Culture of Cleveland
A Kid from Akron Ohio.
King James. The Chosen One. Actually, he’s better known to the city of Cleveland as just a kid from Akron. No athlete has been more important to the city they were raised in than LeBron James. After an early coronation as the chosen one to the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, James has carried the weight of this state on his back since he was 18 years old. He has been the guy who was supposed to end the 52 year drought for a major sports championship in Cleveland, what kind of pressure must that be on a man? After a stint in Miami following a tough playoff loss in Cleveland, LeBron made the decision to come back to his home state team and deliver a much coveted championship to northeast Ohio. From day one, LeBron James has completely changed the culture of this team to ensure they were ready to help him deliver his promise of a championship.
The first year in the return of The King was no smooth sailing ship. The Cavs had some mid-season trades, some time without their leader while he healed up and prepared for the rest of the season, and a whole lot of media talk about the chemistry they were developing. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are proven players in this league, extremely talented, but never knew how to win. LeBron knew he was going to have a challenge teaching this young core what it took to ultimately be the last team standing, and to the enjoyment of the media they had some tough times learning under his wings. LeBron continued to state day after day that his job was to lead these guys, and boy was he right. He took on the challenge of showing these two, as well as newly acquired players such as JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, the ropes of what it takes to be a champion in this league. Much like LeBron had to do in Miami, these guys had to have ups and downs and experience to know what they needed to do to help LeBron. He has been a class act and an ultimate pro throughout his career and he led by his words and example. He made winning and enjoying it the most important thing in the lives of his teammates. JR has had issues in the past of partying and not taking the game seriously and look what LeBron did with this man. He absolutely transformed this man’s career, turning JR Smith into a true professional who wanted to win. LeBron dedicated himself to his teammates and making sure they were well equipped, and in turn they gained a respect for him that made them want to give their all to help him conquer his goals.
The controversy surrounding this team continued with the emergence of Golden State and the struggles of Cleveland. They end up sliding through the Eastern Conference without too much of a problem, but there was something else that was haunting the Cavs. Two injuries severely hurt their chances at a Larry O’Brien trophy. Kevin Love was injured in the first round and was done for the playoffs, and Kyrie was hobbled with knee and shoulder injuries. All in all, LeBron led his squad to his fifth consecutive finals game. Game 1 was a memorable one, but one the Cavs would like to forget. Kyrie end up dislocating his kneecap to leave LeBron without his second and third best players. That is when this kid from Akron decided he would have to take over. LeBron averaged mind-boggling stats, leading his troops to a 2-1 lead in the NBA finals without his two all-star teammates. Unfortunately, it was not enough and they ended up dropping three in a row to a much healthier Golden State squad. The loss was hard on everyone, especially King James. Although the pain was major, something good still came out of this loss. With the way LeBron led his team and absolutely gave everything he had, he showed the rest of his team what it was going to take to eventually win the championship. With Kyrie and Kev sitting on the bench and being able to watch this man’s dedication and drive, it must have given them a sense of drive as well to help him bring home a trophy to Cleveland. He helped plant a seed in their minds of what it was going to take, but they also got to see the heartbreak of their teammates that drove them to not have to experience that same pain. The players on this team knew that this journey was just beginning, and as fans, we were all excited to see what was going to happen next.
From side tweets to mid-season trades, the Cavaliers 2015-2016 campaign was just about everything but smooth sailing. The media covering this team was pecking at just about every story they could. Rumors surrounded that Kyrie was unhappy playing with LeBron, Kevin Love had to be traded for this team to succeed, and LeBron sending out tweets that we all thought had deeper meaning. Although tweeting is probably not the best way to convey your thoughts to your teammates, it sure did get their attention even though they denied it. They were questioned about it constantly, as well as LeBron who consistently shot any questions down. He was trying to send a message to his team that they needed to be better, more dedicated, and ready for the upcoming playoffs. After a tough loss to Brooklyn on the road, the team decided to have a player’s-only meeting. From this date the culture and the way this team went about their business completely changed. They said what they needed to say, and made it very clear what was expected from one another. This meeting was a moment that turned around the entire season, and helped bring these guys closer together. From this point on we saw more chemistry on the floor, off the floor, and it just seemed the guys were having fun again. This was essential to the playoff run the Cavs were about to make and helped fuel them to fulfill the promise of a championship to the state of Ohio.
