Let’s take a moment and flash back to 2007, when a much younger LeBron James led the Cavaliers through the Eastern Conference playoffs before they ran into the buzzsaw that was the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs. Although the two teams have the common denominator of being led by LeBron James, the similarities seem to end there. The main difference between the teams is that the ’07 Eastern Conference champions were not ready for the moment, the 2015 Eastern Conference champions cannot wait for this moment.
Back then, the surrounding cast around LeBron included the likes of Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the lone holdover from the first LBJ era, Anderson Varejao.
Now, the Cavs have surrounded No. 23 with talent such as JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and perennial All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. This team, although currently beat up, has a much higher level of talent, and it has shown not only during the season, but throughout the playoffs as well.
The current version of the Cavs is well equipped to win the NBA title, and more importantly, end Cleveland’s 50 plus year championship drought, and that is what really matters.
So, Cleveland, here we are, staring our second ever NBA Finals appearance right in the face, but this time it seems to be different.
While the Cavs are not exactly favored in Vegas, they do have one thing that the Golden State Warriors do not have, and he wears No. 23 in wine and gold.
Sure, one can make the argument that the Golden State Warriors have the current NBA MVP, which they obviously do. That being said, the greatest player in the NBA did not win the MVP this season, and that is not a debate in my book.
Go ahead, call me a little biased, but facts are facts, and LeBron James is a better player than Steph Curry. While it is more than possible, and according to some, likely, I find it hard to envision a team that is 46-11 since January 15 to lose four out of their next seven.
The Cavs have peaked at the perfect time, and the craziest part is, they have done it while being far from healthy. With Kevin Love out since the first round, Kyrie Irving nowhere near 100 percent since the Chicago series, and LeBron James experiencing more bumps, bruises, and tweaks than imaginable, the 12-2 record the Cavaliers posted in the Eastern Conference seemed more than improbable.
There have been multiple times this postseason where things had gone wrong, and it could simply have been chalked up to ‘Cleveland.’
This has been different, in the past the Cavaliers, or any team from the City of Cleveland, may not have been able to overcome what has been thrown at them. This team has taken everything in stride, and is much better because of it.
Before Kevin Love got injured, Tristan Thompson was not playing anywhere near the level that he is currently at. TT has emerged as a force on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, in various ways, and that has helped the Cavaliers out tremendously. While Kyrie Irving’s injuries have not been nearly as crippling as Kevin Love’s, Kyrie missing time unleashed play we had never seen from backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova.
Aside from injuries helping those two emerge, Iman Shumpert and JR Smith have played tremendously in helping the Cavs win the East, and for that, I would like to formally thank Phil Jackson for letting us steal those two for a player that is most likely currently finishing up eighth grade.
I could go on and on about the team, but I do feel as if there is something bigger than the team that needs to be talked about here.
The City of Cleveland.
Our struggles have been well documented both locally, and nationally, but this is nothing new to us. Cleveland fans are so used to being the butt of jokes that at this point, it almost feels like white noise.
Since 1964, the tragedies have been a plenty, and often talked about. The Drive, The Fumble, Red Right 88, The Shot, The ’95 World Series, The Move, The ’97 World Series, The ’07 ALCS Collapse, The ’07 NBA Finals, and arguably the most painful, The Decision.
Cleveland fans have dealt with that absurd number of downfalls, and that is not even mentioning things further back such as The Curse of Rocky Colavito and The Catch in the 1954 World Series.
All those things, and no championships.
Many of these are often talked about nationally, and deservingly so, because they make for a good story, but that time is coming to an end. Open up your ears to the bad mouthing of Cleveland from the likes of TNT, ESPN, Dan Shaughnessy, and others, because these next two weeks will be their last hurrah.
The final chapter to Cleveland’s championship drought is being written right now, and let me tell you, it is a glorious ending.
– Danny Cunningham