The 2015-2016 NBA season comes to its historic end

By Jorge Flores on June 21, 2016

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With just ten seconds left in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James sank a free throw to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 93-89 lead over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. As he walked to the bench during the timeout that followed, he held up his left index finger and repeated, ‘one stop, one [expletive] stop,’ knowing that the Cavaliers were just one successful defensive play away from winning the Larry O'Brien trophy and ending the city of Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought in all major sports.

It wasn’t going to be easy – a four-point cushion with ten seconds left against the 2015-2016 Warriors is far from a sure thing. This Warriors team is the greatest regular season of all time, winning a single-season record 73 games (only losing 9 over the course of 82 total) by unprecedented margins, with two of the greatest long-distance shooters the sport has ever seen. However, the ‘Splash Brothers’ couldn’t convert as effectively from distance all series and Draymond Green’s monster Game 7 effort (32 points on 73% shooting, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists) wasn’t enough to keep Cleveland’s drought going.

The buzzer sounded and LeBron James crumbled to the floor in tears of absolute joy and relief. This wasn’t an ordinary championship victory; James had experienced two of those in Miami. This was a promise fulfilled against all odds, as well as the fulfillment of a destiny preordained on the Akron, Ohio native. Since LeBron was a teenager, he has garnered national attention on the basketball court and was deemed the ‘Chosen One’, destined to not only take Cleveland to the championship promised land, but also to supplant the greatest players the NBA has ever seen.

It took thirteen seasons (LeBron was drafted to the NBA in 2003 at the age of 18) and two stints with the Cavs to finally fulfill this destiny, but bringing a championship to Cleveland isn’t the only historic part of this season. The Cavs had to overcome long odds to beat the Warriors – namely, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit. In 32 tries previous, a team that has lost three of the first four games has lost the series entirely. It has never been done before in the NBA Finals and was much less likely to happen on the road, especially in Golden State’s Oracle Arena, home to one of the rowdiest crowds in all of sports.

As if overcoming a 3-1 series deficit wasn’t enough, the Cavs had to do it against a team that, before this series, was in the conversation as potentially the greatest team of all time. The Warriors broke the single-season wins record, were led by the back-to-back MVP of the league (Stephen Curry), and hadn’t lost three games in a row since Steve Kerr became head coach in the summer of 2014. It was an impossible task for a Cavs team that didn’t match up well against the Warriors and was bound to, at some point, face the unbelievable ball movement, shooting, and defense Golden State had displayed for two straight seasons.

Alas, the Cavaliers managed to stave off any offensive onslaught the Warriors were poised to unleash, thanks to incredible team defense and especially good play from players like All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (who is also the youngest player on the team), the $82 million man, Tristan Thompson, and even the highly criticized and increasingly irrelevant Kevin Love, who forced Steph Curry to miss a contested three-pointer on what was effectively the last play of the season. In fact, the Warriors failed to score a single point in the last 4:39 of Game 7 – a baffling thought, to say the least.

That’s the thing about the 2016 NBA Finals – no matter what happened, significant history was going to be made. Either Cleveland was going to finally win a championship and LeBron James would stake his claim as arguably the greatest player to ever live (an argument for another time) or the Warriors would cement themselves as arguably the greatest team the sport had ever seen.

The 2016 NBA Finals wasn’t the best overall series in the history of the association, despite Game 7 probably being one of the greatest single Finals games. The result, however, is the culmination of one of the greatest stories in all of sports, as well as the most historic season in NBA history.

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