player in Green who totally changed the dynamics of the Warrior franchise.
I don’t think I’ll ever know how Cleveland really beat the Warriors. Some point to Game 5 with Green suspended the pumped new life into Cleveland. Kyrie couldn’t miss no matter whom Golden State used to contain him. I find it hard to believe anyone would slow down LeBron and Kyrie’s 82 points in Game 5. Game 6 began with Cleveland blitzing Golden State, building a double-digit lead in the first half. Cleveland rode that momentum to a win. LeBron and Tristan Thompson were phenomenal in Game 6. Thompson benefited from Bogut’s injury. JR Smith’s 6-0 run in the third quarter might’ve saved Cleveland in Game 7, but it’s impossible to ignore how truly remarkable LeBron played.
LeBron led the Finals in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He did everything for Cleveland. Even in the fourth quarter where people will credit Irving for hitting the shot to ultimately give Cleveland the win, LeBron was the hero. In the fourth LeBron finished with 11 points, three rebounds and one of the best blocks you’ll ever see. He looked tired. Cleveland ran makeshift isolations to stall on offense. LeBron didn’t have much left in the tank. The fact that he completed the chase down block on Andre Iguodala signifies the type of competitor he is.Look at the replay, and it’s absurd how much ground LeBron made up to block Iguodala’s shot.
LeBron does things on the court that few people in the history of mankind can do. LeBron didn’t need this title to validate his career. He’ll go down as one of the three best players ever. No one at the NBA level has been able to score, rebound, pass and defend at the high level LeBron does on a nightly basis. LeBron will finish top 10 all-time in points, assists and maybe even steals. Only Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Russell Westbrook (each doing it once) averaged at least 27 points, seven rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game in a season. That’s what LeBron averages for his career.
Jordan’s the greatest player ever. I’m never going to doubt that. He went six-for-six in the NBA Finals. There’s a sense of mystic behind his career. Like imagine he never took a break from basketball. Jordan’s the ultimate legend. He did things in games that’ll never be outdone. The first jersey I got was Michael Jordan for kindergarten graduation. I remember watching re-runs of the 1998 NBA Finals Game 6. I wish I was older at that time. Maybe I could remember Jordan as the best player I ever watched, but what LeBron did against Golden State with his team down 3-1 ranks as the top NBA accomplishment I’ve seen.