My apologies to Cleveland

By Steve Sell
June 20, 2016

A thousand apologies to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I was wrong.

Terribly wrong.

For two weeks I had basically belittled the Cavaliers’ chances in the NBA Finals as I thought a Golden State repeat was nothing more than a formality.

When the Warriors decimated the Cavaliers in the first two games in Oakland — and Cleveland didn’t look as though it belonged on the same court — it was my intention of not even watching the series to its conclusion as I thought it was going to end in four games, five at the most.

So imagine my chagrin when the Cavaliers, down 3-1 in the series and heading to Oakland for Game 5, kept it alive. I had a feeling Cleveland might win Game 6 at home to give the series some intrigue, but never in a million years did I think the Cavaliers could win again in Oakland, in Game 7 no less.

It’s the first time in NBA Finals history a team has overcome a 3-1 deficit, made even more remarkable by the Cavs winning two games on the road. Golden State had torn through the regular season with the best record in NBA history at 73-9 and once they survived a war with Oklahoma City, Cleveland was expected to be Finals fodder.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think the better team won. But as McPherson High boys coach Kurt Kinnamon often says to me, “the team with the best player always has a chance to win.”

And that player was LeBron James. The finals MVP, LeBron made good on his promise to bring an NBA title to his native Cleveland, which had not experienced a championship of any kind in a major sport since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL. That happened to be the first NFL game I watched as a kid as Jim Brown led his team to the championship.

James is a once-in-a-generation athlete. He is brutishly strong and handles the ball like a guard. The block he made near the end of the game to save a basket was one of the most remarkable and athletic plays I’ve ever seen. While he didn’t shoot it all that well and it actually was Kyrie Irving who hit the clutch basket that won it, there’s no denying LeBron’s greatness, which puts him a shade behind Michael Jordan in my opinion, but up with all the other greats of our time.

The NBA brass got what it wanted with a LeBron vs. Steph Curry matchup, but Curry was off his game throughout the Finals. He almost looked worn down to me as the NBA season, as I have maintained for years, is simply too long. I wouldn’t call this a great game from the way it was played, but it sure filled the bill from an excitement standpoint.

Thankfully the City of Cleveland finally has another championship. Hopefully it won’t have to wait another 52 years for another one.