For Mesa and Ehlo, Sipe and Colavito; for Bernie, Belle and Byner; for the Drive, and the Dawg Pound, the Shot and the Fumble; for burning jerseys and burning rivers; for the blue collars and the Rust Belt . . .
Dance, Cleveland. Dance. After 52 years, you are a champion.
With tears in his eyes, LeBron James delivered the championship he sought when he returned to Cleveland two years ago. James’ triple-double and Kyrie Irving’s 26 points lifted the Cavaliers to a stunning 93-89 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the franchise’s first championship in its 45-year history and the city’s first title since 1964.
Cleveland is cursed no more.
Irving’s 3-pointer from the wing over Steph Curry with 53 seconds left gave the Cavs a 92-89 lead with 53 seconds left. James followed with a dunk attempt down the lane. He was met at the rim and fouled by Draymond Green, landing awkwardly on his right side. He stayed in the game and split the free throws, clinching his third championship and his third Finals MVP trophy.
James’ legacy is complete. So is the greatest collapse in NBA history. The Warriors are the first team in history to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Also washed away is their 73-win season, the most in NBA history. It doesn’t matter anymore.
The Cavaliers are the champions of the league. James won two titles in Miami, but this one feels different.
“I’m home,” he said.
When it was over, James dropped to his knees and sobbed, covering his face while tears streamed down the cheeks of J.R. Smith. Coach Tyronn Lue sat on the Cavs’ bench with a wine-colored towel covering his face.
Assistant coach Phil Handy pumped his fist to the Cavs fans who made the trip to Oracle Arena and swarmed the corner nearest the bench. No one was quite sure what to do other than hug, laugh and cry.
James finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his 16th career playoff triple-double and seventh in the Finals. He is the third player to do it in an NBA Finals Game 7, joining only James Worthy and Jerry West.
The Cavs won this the Cleveland way — pushing, pulling, sweating, spitting, stomping, swearing and ultimately smiling. While the sleek, Bay Area-built Warriors launched 3s, the Cavs stormed the lane for points inside and at the free-throw line.
They bumped and boxed out defensively, then grinded the Warriors into dust.
The Cavs shot 1-of-14 from the 3-point line in the first half and trailed 49-42 at the break _ the largest lead of the half for either team. They outrebounded the Warriors and made three times as many trips to the foul line, but they were outscored by 27 points in the half from the 3-point line.
So they attacked inside, scoring 48 points in the paint while the Warriors kept missing 3s in the second half. Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 6-of-24 on 3-pointers. Curry scored 17 points and Thompson scored 14. Draymond Green kept the Warriors afloat with 32 points and 15 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough.
The Cavaliers are champions.
James stood on the podium, clutched the trophy and pulled the brim of his cap over his eyes.
He is a champion again. So is the city of Cleveland.
Dance, Cleveland. Dance.