Welcome to the Greatest Moments series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this edition, we’ll relive the greatest Cleveland Cavaliers moment of the 21st century: The postgame interview with Northeast Ohio native LeBron James after a championship victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Greatest Cleveland Cavaliers Moment of the 21st Century: LeBron James’ Championship Postgame Interview
When a letter was published saying James was coming back to Cleveland, it was refreshing. When the people of Cleveland heard the news, it was a feeling of relief, and immediately, I started looking ahead. When James is playing for his rightful home in Northeast Ohio, “The Land” is how it’s meant to be.
The greatest player in the basketball world is a unique one for so many reasons. He’s arguably the best pure athlete in the history of the NBA, with his combination of size and speed. Going back to high school, whenever the King is on the court, everybody’s watching. He has his lovers and has his haters, but for what it’s worth, he’s always been a different cat. Against a newfound rival in Stephen Curry and Golden State, it took the King’s heroics to deliver an elusive championship to the city of Cleveland, which was a then 52-year drought.
Needless to say, it was some kind of celebration when LeBron and company were hugging each other after coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, which was never done before. As I said, James is just different from the others. LBJ’s championship postgame interview on June 19, 2016 goes down as my Cavs greatest moment in franchise history.
The 3-1 Lead
It appeared that the Cavs may have been a step behind the sharpshooting Warriors. The depth of Golden State was a big problem from the getgo. Players like Andre Iguodala, the previous Finals MVP, and Shaun Livingston were making their presence felt. Draymond Green was also making things happen on both ends. Overall, the boys from the Bay blew out the Wine and Gold in Games 1 and 2, and that was obviously concerning.
These blowouts were surprising to me, considering the Cavs only lost two games in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, per Basketball Reference. They had a workmanlike sweep of the Detroit Pistons and blew the doors off the Atlanta Hawks before defeating the Toronto Raptors in six games. Going back to Cleveland, it was time to regroup.
The Cavs did just that in Game 3, as they got the shots to go down. LeBron led all scorers with 32 points, and J.R. Smith chipped in with five triples and a plus/minus of +33. Kyrie Irving looked more comfortable as well, as he had 30 points and eight assists. The Cavs got in the win column with a 30-point victory, setting up a pivotal Game 4.
Unfortunately, the Cavs did not have the same contributions from their role players in Game 4. Cleveland only shot 24 percent from three, and Curry had an MVP performance on the road with 38 points. The Warriors hit 17 triples en route to an 11-point win.
The Next Act
Going back to the Bay, the Cavs had some life. Draymond’s swinging kicks and questionable tactics warranted him a suspension for Game 5, which opened up the driving lanes for James and Irving. They took advantage of that, to say the least.
This is the first time ever in an #NBAFinals history that two teammates have had 40+ points in the same game.
— NBA (@NBA) June 14, 2016
I watched these two become the first pair of teammates to score 40 points in a Finals game, according to the league’s Twitter. As a result, they got the W, and were headed back home.
In Game 6, we were firing on all cylinders. The Cavs went up by 20 after a perfect storm in the first quarter. We were locked in on both ends, and everybody was contributing. Perhaps the biggest impact was from Tristan Thompson, who had 15 points and 16 rebounds. The King was usual self, too. James had 41 points, 11 assists, and three blocks. This highlight resonated a bit more than the rest to me. Sorry, Steph.
Actually, no, I’ll never be sorry for this clip. It’s too good.
It’s the best phrase in sports: Game 7. However, this one did not start out tremendously. It was the lowest scoring game of the series, as nobody was really shooting the ball particularly well. The two teams shot 40.2 percent and 38.6 percent, per Basketball Reference, which was shocking in this kind of setting. That said, it was the last few minutes that made it so memorable for Cleveland fans.
First, it was the block by James. What a call by announcer Mike Breen. I still remember the “LeBron James with the rejection!” Here it is.
Next, it was The Shot. Kyrie has made a number of clutch shots in his career, and this one was the biggest. Irving hit a big-time three ball over Curry in the final minute, and wow was that a beauty. Here you go.
Lastly, the Cavs eventually got a key stop by Kevin Love in isolation against Curry, and the championship celebration was under way. Hearing LeBron say “CLEVELAND! This is for YOU” was incredible.
It was the reason he came back to the Land, and it was truly a storybook ending to such a sweet, sweet victory for the Wine and Golders. This interview meant so much after such a long journey to get that elusive ring for Cleveland. That’s why it’s the greatest Cleveland Cavaliers moment of the 21st century, and ever.
OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 13: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)