Just Deserts: The Perfect End for LeBron and the Cavaliers
In a losing effort, LeBron James led both Cleveland and Golden State in these NBA finals in points, rebounds, and assists, effectively carrying the Cavaliers through six games. LeBron was finding a way to let the nation actually believe that the best team in the NBA could be beaten by the best player and four other guys who happened to be on the court. It was a historically great performance, and something the likes of which may never be seen again by a single player.
However, it was not enough to win the series or finals MVP. For all of LeBron’s success, for all the numbers and incredible efforts he had, the best player in the series and on the planet has nothing to show for it but another finals loss.
Exactly what he and these Cavaliers deserve.
These Cavaliers just a season ago were a 33 win team led by a rising young point guard named Kyrie Irving. The Cavs had fought through a weak Eastern conference to win exactly zero playoff games since Kyrie has been in the league. The Cavaliers before the 2014-2015 season were nowhere close to being contenders for anything in the NBA, and neither were there new additions of Kevin Love, JR Smith, Timofey Mozgov, and Iman Shumpert. None of these men have been in title consideration. Irving and Love were both considered stars, but had been irrelevant in the NBA championship conversation.
The one man this Cavaliers team has who has had any experience even being in consideration to win it all is LeBron James. Everyone has heard the narrative: a young kid from just down the road in Akron with as much talent as anyone ever seen, destined to bring his home state a championship, only to leave for Miami and and come back four years later to finally bring the championship to Cleveland for the first time in franchise history. Cleveland’s prodigal son, coming home to do what he set out to do. Perhaps the greatest sports narrative of this era, who couldn’t root for the King to come home and win one for his home state?
That is the pretty side of the narrative. That is what LeBron James and ESPN have fed to everyone in order to create this image of Cleveland’s prodigal son, which he is not. The difference is that the prodigal son comes to himself, has the realization that he has done his father and family at home wrong, and humbly comes back to his family’s loving embrace. LeBron James came home because his Big Three had gotten old and their window was closing.
This is the question: would LeBron James have gone home if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love not been there waiting for him?
Of course not. LeBron left Cleveland because it was hard and did not believe he had enough around him, and came back because he saw opportunity with those two men going forward.
The narrative is not just that LeBron wanted to go home; it’s that LeBron is continuing to pursue the easiest path to the championship, the same way he did when he went to Miami. LeBron announced he was coming home and shedding weight to play the small forward virtually simultaneously with Kevin Love’s declaration that he would only play for Cleveland. LeBron began making the move to open up a spot for a power forward before anyone in the media knew Love was going to Cleveland; it seems hard to believe that LeBron had no knowledge that a stud power-forward was coming with him. He knew that he was going to a new Big Three in a weak Eastern Conference with a straight shot to the Finals.
So the narrative has now switched from the one of a prodigal son, to one of a man proclaiming himself “the chosen one,” willing to say goodbye his home state because he found an easier track to the championship in Miami, coming home because it was beneficial for him with the chance to repair his image on the new easiest path to a championship. This is reality, not a pretty-sounding fairy tale. This man is accompanied by two proclaimed stars who have yet to accomplish anything significant and a bunch of role players who were acquired this season. In what world does this team deserve to win over a team built over the years, paid their dues, and steadily ascended the ranks to the top of possibly the most loaded Western Conference ever?
So how fitting is the end of these Cavaliers’ season? The irony is that LeBron ends up exactly where he was in 2007; out there by himself on the court trying to win it by himself for a weak Cavaliers team. He found himself exactly where he ran from. The two stars who had not done enough to make it to the big moment didn’t, with the star power forward he brought along being injured early in the playoffs and Cleveland’s young star point guard pushing through injury until his body finally failed him. The guys around LeBron not named Irving or Love were exposed as being average at best. In a sense, all of the players on the Cavs’ roster who had previously not competed for a championship still haven’t, and LeBron again failed to win one for his home state. The King is again without a championship or even an MVP award (which went to the man inserted into the line-up specifically to guard him). Chasing the easy path does not always pay, and there is no greater example than this Cavaliers team.