A championship escaped LeBron during his first stint in Cleveland. Failed attempts, including a finals sweep from the Spurs in 2007 unfairly earned him the nickname LeChoke (aren't people on the internet creative?).
Thankfully, the crying Jordan meme wasn't a thing back then.
I liken LeBron's first stint in Cleveland to high school. You're young; it's an overwhelming experience, and you sometimes do dumb things without fully understanding the consequences. Then it's time to go to college, where you try to grow up, party and occasionally learn.
LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami was his college.
If you've just woken from a ten-year coma, the decision to leave Cleveland wasn't taken well. Also, there's a TV show called Game of Thrones, which you should really check out.
Fast-forward to his return to Cleveland. After spending four seasons in Miami, including two championships (a nice College fling to have), it was time to come home.
He grew up, partied and learned what it took to win a championship. Enough time had passed for Cleveland fans to reach the final stage of forgiveness. Sorry Dan Gilbert, the internet will never forgive your choice in fonts.
While he got close in his first season back home, he failed to make good on his promise (to win one for the Land), losing to the Warriors in the finals 4-2. It was a brave effort, which saw LeBron fighting his urge to play his natural game, turning himself into a high volume shooter. Something you could tell he was uncomfortable doing but had to do for the benefit of his team since his best, healthiest teammates at the time were Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov.
This season was different. No injuries. No excuses.
LeBron's mental game in the finals was dominant
It all started when Steph Curry was named the first unanimous MVP of the league. While trying not to be disrespectful, you could tell this annoyed LeBron, and he wanted to show everybody why he’s still the best player in the league during the upcoming finals series.
LeBron got his wish. A finals match-up against the 73 win Warriors, led by back-to-back MVP Steph Curry. What followed was a demonstration of something that he lacked in his first stint in Cleveland and something he learned while in Miami.
And it took a lot of it to come back from a finals series down 3-1. Something no team had ever done before.
It all started in game 3. Coincidently, Cleveland's first win of the series.
How do you show your dominance? Find your opponent's leader, expose their weakness and make an example of them. LeBron is bigger, more explosive and can easily bully Steph on the court.
No easy buckets. Not even after the whistle.
It then carried over to game 4 with a heated exchange between the two.
Followed up by a huge block in game 5.
Again in game 6.
And again in game 7.
Regular season LeBron vs NBA Finals LeBron
LeBron is one of the few players in the league who can get away with preserving himself for the playoffs, while still being a top 5 player in the league. Normally, a player will have better averages during the regular season compared to the NBA finals, but not LeBron. Not this year.
This NBA Finals series was record breaking
Cleveland became the first team to come back from a finals series down 3-1. It happened against the first 73 win team in NBA history; it was the first championship from a Cleveland professional sporting team since 1964, and it all happened because of LeBron James.
Congratulations Cleveland, you deserved it.