Every championship is worth celebrating and remembering, especially for the local fans, but there was something special and different about the 2016 Cavaliers NBA Championship that makes it perfect to be our first Box Score Art poster.
This championship was so special because, in the first place, it wasn't supposed to happen. After going 73-9 in the regular season and coming back from down 3-1 against a seemingly better Thunder team, the Finals seemed liked they would be a coronation for the Warriors. The feeling was that it was Steph Curry's league, and the Warriors were the complete futuristic team that would bend but not break. No lead seemed safe against them. Even down 15, the Warriors would hit a few threes to put pressure on their opponent, which led to turnovers and more threes, and all of a sudden they'd be up 15, game over.
Additionally, it did not seem to be the Cavs year. They fired their coach in the middle of the season while running away with the number one seed, dealt with team chemistry issues and subtweet drama, and while not over the hill, LeBron looked like he was slowing down. Most people thought it would be a repeat of 2015 with the Cavs stealing a few games but ultimately incapable of hanging with the Warriors' fire-breathing dragon. We all know now how misguided those assumptions were.
It was not only that the Cavs were competitive with the Warriors, but they beat them handedly. They forced the weaknesses in Curry's one-on-one defense to come to light, pestered him on every screen, and made him fight physically for every point. After going H.A.M. for 82 regular season games and dealing with multiple injuries in the playoffs, Steph was not physically ready to cover LeBron driving to the basket with a head of steam.
And was LeBron something altogether different from the regular season. Game after game, he crafted one of the most mesmerizing basketball performances period. From the freak physicality of the one-handed full extension alley-oop, to threading passes no defender could see coming, to bringing out peak performance in the final minutes with The Block Heard Round The World, he made it very clear that he took every slight personally. He waited and dealt with Steph winning back-to-back MVP's, and he put every ounce of basketball know-how into those seven games to prove he's not only the best player in the world right now, but deservedly on Mount Rushmore with Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Russell. Add in Kyrie's ascension into superstardom with the cold-blooded series-winning three and a full team effort, and the Cavs were able to do what nobody else could and kill the Warriors off once and for all, like chopping off Michael Myers' head in Halloween.
That's what made this championship so memorable and important from a pure basketball standpoint, but this victory was much bigger than that. This victory for Cleveland was 50 years in the making, and it's tough to understand how much pressure is really on these players when a whole city's collective baggage is on you. LeBron's had this weight on his shoulders since he was 18 years old, and there is something very satisfying about him fulfilling this destiny for Cleveland in a Joseph Campbell "Hero With a Thousand Faces" epic way. Just like Odysseus, he had to go away, learn from challenges, and return to triumph over his greatest foe before securing his ultimate redemption.
That collective relief for this whole city and region of Northern Ohio is why it is worth tracking every minute of this series and remembering it for posterity. Seeing the ups and downs of the series is so important, like when it seemed like Golden State was going to run away with it after a blowout in Game 2 or when it was tied for the last 4 minutes of Game 7 and it felt like the Dubs would pull it out because that's what they do every time. Looking back at the Box Score after seven games, you can see that the boxes are definitely more Burgundy than Blue. The Cavs really owned the series after Game 2 and pulled off a marvelous victory. Looking at the history of the games, remembering LeBron's dominance, and seeing what it meant to Cleveland, you can understand why people care so much about sports. You can see why they'll deal with 50 years of misery: heartbreaking losses, teams leaving town, and superstars bolting. Because when it all comes together it's the best feeling in the world and a series of spectacular emotional memories worth remembering forever.
Congrats to LeBron, the Cavaliers, and the City of Cleveland. Or really, Believeland, Ohio. Purchase the 2016 Cavaliers Championship Box Score Poster here.