By: Jeffrey Newholm
Any American who’s seen too many action or James Bond movies is rather tired of contrived Houdini escapes. How many times have we seen the hero bound and blindfolded, only to escape with the girl while the base explodes? A classic 19th century short story, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, seems to anticipate these movies with a grand escape of a southerner set to be hung. The twist at the end is that the man hasn’t really escaped; the whole story is a split-second mind trick. As the NBA finals return to Cleveland, we can’t help but feel cynical about the Cavalier’s predicament. Can they, like Bond, use every trick in the book to come back to win, as they did in 2016? Or will LeBron’s story in the Land, like the southerner’s at Owl Creek, have a unhappy finish?
LeBron scored 51 points in the opener in a spruce performance in Oakland. The Cavs were near a win when the officials reversed a Durant charge drawn by James into a block. Still, George Hill had a free throw for the lead with five seconds left. He missed, but J.R. Smith snatched the rebound. But like the movie villains who overthink killing the hero, Smith decided to do nothing and wait for overtime. The Warriors have scarcely blinked since, winning easily in overtime and in game two. What can Cleveland do to recover?
Every time the Cavs have been in trouble, James had an ingenious Clive Cussler-esque idea to save the day. About to blow a crucial game five against Indiana? Hit a fading three out of bounds. About to squander half of a 2-0 lead against Toronto? Dribble the length of the floor and hit the winner. Down 2-0 to a Celtics team who’s never blown that series lead? Win four of the next five, including game seven in Boston. But as Mark Jackson observed, these aren’t the so-so C’s. These are the Warriors. James has reportedly been reading the motivational classic The Alchemist this postseason. If How to Beat The Team of The Century is available he should add it to the list, or find where he shelved it after coming back from 1-3 two years ago.
Hard as it is for readers to admit, every series has an end. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King added an eighth book to milk more money out of their best-selling series, but all they did was make the original endings less memorable. Michael Jordan and Brett Favre unretired, but it just made their careers legacies messier, and no more successful. After eight straight finals the youth movement in Philadelphia, or sharpshooting Rockets, could be too strong of an enticement. At least two more games at Quicken Loans arena will offer the league’s best player a chance to slay the beast many are tiring of watch desecrate NBA town after town. But if his teammates don’t play their roles, the occurrence Friday could be the final chapter of his hero-ball story, which never found a publisher.