The city of Cleveland, time and time again, had suffered heartbreak. The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. The (Fill in the Blank).
Point is, it was bad. More-than-a-half-of-a-century-without-a-championship bad. The city reacted in turn, struggling to trust, struggling to believe.
But for whatever reason, that really wasn’t the case during the 2016 NBA Finals.
“Going into this series specifically, there was definitely a lot more optimism,” 92.3 The Fan’s Adam The Bull said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “But before this series and certainly before LeBron came back, it was all about that. It was, ‘It’s never going to happen. We’re jinxed. We’re cursed. Something is going to go wrong. Something’s going to go bad.’ That was always the feeling, but LeBron changed that. LeBron gave people hope and gave them optimism and there was a lot of confidence in this team going into the series.”
Then the Cavs lost Games 1 and 2 by an NBA Finals record 48 points. And, despite winning Game 3 by 30 points, lost Game 4 in Cleveland, 108-97. The Cavs were faced with the prospect of doing something no team had done in the Steve Kerr era: beat the Warriors three straight times.
The series, for all intents and purposes, was over.
“Obviously down 3-1, most of that (optimism) went away,” The Bull said. “But once they got it to 3-2 coming home, it started to pick up again – and then certainly (once it was tied) 3-3, the full confidence was back that the Cavs were going to find a way in Game 7.”
The Cavs overcame an eight-point second-half deficit to beat the Warriors, 93-89, at ORACLE Arena on Sunday, becoming the first road team to win a Game 7 in the Finals since 1978 and bringing Cleveland its first championship of any kind since 1964.
James, with averages of 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks, was names unanimous Finals MVP – which, in a way, serves Golden State right. After all, the Warriors disrespected James throughout the series, from the way they guarded him to what they said about him between games.
“It was stunning to me,” The Bull said. “Listen, great athletes are cocky. We know that. Nobody’s trying to say that LeBron’s not cocky. Of course he is. But the cockiness from the Warriors – when Klay Thompson is talking about LeBron and saying ‘This is a man’s game’ and kind of taking a shot at him, LeBron is the man in the NBA. Steph Curry may be the best shooter in the NBA, but I don’t think there’s any debate as to who the best player still is in the league. Steph Curry does nothing – except for outside shooting – better than LeBron. Nothing.
“I can’t explain it,” The Bull continued. “I think at 3-1, they thought the series was over. I think they lost their mojo or whatever cliche you want to use, took the foot of the gas pedal, and they disregarded the Cavs (and LeBron). They thought they had it in the bad at 3-1, they let it get away from them, and the Cavs took full advantage.”