Monday, June 20, 2016 at 6:41 AM

NBA Finals: LeBron Delivers on His Promise to Cleveland, Finally

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Whether LeBron James would finally deliver on his promise to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship was the overriding story of these NBA finals — with all due respect to their opponents, the defending champion Golden State Warriors and their reigning league MVP, Stephen Curry.

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The composition of this Cleveland team, as well as the likelihood of losing key members to free agency this offseason, made this season LeBron’s last, and perhaps best, opportunity to fulfill that promise.

For the record, in “LeBron Abandons Cleveland for Miami,” July 13, 2010, I delineated why his legacy depends so much on winning a title in Cleveland, no matter how many he wins elsewhere. Here is an excerpt.

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It’s important to bear in mind that James’s all-consuming ambition to win a championship is the same ambition that motivated (and still motivates) all great NBA players: winning really is everything to them.

7446474And he will surely win in Miami. For the triumvirate of James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls.

The only question for LeBron is: what price victory?

After all, finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration is what made winning a championship so sweet for superstars like Dr. J and Michael. Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to long-suffering fans in cities that, in the case of Dr. J’s Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Michael’s Chicago, had never won at all.

By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because, instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun – who they brought in to help them win a few more.

Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami, he’ll be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but his childhood home to do so…

My sense is that LeBron’s plumed ego will make it difficult for him to cope with being treated like a courtier instead of hailed like a king.

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Of course, I gave grudging props when he won championships as a hired gun for Miami – as “LeBron James Leads Miami Heat to NBA Championship,” June 22, 2012, attests. But I heartily heralded his decision to return to Cleveland in “LeBron James Taking His Talents Back to Cleveland,” July 12, 2014.

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More to the point, when he led Cleveland to the NBA finals last year, I hailed it in “LeBron Wins Second Chance to Become a Real Champion,” May 28, 2015. I deemed it a second chance because he led Cleveland there in 2007 as well, but lost.

Perhaps equally noteworthy is that LeBron is on an enviable streak of making it to 6 consecutive finals, becoming the first non-Boston Celtic player to do so. Never mind that his record in NBA finals is less than stellar, having lost 4 (with Cleveland in 2007 and 2015, and Miami in 2011 and 2014) and won 2 (with Miami in 2012 and 2013).

This brings me to his seventh NBA finals, which played out in a thrilling Game 7 against the Warriors last night. As indicated above, this was LeBron’s third, but perhaps last, chance to become a real champion.

The more than five decades without a major Cleveland sports championship — the Drive, Jose Mesa, the Fumble — was erased. The pain of watching local star LeBron James depart, without a trophy, for Miami in 2010, only to win two titles with the Heat in absentia, all of that, gone with one stunning win in what was one stunning NBA Finals series.

In the process, Finals MVP James and the Cavaliers completed the greatest comeback in the history of the Finals, rallying from a 3-1 deficit and completing their championship journey with a 93-89 win over the record-setting Warriors here at Oracle Arena.

(Sporting News, June 19, 2016)

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LeBron was a champion before, of course. But when the buzzer sounded to end this game, he fell to his knees and cried what had to have been tears of relief, revenge … and redemption. He couldn’t stop crying. And the reason is that he had finally shown the world that he’s a real champion.

Six years ago, Cleveland fans were damning LeBron as a traitor. Today, they’re hailing him as a king.

Congratulations, LeBron! (Oh, and Cleveland too).

Related commentaries:
LeBron abandons Cleveland
LeBron back to Cleveland
LeBron second chance

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