LeBron James is on a quest to finally bring a championship back to the city of Cleveland. He has another opportunity on the horizon as he has led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for a second-consecutive season.
This time, not only is Cleveland in position to finally win a sports championship, but are in a position for revenge.
Last year the Cavs were defeated in six games by the Golden State Warriors, who just overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder to be able to defend their title. LeBron and company were not fully equipped last year as supporting stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were both injured. This year, the Cavs are at full strength and are fully rested.
Some players either never reach an NBA Finals or never get back to one. LeBron is not on that list of players as he is making his sixth-consecutive NBA Finals appearance. This is his second straight as a member of the Cavaliers. He also made four-consecutive appearances while he was a member of the Miami Heat. His overall record in Finals is 2-4, so this series will loom huge on his career, not so much his legacy.
A season ago in the NBA Finals, LeBron was a man possessed and dominated the entire series without his co-stars. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, including three 40-point games. The difference from then and now is the fact that both Irving and Love will be at his disposal, so he won’t have to be the sole player leading this team. The pressure of doing it all is now lessened, as long as those two keep up their end of the bargain. LeBron is averaging 24.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7 assists while shooting 54% from the floor.
James will also be looking to prove why he is the Most Valuable Player and not Steph Curry, who was named the first-ever unanimous NBA MVP. You can argue about who deserved the MVP award this season, but now LeBron is out to show the voters why they got it wrong.
Kyrie Irving went down at the end of Game 1 of last year’s Finals, but is now back and finally fully healthy. During the Cavaliers cruise through the Eastern Conference, Irving averaged 24.3 points and 5.1 assists and shot 48% from the floor and 45% from deep. Will he be guarding Steph Curry or Klay Thompson? That question remains to be answered, but he better pack a lunch and wear a hard hat as he will definitely have his hands full.
Kevin Love might be the biggest x-factor for the Cavs in this series. He can light it up from deep, which will get Andrew Bogut out of the paint and free up some space for guys like LeBron and Irving to penetrate. Love averaged 17.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game during the first three rounds, but showed some inconsistencies. In games 3 and 4 in Toronto, Love was held to just 13 combined points, but then responded by scoring 25 and 20 points in the next two games. However, those 20-plus point games came while the Cavs blew out the Toronto Raptors. He will need to play a much bigger role in order to take down the Warriors. Another thing to note is the fact Love is a defensive liability, which is why he doesn’t get a lot of fourth quarter minutes.
J.R. Smith will need to contribute in this series and not go missing like he did last year. He has averaged 12 points per game in the playoffs and is shooting 46% from beyond the arc. He will also be assigned to try and guard Curry and Thompson, which could be troublesome. Matthew Dellavedova will need to be prepared as he will be needed to come in at times and relieve Irving. It’s one thing when the Cavs are beating up on the weak Eastern Conference, but it’s a whole new world when going up against the Splash Brothers. Channing Frye needs to continue to be the veteran role player that comes in and knocks down shots. Tristin Thompson will need to assert himself on the glass to give his team more opportunities to score.
LeBron has all the pieces he didn’t have a season ago and plus a couple extra. He even has the coach he wanted in Tyronn Lue. There will be a heavy amount of pressure on his shoulders, but he welcomes the challenge. Many don’t think the Cavs can beat the Warriors or even be all that competitive, which will only make King James even more determined.
The King and all his men will try and end a 52-year drought from its last championship, which was won by the Cleveland Browns in 1964. Before that, the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series in 1948. The only recent championship for Cleveland, if you wish to count it, was Stipe Miocic winning the UFC world heavyweight championship a few weeks ago. Miocic hails from Cleveland.
LeBron James promised the city of Cleveland a championship on a couple different occasions. The first was when he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2003 and again before last season when he returned after ripping the heart of Cavs fans completely out four years prior when he took his talents to South Beach.
He now has another chance to bring his career full-circle and deliver on his promise and bring Cleveland its first sports championship in over half a century.