Even the most casual of sports fans have some sort of intrigue in watching a Game 7 in the playoffs of a professional sport. Whether it's baseball, hockey or basketball, a game that is for all the marbles has an impending apocalyptic feel to it. When I say apocalyptic, there's this feeling of every player fending for themselves and the world is about to come to an end, or it's already ended and it's a cliffhanger on "The Walking Dead," or "Game of Thrones."
The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors engaged in what many are calling a sloppy Game 7 in the 2016 NBA Finals. This was a series that, before the climactic finale, didn't have a single game in the previous six that was decided by less than 10 points. The Warriors worked their way to a solid 2-games-to-none lead, while splitting the next two games in Cleveland. Golden State led 3 games to one, a lead that has been insurmountable in the NBA Finals. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and their supporting cast stepped up to the challenge and won Game 5 in Oakland, and pulled away for a Game 6 victory in Cleveland - setting up an epic, show-stopping final chapter in a rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals.
Golden State had broken the record of wins in a single season (73) back in April when they surpassed the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls when the Michael Jordan-led champs put up 72 wins. They're the darlings of the league. They were the defending champions, and all they wanted to do was solidify their record-setting season with a second-straight NBA title. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have been dubbed "The Splash Brothers" as they hit 3-pointers with the greatest of ease. The team also has one of the strongest cast of bench players we've seen since the aforementioned '95-'96 Bulls.
The Cavaliers have been led by LeBron James. He spent his first 7 NBA seasons in his home state playing for the Cavs in hopes of bringing the team and the state to some state of relevance, both within the league and in the sports world. After one NBA Finals appearance in 7 years, he decided to take his talents to South Beach and teamed up with two other superstars in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. The Big Three were as dominant together as they were individually. James' four seasons in Miami proved to be questionable at the least, as he won two titles, but also lost in the Finals twice.
James wanted to come back home in 2014 to Ohio and bring a world championship to the city of Cleveland. The city hasn't had a title from a professional sports team since the Browns defeated the Colts for the NFL Championship back in 1964. That's a lot of disappointment for their teams and, most importantly, the hugely-dedicated fan base in northeast Ohio. Imagine the futility these fans have had to endure every year for the last 52 years.
Sunday, June 19 in Oakland was a display of absolute hunger and determination on the part of James. He had no plans of leaving northern California without a championship in Game 7. It was a very close game most of the way. The Warriors traded points from beyond the 3-point line with the Cavaliers and their powerful points in the paint. It was neck-and-neck, going deep into the 4th and final stanza.
With the game tied at 89, the Warriors were in transition and seemed to be poised to raise back-to-back titles. The Warriors' Andre Iguodala had the easiest of layups ready to bank off the board and tickle the twine, but LeBron James, hustling with every ounce of his being, leapt like Superman and swatted the basketball and left it with zero chance of going into the bucket. Dubbed "The Block," it could go down as one of the greatest defensive plays in sports history. I certainly can't get enough angles and replays of such an athletic display.
With about a minute remaining, the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving made a 3-pointer that gave Cleveland a 92-89 lead. It was akin to University of North Carolina's Marcus Paige in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship against Villanova - though in a losing effort. It was off-balance, awkward, and Irving was in perfect position to cap off a magical dream of a season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jokes and memes are definitely in full effect with the city of Cleveland, their sports fans, and LeBron James altogether. However, there's a bigger picture to see at the end of this relatively boring NBA season. Now that Cleveland has a major sports championship for the first time since 1964, the city of San Diego has become the most depressingly futile sports city in the United States. This is a city that has barely seen the likes of a championship stage in two World Series, and one Super Bowl. The Padres have been in existence since 1969, and the Chargers have been in San Diego since 1960. We have appeared in the playoffs for both leagues a handful or two, but have little to nothing to show for it.
The only caveat I'll provide for being such a sad sports town is that a great majority of the people who live here in San Diego are either members of the military and/or transplants from other cities across the mainland. This speaks to tough times for the Padres and Chargers trying to sell out their respective stadiums/ballparks for a number of years. It seems that no matter how poorly or well the teams play, it's not that fans don't care, but the city of San Diego has so much more to offer other than sports franchises. I'm not going to list all of them, but when you can offer breweries, Seaport Village, Coronado, La Jolla Shores, and a plethora of great restaurants and hiking trails, it's hard to choose a sporting event over the beach and other spectacles of America's Finest City.
This is not a post to completely destroy the fabric of the sports-loving culture we are in San Diego. We just need to stop comparing ourselves with the likes of New York, Boston, San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Cleveland, and many others. Championships do help put more fans into your seats, but when you combine it with the number of wonderful attractions the city has with your sports teams, it seems like the sports franchises get the short end of the stick. That is, until the Padres win a World Series, or the Chargers win the Super Bowl.
Good luck with that, I suppose.