One year after coming up short in the NBA Finals, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the best record in the East, a 10-0 start in the playoffs, the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, and, oh yeah, the city’s first sports championship in more than a half century.
Championships mean a great deal to every city, but few, if any, could mean as much as this one did to Cleveland.
“To the city, it’s everything,” Cavs TV analyst Austin Carr said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It’s hope, it’s redemption – it’s everything wrapped in one. They need something like this to really get them going. You can just see the young people who don’t know about the drought; all they know is success. The old people finally get the monkey off of their back as far as not winning. It’s going to be quite a different mixture of feelings and emotions, but at the same time, it’s going to be good.”
The Cavs lost the first two games of the series by a Finals record 48 points and dropped Game 4 at home, 108-97. At that point, many assumed the series was over.
James, the unanimous Finals MVP, averaged 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocks in the final three games of the series. The Cavaliers’ locker room following their Game 7 win at ORACLE on Sunday was truly a sight to see.
“It was great,” Carr said. “Every game in the playoffs, every day before every game they had a team dinner, and that helped galvanize them. In that locker room, you could just see it. They all have confidence, especially when Kevin started having a few problems. All the team came to him and said, ‘Hey, you got to keep playing. We need you.’ I think that really helped Kevin get his (confidence back). He has a tendency to get down on himself if he’s not scoring, but really in Game 7, he scored a little bit, but he really rebounded the ball well, he was a plus-19, and that was the highest for anybody in that game. It was just good to see how each guy – he and Kyrie – matured just a little bit.”
Carr, 68, was the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick in 1971. He played in Cleveland until 1980 and has served as team broadcaster for many years. For him, Sunday night was extremely personal.
“It was quite a feeling,” he said. “I got a little emotional because I’ve been here from Day 1. To see them try to get the monkey off their back and watch LeBron come back – I always said when he left, he went to college, and when he came back, he had graduated. He was a man. You could just see his leadership picked up and the team was willing to follow him.”