NBA fans know the history of Lebron James. An Ohio native, he toiled away in his early years desperately trying to win a title for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though he and they made it to the Finals here and there, the Cavs could never quite get over the top. It was the classic example of how one guy, despite how ridiculously talented he is, can't get it done in a team sport.
So off to Miami where he teamed up with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and a better all-around supporting cast. James would win two titles there, but the attempt for a three-peat would be quashed by the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat appeared to be fading while the Spurs were on another up-swing. Plus the Golden State Warriors were quickly coming together as a powerhouse. Lebron likely saw the handwriting on the wall. He wasn't going to win another championship if he stayed with the Heat. The cream of the crop out west was just too good and getting better.
And no doubt, somewhere in his head remained the desire to bring glory to Cleveland. So he went back. Though the Cavs' management structure, from ownership on down to head coach was, and still is almost comical -- they had somehow found a way to land a couple other terrific players. Enter Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
One need only remember what happened just last year. Lebron led the Cavs back into the NBA Finals, and at one point were ahead of the Golden State Warriors 2 games to 1. We know how that worked out. The Bay Boys would storm back and capture the title.
But Irving and Love were already out with season-ending injuries. Once again, Lebron got oh-so-close in Cleveland, only to come up short. He put on quite the one-man show, but the Warriors as a team were too much.
Fast forward to the present. Irving and Love are back and healthy. Predictably, the Cavs swept the hapless Detroit Pistons in the opening round of the playoffs, and appear they will do the same to the Atlanta Hawks in Round 2. Now already down 0-3, the Hawks are just trying to save face by maybe winning a single game. It's a foregone conclusion the Cavs will move on.
Then they will face the winner of the Miami/Toronto series in the Eastern Conference finals. Few would doubt the Cavs will roll through that series as well to be back in the NBA Finals. It seems to have been their destiny all year long. The only question was who would emerge out of the wild wild west to face them?
That question remains unanswered. The usual wannabes have already been dispatched (see LA Clips). San Antonio is in a dogfight with Okla City, and Golden State is trying to hang on against the Portland Trail Blazers without the services of Steph Curry.
Most think GS and SA will prevail and slug it out against themselves in the Western Conference finals. Likely a toss-up series if their ever was one. Both teams are really, really good, but have different styles of play. Nonetheless, only one of them can survive. And if it's indeed a SA and GS match-up, it will likely be a long brutal series.
If the Cavs can cruise to the Finals while their potential competition is beating each other's brains out, it would definitely be in their favor. They get to rest, watch, and study BOTH teams. Sure, most NBA players are in world-class tip-top shape, and their bodies recover quickly after a grueling game.
But somewhere along the line the long season, and all the travel that's involved, plus running the gauntlet of physical play in the playoffs has to take its toll on some level.
True, the Cavs hired a clueless coach in David Blatt, finally (DUH) fired him, and then brought in another whozit in Tyronn Lue to take over, but that's just Cleveland being Cleveland. Despite front office ineptness, the team itself seems to be on auto-pilot. They can definitely play.
Lebron Ramone James is exactly where he wants to be. In Cleveland, with a strong supporting cast, including two of All-Star quality (like he had in Miami).
There are those that think whichever team emerges from the West (especially GS or SA) will be favored to go on and win the NBA championship. And they might be right.
Then again, don't sleep on Lebron and his second go-round with the Cavaliers.
This just might be the year he finally gets it done.
And can you imagine? Cleveland hasn't celebrated a professional championship -- in ANY sport -- since way back in 1964. They'd go crazy. Zebra mussels would hop up on shore and dance. Guv Kasich might decide to run for Pope (hell, he's run for everything else). John Boehner might turn orange again. Hordes of Buckeyes running amok could start a grass-roots movement to have Lebron's likeness be the fifth carved on Mount Rushmore. Owner Dan Gilbert's mug might take the place of George Washington's on the dollar bill. How scary would that be? This could get out of control.
Still, it would be pretty cool to see a super-star return to his "home" town and finally bring it a championship.