LeBron James cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time on Sunday, completing an unprecedented comeback against the historically great 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors to win Cleveland the NBA championship he promised the city when he first returned home almost two years ago.
James famously announced in a July 2014 Sports Illustrated article that he would return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years with the Miami Heat, where he won his first two championships and NBA Finals MVPs.
"I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way," he said at the time. "Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010."
Turns out, it would take the exact same amount of time: two seasons. After falling down against the Warriors 3-1 early in the Finals, James willed his team back from the brink and then willed them once more to a Game 7 victory on Sunday. Perhaps his most memorable play of the night came with just under two minutes to go in the game. With the game tied 89-89, Andre Iguodala seemed to have a wide-open layup that would have put the Warriors up two points. Then out of nowhere, there was James. In retrospect, that was it.
It was the first time in league history that an NBA team overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the Finals to win the championship, and James was unambiguously the primary reason why.
After the game was over, the league announced the inevitable: James had unanimously won the 2016 NBA Finals MVP, the third of his career to match his three championships. For the series, James averaged an ungodly 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks.
"Cleveland, this is for you," he said in a post-game interview.
James compiled 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Game 7 of the series, the first triple-double in the Finals since James Worthy in 1988. But those statistics are much less significant than the most basic thing he achieved on Sunday night: winning a championship for The Land.