The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 Sunday night to win the NBA Finals four games to three. LeBron James led the way becoming the third player in NBA history to record a triple double in a Game 7 of the Finals, joining Jerry West and James Worthy. It was a historic series with the the Cavs the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in Finals to win the title (they were only the third team to force a Game 7). It is the first NBA Championship for the Cavs in franchise history.
The series was a roller coaster ride for both franchises with the Warriors losing their chance to win back-to-back titles and put themselves up among the NBA’s all-time teams after a historic regular season with their record 73 wins. Beyond the teams, here are a few of the biggest winner and losers from the 67th NBA Finals.
James is the NBA’s most polarizing figure and he is always playing for a spot on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore. He became the first player to reach six straight NBA Finals since the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s. He put the Cavs on his back in Game 5, and for the series he nearly averaged a triple double with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. It was one of the greatest showings ever in the NBA Finals with the Cavs the first to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. James won his third NBA Finals MVP Awards and deserved the hardware whether the Cavs won Game 7 or not. James is now 3-4 all-time in NBA Finals.
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The NBA is hot right now coming off a second straight season with record attendance. This Finals matchup was just what the NBA ordered. It featured the league’s two biggest stars in James and Stephen Curry, who have won six of the last eight MVP trophies. Commissioner Adam Silver couldn’t have asked for a better pairing.
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This series had the potential to deliver blockbuster ratings with the star power involved, but three straight blowouts to open the series put a damper on the hype. The average audience for the first six games was 18.5 million people or 1.4 million fewer than the average of the same matchup in the 2015 Finals, which delivered the highest ratings since 1998. But ABC benefited from the the two best words in sports: Game 7. A game seven that went down to the wire will goose the overall ratings and likely draw in the 30 million range, pushing the final average above last year’s figure, which was the highest ratings since 1998.
City of Cleveland
The title ends the longest drought in pro sports. Cleveland pro sports teams had gone 145 straight seasons without a championship before Sunday night (the Cavs lost in the NBA Finals twice previously including last year). The last title for the city was the NFL’s Cleveland Browns in 1964 in the pre-Super Bowl era. “I came back to bring a championship to our city,” said James after the game.
Now all eyes turn to the Cleveland Indians, who lead the American League Central. The Browns are the NFL’s longest shot for a Super Bowl next season at 200-1.
The Finals was a coming out party for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Irving had three straight 30-point games during the Finals and averaged 27 for the series. Irving’s Nike signature shoes have been one of best-selling basketball shoes in the market, helping the dynamic point guard earn eight-figures off the court. Irving looks like he could be one of the NBA’s biggest stars over the next decade.
The mop-topped Brazilian became the first player in NBA history to play for both NBA Finals teams during the regular season. There is no guarentee, but Varejao is likely to received a championship ring despite playing for the losing side after signing with Golden State after he was waived by the Portland Trail Blazers after being traded by the Cavs in February. Varejao spent 12 years in Cleveland, including 31 game this year.
Lue took over as coach for the fired David Blatt halfway through the season and posted a 27-14 regular season record in his first stint as a head coach. Lue got his team to gel during the playoffs reeling off 10 straight wins to start the playoffs, which set a record for a rookie coach. It was only the second time a rookie head coach won a title since Pat Riley in 1982 (the Warriors Steve Kerr was a rookie last year when the Warriors won).
Curry is the NBA’s two-time MVP Award winner and had a chance to secure his place among the NBA’s all-time elite players with a second NBA title. Curry averaged 21 points per game, nine below his season average. He was likely slowed by a knee injury that sidelined him for six games earlier in the playoffs, but Curry never complained about the injury during the playoff run,
Barnes is the most prominent free agent on the two teams, assuming James opts out of his deal and returns to Cleveland this summer under a new contract. Barnes is a dynamic player who averaged 12 points a game this season, but the Finals were a disaster for the small forward. He averaged nine points during the Finals, including a goose egg in Game 6. Somebody is going to overpay for Barnes this summer in a weak free agent class, but the bidding pool likely shrunk after his playoff run.
A concussion sidelined Love for Game 3 of the series, which Cleveland won in a 30-point blowout. The power forward was a dud most the other games with only nine points per game. The low point was Game 5 when Love put up two points and three rebounds in 33 minutes. Love has four years and $93.5 million left on his Cavs’ contract.