Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers just finished up losing in the NBA Finals for the third time in four seasons and now, LeBron James has the option to opt out of his contract with the Cavs and enter free agency.
LeBron might stay in Cleveland. He might make up with owner Dan Gilbert and find a way to get another all-star alongside himself and Kevin Love and keep building championship teams in Cleveland. He also might not and decide to pursue championships in another city. So, just in case we’ve seen the last of LeBron James in Northeast Ohio, lets take a look back at these last four years of ups and downs that we should all be grateful for.
When LeBron came back to Cleveland after losing in the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat in 2014, he set out to win a championship for the Cavs. That was it. The 2015 version of the Cavs got about as much as they possibly could out of that team. Oh, how wonderful it was to go through a playoff run again after having the worst overall combined record in the league during the four years James was in Miami. It was such a breath of fresh air to watch LeBron and the Cavs play meaningful games in the summer. Then, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both got hurt in the playoffs and that derailed the championship hopes for 2015. The Cavs led 2-1 in the 2015 NBA Finals against the Warriors, but the Cavs without Irving and Love weren’t a championship team.
This will go down as THE year in Cleveland sports history. Where were you when the Cavs came back from 3-1? The 2015 Finals loss hurt to watch, but it really just felt great to be back in that spot. 2016 was about getting the championship that LeBron promised. Down 3-1 in those Finals, that seemed once again unlikely. Then, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving went on a three-game run that will always be remembered that included a bevy of highlight plays. The block, the shot, the comeback. What a Game 7 that was. No matter what happens in the rest of Cavalier and Cleveland sports history, we will always have 2016. We can thank LeBron for that.
These two seasons can be lumped together because the Cavs arguably ran into the best team ever assembled that held them back from becoming a dynasty of their own. The Kevin Durant Warriors are all-time great, as they should be. If Durant had stayed in Oklahoma City during the summer leading up to 2017, we could be having a totally different conversation at this point in time; A three-peat for the Cavs, perhaps. But that didn’t happen. The Cavs lost in five games in 2017, and just got done getting swept in the 2018 Finals, leading to the main question: How can LeBron beat the Warriors?
If that question is answered with anything other than the Cavs, that’s okay. Sure, it would be great for LeBron to continue to build a winner in Cleveland and try to win more championships with the Cavs. But if he doesn’t, then we as Cavs fans need to be okay with that.
If it is the case, LeBron ending his time in Cleveland shouldn’t be ruined or remembered by the Warriors. Let it be remembered by the block and the shot. Let it be remembered by the pictures of James laying on the ground crying after coming back from a 3-1 Finals deficit against a 73-win regular season team. Remember those things. No jersey burns, no hatred; all love for the man who came back home and gave Ohio a four-year run of unparalleled greatness that may never be witnessed again in Cleveland sports history.
We will find out within the next month where LeBron James decides to play basketball next year as NBA free agency begins on July 1st.
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