LeBron James and the Cavaliers have done the unthinkable: dethrone the Warriors and bring an NBA title back to Cleveland.
The Golden State Warriors, themselves champions of impossibility, could only be undone by the unthinkable. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers provided it. After trailing 3–1 in a championship series steering toward certain doom, the Cavs dramatically reversed course to win three straight games—the last a 93-89 victory in Game 7 on Sunday—and claim the 2016 NBA title. Such a thing has never been done in the history of the league. Cleveland is the first—just as it becomes the first team to ever topple a 73–win titan, the likes of which the NBA had never seen before.
All of this from a Cavs team that, on its surface, is utterly imperfect. The iso–hungry Kyrie Irving put on a shot-making display worthy of the Finals lore. Kevin Love, who had seemed out of sorts for much of the series, keyed critical stretches with his rebounding and contributed to a significant, winning margin during his minutes on the floor. Cleveland got the requisite burst of scoring from J.R. Smith and some timely defense from Tristan Thompson. Underscoring it all was James, just the kind of ballast that can take these sometimes disparate parts and move them to a championship sensibility. The greatness of LeBron James has never much been in doubt to those paying attention. A title like this, however, is incontrovertible in a way that cannot be denied. One of the greatest players the game has ever known delivered in every respect.
Such minor decisions bleed in the binary of the series but claim incredible consequence. We’ll always remember LeBron at his best, Irving’s shot to the moon, and the euphoria of a Cavaliers championship. Yet we can never forget that it was through even the most seemingly trivial plays that Cleveland won it all and Golden State lost everything.