Game 7. The two best words in sports. The final chapter of an NBA Finals for the ages set to commence.
The Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors from Oakland, California, around 8 p.m. ET Sunday, pits LeBron James — one of the greatest players to ever live — against the two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and the best team by record in the history of the NBA.
The pageantry of this series is larger than life.
Golden State, who came into the NBA playoffs as an overwhelming favorite, has surrendered two losses at home and nine losses this postseason which matches the same number of losses suffered during the season. Splash Brothers Klay Thompson and Curry have been anything but consistent in the NBA Finals and have been outplayed by James and guard Kyrie Irving the past two games.
Averaging 41.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists in the last two games, James has been proving why he is still “The King.” Irving is shooting 57.1 percent from the field including 58.3 percent from three while averaging 32.0 points in his last two games.
At home, the Warriors are five-point favorites according to VegasInsider, but anyone who has watched the last two games knows the momentum has swayed to the Wine and Gold.
If the Cavs become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, here are three things to come from a Cavaliers championship.
It’s been well-documented that the city of Cleveland hasn’t had a major sports championship since 1964 when the Browns won the American Football Championship, which was before the merger that created the NFL. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948, and the Cavs have never won an NBA title.
Between all of those years, Cleveland has owned “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” the relocation of a franchise, “The Shot,” “The Decision” and a blown save in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series which encompasses Cleveland’s dubbed nickname, “The Factory of Sadness.”
But a victory on Sunday night in Game 7 has the potential to have a healing ability that can be truly divine. A man whose jersey was burned following his decision to “take (his) talents to South Beach” in 2010 is the same man who promised to cure a city from its championship drought.
But other than ending one of the greatest sports stories, a Cavaliers championship would bring joy to a deteriorating city. The lakefront is pristine and the local restaurants and bars are full of life around the downtown area, but there’s no hiding the woes the city has endured over the years.
At the end of last year’s NBA Finals six-game defeat to the Warriors, Cleveland’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent which is 0.3 percent higher than the national average. 2015 also had the highest number of homicides in a decade in one calendar year, and not to mention the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014, which created a divide between Cleveland law enforcement and the black community that makes up 53.3 percent of the city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Now in 2016, the unemployment rate is down to 4.7 percent, which is lower than the U.S rate of 5.1 percent. James has been an ambassador to the city and a sign of hope. A victory in Game 7 will be a large piece of lifting the city’s spirits.
LeBron James solidifies legendary status
Who’s the best player to ever play the game, Lebron James or Michael Jordan? The debate has been as much of a part of James’ life as the championship drought has been a part of Cleveland history. But ending that drought has been adopted as a priority by James, who is one game away from accomplishing that goal.
It’s hard to say that James isn’t already an NBA legend. All the man has achieved is four MVP awards, two Finals MVPs and two championships among other accolades. However, James has repeatedly said that he came back to The Land in 2014 for one reason: to win a championship.
In 2015, James couldn’t get it done despite averaging 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg and 8.8 apg. So far in 2016, he has collected 30.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg and 8.5 apg. Over his last 12 NBA Finals games, James is averaging an unfathomable 33.0 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 8.7 apg. For some perspective, there have only been two other players (James Worthy and Jerry West) in NBA history to have that stat line in just one NBA Finals game.
It’s no secret that for the Cavs to secure the franchise’s first championship, James will have to be special. Irving will have to continue to produce at 27.9 ppg, and the role players of J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson will have to be key contributors on both ends of the floor. James has much more help than he did have last year, but that’s beside the point.
If James brings a title back to The Land for the first time since 1964, he fulfills a prophecy set in stone since the 2003 NBA draft when James was selected No. 1 overall out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron. Vengeance for his city and achieving destiny will make James a legend in the sports world.
Tyronn Lue renewed as head coach
James has often been deemed “uncoachable.” When Cavaliers coach David Blatt was fired in January, assistant coach Tyronn Lue was handed the reigns. Now he finds himself one game away from becoming the first rookie head coach in NBA history to win a championship.
He’s already the winningest rookie coach in playoff history, but even that isn’t enough to secure his job for the 2016-17 season.
Lue is thought of as more of a “player’s coach.” A strong relationship between James and Lue has been palpable in the playoffs and has grown with each victory. A loss in Game 7 likely won’t be a death sentence for Lue’s status as head coach, but a win will certainly keep him in Cleveland.