First round, the Cavs are faced with the challenge of the young and aspiring Detroit Pistons. They did not let the talk on and off the court by young players get in their heads, and swept the Pistons in a tough series. LeBron showed once again his mental toughness by not responding to the talk, and keeping his team’s mind on the ultimate goal. Kyrie led the team in scoring which was a good sign, and the Cavs were looking tough from the three point line. Next in line was the Atlanta Hawks, who Cleveland had swept the year before. New year, same result. The Cavs swept the Hawks while setting a NBA record for most threes in a series and game. It was looking all right for them heading into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Raptors. After breezing through the first two games of the series the tables turned when this red hot team dropped two in a row in Toronto. An extremely tough place to play as well as Toronto’s two stars going off, much was made of the Cavs losing these two games. They responded well with a win at home, convincingly I might add. It was Game 6 now in Toronto, a chance to head to their second consecutive championship. It was not even a real close one, the Cavs took a commanding lead early and never gave it up. It was their second consecutive final, and the sixth straight for King James. He was not shy about how excited he was, and how much he appreciated it. In a speech after the game he told the guys they should enjoy where they were at, but also realize there was one bigger goal ahead. He showed them that what they accomplished was nothing sort of spectacular and let them celebrate for a short time. He wanted it to sink in that they are in a place that only one team a year gets to be in. But now, shortly after the game, it was time to get ready for the NBA finals. A task they knew was going to take everything they had, and LeBron was going to have to lead like never before.
It was the unanimous MVP and the Golden State Warriors for the second straight year that the Cavs would be facing. Tensions were high due the loss of the finals last year. The Cavaliers wanted to prove that if they were healthy they could have won, and the Warriors wanted to show that their win was not a fluke. It was time for Game 1, they series every basketball fan was looking forward to all year. The Warriors had a strong outing from their bench, leading them to a Game 1 win. In his conference after the game, LeBron was still calm and collected, ready for his next challenge. The Cavs then dropped Game 2, heading home with a 2-0 deficit. This was not ideal but again, LeBron was calm and knew he was going to have to lead his guys to a comeback. With a convincing win in Game 3, the Cavs pulled back within one with a chance to even the series. Dropping Game 4 was a tough one considering no team in Finals history had come back from a 3-1 deficit. It was not a position they wanted to be in, but they stated that if anyone on the team did not think they could win, do not get on the plane.
With Draymond Green suspended for Game 5, the Cavs took a win with the help of two 41 point games from Kyrie and LeBron. Game 6 was back in Cleveland, a must win to force a Game 7. With another 41 point effort from The King, the Cavs forced in the words of LeBron, “The best words in the world, Game 7.” What more could a fan of the game want than a Game 7, especially after being down 3-1? It was time for LeBron to have another huge game, and he did just that. He led the team with a triple double, along with Kyrie scoring 26 points. Kyrie hit the biggest shot of the game with a game clenching three with just under a minute left. Just under 20 seconds left in the game, LeBron hit a clutch free throw making it a two possession game. The Warriors led by Steph Curry were unable to close the deal and LeBron finally got to say his promised was fulfilled. He broke down crying on the court, it was settling in what they were just able to accomplish. He capped it off by yelling in his postgame interview on the court, “Cleveland, this is for you!”
This run was one for the history books. It was the first time a team had ever come back down 3-1 in the Finals, and it was also the first time ever a single player (LeBron) had led both teams in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Kyrie also had a coming out party, playing great in the series and hitting the biggest shot of the season. LeBron was named Finals MVP for the third time, putting him in a class where not many people have gone. Since the day he made his return to Cleveland, LeBron has completely changed the culture. He has brought a winning mentality to a team that was at the bottom for so many years after his departure. He has showed these young players how to win, and what it takes to reach the top. He has helped them grow and develop not only on the court, but as professionals. He makes the game easier for each individual and wants them all to get some credit. The job he has done for this team and this city is mind blowing. His dedication to greatness, and his mindset to achieve his goals is remarkable. LeBron James is truly one of the greatest leaders to ever play this game. He is also one of the best basketball players to ever step on the court. The fans, Cleveland, and basketball fans in general are grateful to the years he has given us. The 52 year drought is over. The kid from Akron, Ohio has officially accomplished his goal and fulfilled his promise to his hometown team.