On Sunday night, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to pull off the improbable. They handed the Boston Celtics their first loss at home in the NBA Playoffs. With their first, and only, postseason win in Boston, the Cavs were also able to win their fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Championship.
This series win was mostly thanks to James, but both JR Smith and Jeff Green rose to the occasion as well. Their offensive efforts, combined with outstanding team defense were paramount in the Cavs winning a series some thought they would not win.
From Saturday Night Live sketches to jokes on social media, the running narrative throughout the series was that LeBron James was carrying the team as far as he could take them:
That wasn’t the only time James was at the forefront of the coverage, leaving his teammates behind thanks to some crafty fans and media.
In what seems inevitable at this point, the Cavaliers superstar has to answer questions, even ones pertaining to the presumed incompetence of his teammates.
Even ESPN’s Doris Burke tried to fish for some clickbait by firing a loaded question at James after Game 7:
She then tried to again when the Cavs were celebrating their Eastern Title. James, being the consummate professional that he is, quickly squashed the notion that it is just him:
“I know I get a lot of the headlines, win, lose or draw, whatever the case may be, but in order to be successful it’s a team game,” he said. “I learned that from when I first picked up a basketball and played organized basketball at age nine. So you get all the doubters and people who’ve never stepped into an arena, who’ve never played basketball, who’ve never put on a tank top and shorts, who’ve never played anything organized, always wanna try to kill my teammates. And it’s unfair to them, but I’m always gonna stay true to the game of basketball because the game of basketball always stayed true to me. That’s why we’re going to another Finals, because of my teammates.”
Despite James going up to the plate for his teammates, there are still plenty of doubters as the Cavs prepare for another championship bout. ESPN’s Zach Lowe did a preview for Game 7 between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors and quickly took a pot shot at the Cavs, saying that the Warriors would “crush them”.
After the Warriors clinched the Western Conference title over the Rockets, even more doubt was cast over the Cavs. Yahoo picks the Warriors over the Cavs in five games. ESPN’s “experts” predict that the Warriors will win the title, with one even going as far as to say the Dubs will sweep. Even ESPN’s professional loudmouth Stephen A. Smith took it to the next level on casting doubt on the Cavs:
Finally, even sports bookies in Las Vegas think this will be an easy series for the Warriors, opening the series as 1/10 favorites.
It is nearly everyone outside of Cleveland choosing the Warriors over the Cavs.
Even after everyone doubting the Cavs, who really cares? This is not their first time being an underdog against the Warriors, and in 2016 the Cavs accomplished the possible. Everyone thought the Cavs were dead in the water after falling down to a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals, but LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cavs battled back to force a Game 7. And well, the rest is history:
The Cavs won their first title in franchise history and also won the city of Cleveland its first title in over five decades. The city erupted into celebration and broke a sports curse that seemed unbreakable.
The Cavs upsetting the Warriors was such a traumatic experience for the Dubs that Draymond Green supposedley recruited Kevin Durant from the parking lot after Game 7. After that, Durant and the Warriors have created plenty of parity for the league and avenged their loss to the Cavs the following season.
Now with James entering what may be his last season with the Cavs, they may be able to pull off what seems improbable. According to Brian Windhorst, after ending the Cleveland Curse, the team is playing as free as ever:
Windy on @Cavs: "This season is a success. They are free rolling at this point."
— Aaron Goldhammer (@HammerNation19) May 29, 2018
No matter what, this series will not be a romp. The Warriors will be challenged and may feel the pressure of a Cavs team that has nothing to lose. King James will as always be the best player in the world and if he wins the championship there is no doubt he is the greatest of all time.
With the NBA Finals getting ready to soon tip off, the conversation will be how the Warriors will squash the Cavs. But, as mentioned before, who really cares? They are facing no pressure after ending the city’s curse and have no fear heading into the Championship Series.
This year, like every year, is Cleveland against the world and this year may end with another Championship parade.