When King James made the decision to return to Cleveland, he penned a letter to the city, the fans, and the organization to let them know that he was returning home to do everything he could to win a title. While saying that he was going to give it everything he had, King James made sure to point out that he wasn’t guaranteeing a championship win because the Cavaliers were still young and had a lot of growing to do.
James crafted that letter in July of 2014, and there were a lot of question marks surrounding the Cavaliers as a whole. Sure, the King was returning, but there didn’t seem to be enough talent around him to win a championship. Kyrie Irving was in town, but he was only 22-years-old at the time and fresh off of his third season in the league.
— fox8news (@fox8news) June 20, 2016
General manager David Griffin went to work on the roster almost immediately with the help of his superstar, King James.
The Cavaliers sent the 2014 No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, in a package to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for All-Star forward Kevin Love. Midway through the 2014-15 season, James approved of another trade that involved adding J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks.
With this new roster, plus the development of Irving and forward Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers looked like a team that was ready to win a championship in the King’s first season back. They ran through the 2015 Eastern Conference Playoffs, but were upended in the 2015 NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors in six games after Love and Irving went down with injuries.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to win the title, King James and the Cavaliers refocused in the offseason. They worked their tails off to get better, but most importantly, Griffin was able to keep the roster largely intact. James signed a 2-year deal with an opt-out after the 2015-16 season, Love signed a 5-year $110 million deal, and Thompson re-signed for 5 years and $82 million.
With Griffin being able to keep the team together, and the presence of the King, the Cavaliers entered the 2015-16 season as heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference. For the majority of the season, the team lived up to that ranking, but they would go through lulls that really made fans scratch their heads and it led to one of the oddest moves in the history of the NBA.
On January 22, the Cavaliers made the decision to fire head coach David Blatt, and replace him with his top assistant, Tyronn Lue, despite the team having the best record in the Eastern Conference. Although Griffin said it was 100 percent his decision, the majority thought King James had a hand in Blatt’s departure.
Almost immediately, Lue made important changes to the Cavaliers. He knew that his team didn’t have a chance to beat a team like the Golden State Warriors or Oklahoma City Thunder without playing at a quicker pace on offense. It took awhile for the team to get used to playing at that faster pace, but when they executed, the Cavaliers looked like the best team in the league on any given night.
That brings us to the 2016 NBA Playoffs, where the James led the Cavaliers on a rampage through the Eastern Conference. The team would only lose two on their way to upending the the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, in that order, as they clinched a spot in the NBA Finals against the eventual Western Conference champion Warriors.
In Games 1 and 2, the Warriors came out and punched the Cavaliers in the mouth as they took a 2-0 series lead with two decisive victories. James was able to deliver 23 points in Game 1, and only 19 in Game 2, as the Warriors won the two games by a combined 38 points.
Heading back home for Game 3, the King knew that his team had to deliver a victory or face the near impossible task of attempting to climb out of a 3-0 hole. On the heels of James’ 32 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, the Cavaliers destroyed the Warriors 120-90 as they cut the series lead in half.
Somehow, the Warriors would pick themselves up off the mat and overcame James’ 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, and Irving’s 34 points, to claim a Game 4 victory that put them up 3-1 in the series, and seemingly gave them the series.
Not so fast.
In Games 5 through 7, LeBron showed why his nickname is “King James,” as he led his team to three straight victories, including two on the road in the toughest environment in the NBA, and captured that championship for the Cavaliers. En route, James scored 41 in Game 5, 41 in Game 6, and 27 in Game 7 as he posted a triple-double, to make the Cavaliers the first team ever to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 20, 2016
It truly was one of the greatest sports stories that’s ever unfolded in front of our eyes, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
Congratulations to King James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, on winning the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy!
[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]