LeBron validates greatness by winning title for Cleveland

OAKLAND, Calif., (Reuters) – LeBron James may be the self-proclaimed “King” but after delivering an NBA title to long-suffering Cleveland on Sunday the best player of his generation will forever be considered royalty by Cavaliers fans.

In what may ultimately prove to be the greatest achievement of an already storied career, James led Cleveland back from the brink of defeat to the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history on Sunday.

For James, who returned to Cleveland in 2014 after spending the previous four years with the Miami Heat, the win gave him his third NBA championship and fulfilled a promise to deliver a title to his home state of Ohio.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James celebrates with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven. (Reuters)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James celebrates with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven. (Reuters)

To capture the against-all-odds championship, James had to steer the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 Finals deficit. In each of the 32 prior instances, the team facing such a deficit had lost the Finals and only two forced a Game Seven.

“I don’t know why the man above give me the hardest road, but … the man above don’t put you in situations that you can’t handle,” said James.

“I just kept that same positive attitude. Instead of saying why me, I said this is what He wants me to do. And, uh, Cleveland — this is for you!”

When the final buzzer sounded in Oakland, it kicked off a wave of celebrations in Cleveland, where countless Cavaliers supporters were sporting James’s No. 23 jersey.

It was a far cry from 2010 when James spurned his home state for Miami in an ill-advised television special that skewed his public image and saw Cavaliers fans burn his replica jerseys in the Cleveland streets.

While some fans did not forgive James when he announced two years ago that he was “coming home,” his ability to deliver the city its first pro sports championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns of the National Football League may surely win them over.

Winning a title for his hometown team proved an emotional moment for LeBron, who dropped to the floor at the final buzzer and was left with tears rolling down his face as he cradled the glittering Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

“What’s going through my mind is I’m ready to get back to Cleveland. I can’t wait to get off that plane and hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal,” said James.

“And I know they’re going to be ready. So I can’t wait to give the emotion back to them. I’m looking forward to it. That’s all.”

James was voted the unanimous winner of the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after averaging 29.7 points per game, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists in the best-of-seven championship series.

It marked his third Finals MVP award, as he also took the award in 2012 and 2013 with Miami, and put him in select company with Michael Jordan (six), Shaquille O’Neal (three), Tim Duncan (three) and Magic Johnson (three) as the only players who have won at least three Finals MVP awards.

“Right now it’s just excitement. It’s not even relief,” said James. “It’s just excitement for us as a team, as a franchise, as a city, as a community.

“To be able to continue to build up our city, to continue to be an inspiration to our city, it means everything. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

List of NBA Finals MVP winners
June 19 – List of NBA Finals Most Valuable Player winners:
2016 – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
2015 – Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
2014 – Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
2013 – LeBron James, Miami Heat
2012 – LeBron James, Miami Heat
2011 – Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
2010 – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2009 – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2008 – Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
2007 – Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
2006 – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
2005 – Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
2004 – Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons
2003 – Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
2002 – Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles Lakers
2001 – Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles Lakers
2000 – Shaquille O’Neal, Los Angeles Lakers

List of NBA champions
June 19 – List of National Basketball Association champions:
2016 – Cleveland Cavaliers def. Golden State Warriors 4-3
2015 – Golden State Warriors def. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2
2014 – San Antonio Spurs def. Miami Heat 4-1
2013 – Miami Heat def. San Antonio Spurs 4-3
2012 – Miami Heat def. Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1
2011 – Dallas Mavericks def. Miami Heat 4-2
2010 – Los Angeles Lakers def. Boston Celtic 4-3
2009 – Los Angeles Lakers def. Orlando Magic 4-1
2008 – Boston Celtics def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-2
2007 – San Antonio Spurs def. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0
2006 – Miami Heat def. Dallas Mavericks 4-2
2005 – San Antonio Spurs def. Detroit Pistons 4-3
2004 – Detroit Pistons def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
2003 – San Antonio Spurs def. New Jersey Nets 4-2
2002 – Los Angeles Lakers def. New Jersey Nets 4-0
2001 – Los Angeles Lakers def. Philadelphia 76ers 4-1
2000 – Los Angeles Lakers def. Indiana Pacers 4-2

 

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