The Cavaliers were the first club to rally from a 1-3 deficit to win the best-of-seven series, giving Cleveland its first major sports champion since the 1964 NFL Browns and ending the longest such title drought for any American city.
“Cleveland, this is for you,” a tearful James screamed on the court after the frantic final seconds. James scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and passed off 11 assists — only the third “triple double” in a finals seventh game — to take the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award for the third time in his career, humbling a Warriors team that won a record 73 regular-season games.
“We were able to put together some spectacular games down 1-3,” James said. “This is special. I kept that positive attitude. I don’t know why we had to take the hard road. Against all odds.”
“King” James made good on the promise he made to his hometown after returning in 2014 from Miami, the city he left for in 2010 to learn how to become a champion, leaving behind fans who felt betrayed and some who burned replica James’ jerseys.
James, 3-3 in six consecutive finals appearances, led the series with 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists a game plus more than two steals and two blocked shots a game — the greatest all-around numbers ever produced with a crown on the line.
Golden State suffered the worst choke in NBA Finals history after the winningest campaign in league history. The Warriors had not lost three games in a row since 2013.
“It sucks. It hurts to lose when you had a 3-1 lead,” said Draymond Green, who led the Warriors with 32 points. “It’ll sting me for a while. It’s supposed to sting. I’m not over the loss. I’ll probably never be over that. It will sting for a while, but it’s fuel.”
Only two other clubs down 3-1 in the finals had ever forced a seventh game, none in 50 years until now. Cleveland was only the fourth road winner in 19 NBA Finals seventh games, the first since Washington captured the 1978 title in Seattle.
Kyrie Irving added 26 points, including the crucial 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining to give Cleveland the lead for good, while J.R. Smith had 12 points and Kevin Love had nine points and 14 rebounds.