Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - Page 20 News List

James leads Cavs to NBA championship

BRINGING IT HOME:The Cavaliers became the first team to rally from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, beating the Warriors to end Cleveland’s 52-year major championship drought

AP, OAKLAND, California

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, front left, hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals in Oakland, California, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

LeBron James cradled the shiny gold trophy and struggled to sum up what might be his sweetest championship yet, the one he is so proudly bringing home to his native northeast Ohio just as he promised to do when he returned to the Cavaliers two summers ago.

Later, flanked by his three children on Father’s Day, a cigar between his lips and winning net as a necklace with the lingering stench of champagne, James began to understand the magnitude of his accomplishment for Cleveland after a half-century wait.

“I’m coming home with what I said I was going to do,” James said. “I can’t wait to get off that plane, hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal.”

James and his relentless, never-count-them-out Cavs pulled off an improbable NBA Finals comeback and Cleveland is title town again at long last.

James delivered on a vow to his home state and brought the Cavs back from the brink as they became the first team to rally from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, beating defending champions the Golden State Warriors 93-89 on Sunday to end a 52-year major sports championship drought in Cleveland.

“I’ve never seen a man in my life tell an entire state: ‘Get on my back, I got you. Get on my back and I’m going to carry you. I don’t care if we fail, I’m going to wake up the next morning and I’m going to start working out and prepare for the next year,’” Richard Jefferson said. “He was like: ‘I’m going to come back home because I promised them that I would do something,’ and he carried us the whole way.”

In a testy series of blowouts — and a few blowups — the winner-take-all Game 7 provided the thrilling finale, with James as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) disarming two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and his record-setting Warriors.

The native of Akron rattled off moments from the lengthy list of Cleveland sports heartbreak and said what it meant for him to personally bring the Cavaliers their first championship.

Playing his sixth straight NBA Finals, James almost single-handedly carried the Cavs back into this series and finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as the Cavs gave their city its first major sports winner since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. He also had three blocked shots and two steals, overcoming five turnovers.

An emotional James fell to the floor when this one ended with a second win in a week on Golden State’s imposing home floor, surrounded by his teammates. Only moments earlier, he went down in pain with 10.6 seconds left after being fouled by Draymond Green while going for a dunk, then came back out to make the second of two free throws.

After four successful seasons in Miami and two titles with the Heat, James came back to the Cavs in hope of winning the title this franchise and championship-starved city so coveted. It took a second try against Golden State after Cleveland lost to the Warriors in six games last year.

“I was calm. I was focused. I was locked in,” James said.

Cleveland did it after a coaching change, with Tyronn Lue taking over in January for the fired David Blatt.

“We made history tonight,” Lue said. “Cleveland, Ohio, we’re coming back, baby!”

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points to cap his brilliant series, including a three-pointer over Curry with 53 seconds left.

Curry sat briefly on the bench to take in the scene after the Warriors made their last basket with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left.

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