On Father’s Day 2016, millions of people around the world witnessed one of the most exhilarating professional sporting events in the history of athletics.
The Cleveland Cavaliers dethroned the defending world champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, earning their first-ever NBA Championship. It was the first time the city of Cleveland basked in the glory of a professional sports title since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964.
My friends Tim Winslow, Marvin Griffin Jr. and I mowed through two pizzas, a hefty order of boneless chicken wings and 2-liter bottle of my favorite beverage (Coca Cola) from the local Domino’s Pizza establishment throughout the duration of the contest at my north Puyallup apartment.
Ever since the Cavaliers tied the series at 3-3 on June 16, I eagerly anticipated Game 7 on June 19. It literally would have taken a family emergency or a natural disaster for me to miss the compelling matchup between arguably the best player in the NBA (Cavaliers star Lebron James) and the best statistical team of all time (Golden State Warriors recorded a regular season record of 73-9).
The game didn’t disappoint in any way.
Multiple lead changes and huge plays by both teams were the social norms during this matchup between basketball juggernauts. Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving’s three-pointer with 53 seconds left gave his team a 92-89 lead and James’ clutch free throw with 10.6 seconds left extended the lead to 93-89. Neither team would score in the final 10.6 seconds of play and Cleveland hung on for the win.
Despite these clutch shots in the fourth quarter, the sequence I will never forget is James’ blocked shot with 1:51 left in the game.
The Warriors and Cavs were tied at 89-89 and the Warriors were on a fast break. Warriors player Andre Iguodala appeared to have a fairly easy lay-up but James came out of nowhere to block his shot, quelling the threat and quieting the capacity crowd at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
I literally jumped out of my chair on the play.
I saw Iguodala and Steph Curry careening toward the hoop and figured Golden State was going up 91-89. James trailed on the play and literally came out of nowhere to reject the shot attempt, saving the day for the Cavaliers. Golden State never got that close to scoring another point the rest of the way.
That iconic moment set the tone for the final 111 seconds of the contest. The first thing I said to Griffin and Winslow after the game concluded was that we just saw history. No team in NBA history has ever came back from a 3-to-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers won three consecutive games, including two on the road to take the title.
I’m an avid sports fan and I can’t think of a better comeback or bigger upset in professional sports history. One of my best friends John Ball, a 2004 Washington State University alum who has lived in the Bay Area for the past 10 years, told me the day following the game he found himself pulling for James and the Cavaliers as the contest progressed in Game 7. Watching the Cavaliers’ improbable win was like watching Rocky topple Drago in “Rocky IV.” The Cavaliers were the ultimate underdog and they had to win on their foes’ home turf to bring home the title.
Lebron James and the Cavaliers pulled a “real life” Rocky and claimed the crown.
Cleveland’s 53-year wait for a title is officially over. Thousands of fans greeted the 2016 NBA champs at the airport the day following the game.
Sports bring people together more than anything else in the world. In modern day society, division is plentiful across the board due to a bevy of different reasons/factors. Athletics has always brought people together and it always will.