Today in Sports History: June 19, 2016

On June 19, 2016, the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers captured the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship. The Cavs won one of the most thrilling Game 7s of all time against the Stephen Curry-led Golden State Warriors squad that had a record-73 victories. By winning Game 7 and this series, the Cavaliers became the first-and-only team ever to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals. 

In the summer of 2014, James, one of the most amazing athletes of all time, returned to Cleveland — the franchise that drafted him in 2003 and the city near to where he was born and raised. James had notably decided in the summer of 2010 to “take his talents to South Beach” and he joined forces with Dwyane Wade to lead the Miami Heat to two championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Following Miami’s 2014 Finals loss, James opted to return to Cleveland, where he was paired up with Kyrie Irving, a highly talented young star. The 2014-15 Cavaliers reached the Finals and were squared off against Curry, in his first of two consecutive MVP seasons, Klay Thompson, the other of the two “Splash Brothers,” and the Warriors. Irving suffered an injury in Game 1 which kept him out of action for the remainder of the series and even the start of the 2015-16 season. The Warriors won the 2015 Finals series and the defense of Andre Iquadola earned him the series MVP. 

The Warriors started the 2015-16 regular season, 24-0, something never or since accomplished by an NBA team. Curry, who led the league in scoring during the 2015-16 regular season, while setting the single-season record for three-pointers made, became the first unanimous league MVP. He and Thompson ignited the 73-win-regular-season-Warriors to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Kevin Durant-and-Russell Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder to advance back to the Finals. James, one of the most consistently phenomenal NBA superstars the world has ever seen, averaged 25.3 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, and 6.8 assists per game throughout the 2015-16 regular season before leading the Cavaliers back to the Finals. With Irving back in full form, the Cavaliers were determined to seek revenge against the Warriors in this Finals meeting. 

Down 3-1 in the series, James and Irving became the first-and-only pair of teammates to record 40 + points in an NBA Finals game in Game 5. James would have another 41-point performance in a Game 6 route, helping tie the series at three games apiece. Winning a Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road is certainly not an easy task but the Cavaliers managed to pull it off. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, knotted up at 89 apiece, Iquadola looked to have an easy breakaway layup, but James came out of nowhere with one of the most signature chase-down blocks of all time. Irving, soon after, knocked down a clutch three-pointer with under a minute remaining and the Cavaliers wound up winning by a score of 93-89. James, who recorded a 27-point triple-double in Game 7, captured his third of an eventual four championships and third of an eventual four Finals MVPs. Upon being interviewed after the game, James emotionally dedicated the title to the city of Cleveland.

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