Monday June 20, 2016 – OAKLAND, Calif. — Vilified when he left and celebrated when he returned, LeBron James had spent the past two seasons lugging his city’s championship dreams like a bag of rocks. The weight had only grown more cumbersome — the weight of history, of disappointment, of missed opportunities.
James could feel it all on his sturdy shoulders.
On Sunday night, before a dazed and defeated crowd at Oracle Arena, James delivered on the grandest stage of his superhuman career, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship in franchise history with a 93-89 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the N.B.A. finals.
“I came back for a reason,” James said. “I came back to bring a championship to our city.”
James collected 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to punctuate one of the most remarkable individual performances in finals history. James, who was named the finals’ most valuable player, got ample help from his teammate Kyrie Irving, whose 3-pointer with 53 seconds remaining gave the Cavaliers the lead — and an improbable title.
Improbable because the Cavaliers became the first team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to win a championship. Improbable because the Warriors, after setting an N.B.A. record with 73 victories in the regular season, had spent months making the case that they were the most dominant team since Dr. James Naismith first affixed a peach basket to a wall.
And improbable, above all, because of Cleveland’s ragtag history as an also-ran. Not since 1964, when the Browns won the N.F.L. championship, had the city claimed a major sports title.
James, who grew up in nearby Akron, has forever changed all of that. He stuffed the series with thunderous dunks and fadeaway jumpers, blocked shots and glowering expressions, towing his teammates along in his ferocious wake. James won two championships with the Miami Heat, but this was his first with the Cavaliers — and his first for Ohio.
Not even the Warriors, who were pursuing back-to-back championships in a repeat of last year’s finals matchup, could slow his march.
“The game always gives back to people that are true to the game,” James said. “I’ve watched it. I know the history of the game, and I was just calm. I was calm.”
Irving finished with 26 points for the Cavaliers, who survived three elimination games. In Cleveland, fans jammed the streets around Quicken Loans Arena for a watch party from afar.
Draymond Green had 32 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists for the Warriors, and Stephen Curry scored 17 points but shot just 6 of 19 from the field. In the final minute, Curry missed a 3-point attempt that would have tied the game. James, who had made a soaring block of Andre Iguodala’s layup attempt with less than two minutes to play, then made 1 of 2 free throws with 10.6 seconds left to seal the win.
The Cavaliers formed a raucous mob at the buzzer — joy and disbelief, all at once. On the postgame dais, James clutched the championship trophy to his chest and choked back tears. At his news conference, he wore one of the nets around his neck. he said he was looking forward to the victory parade, scheduled for Wednesday. He invited everyone, including the media.
“It’s going to be the biggest party that Cleveland has ever seen,” said James, who averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists during the series. “If you guys still have a little money left over in your budget, you guys better make a trip to Cleveland and get a little piece of it.”