It's the eve of the NBA Finals and while the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are gearing up for their third straight matchup for the championship, that topic took a little bit of a backseat on Wednesday as an historic moment in Cleveland sports and NBA history was recognized.
May 31, 2007.
The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
It was Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The series was tied 2-2 with Cleveland winning the last two games after losing the first two to Detroit.
Lebron James scored the last 25 Cavalier points and 29 of the last 30 (Drew Gooden scored a free throw with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter) to lead Cleveland to a 109-107 double overtime victory.
It's still to this date the greatest performance by a basketball player I've ever seen live. As a fourteen year old at the time, I can remember just being in awe watching Lebron single handedly carrying the Cavaliers to victory against the Pistons who were in the middle of a dominance of the Eastern Conference.
This game and series looking back now was the "passing of the torch" in the East. Detroit won the NBA Championship in 2004 and was the dominant team during the first half of the decade of the 2000s.
Led by Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben and Rasheed Wallace, it was a new era of the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons. They were great together as a team in a sport dominated by the superstars carrying teams like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Lebron James.
Lebron was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft and lifted the Cavaliers to new heights they hadn't reached since the early 90s with Brad Daughtery and Mark Price. Going from 17 to 35 wins in Lebron's rookie season showed just how good he was going to be.
The Cavs went from 35 to 42 wins in his second season and just missed the postseason by a game. In 2005-2006, with a new coach and management the Cavaliers reached 50 wins and a trip the postseason for the first time since 1998. They defeated the Wizards in six games in the first round but lost to Detroit in seven games in the Conference Semi-Finals.
Looking back at the 2007 Cavaliers roster, it's amazing to see how bad that team looked on paper. Of course you had guys like Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas who were decent NBA players at the time.
Guys like Sasha Pavlovic, Donyell Marshall, Drew Gooden, Eric Snow and Damon Jones who looked decent as a result of playing alongside James.
Mike Brown was in his second year as head coach of the Cavaliers and with his defensive philosophy had Cleveland as a top defensive team in the league and posted back to back 50 win seasons.
With no real second scoring threat as Hughes was struggling with injuries, James had to be the Michael Jordan of the Cavs and just dominate on the offensive floor.
Of course with James you get his playmaking and wanting to create for others instead for himself. He passed off a game winning opportunity in Game 1 to a wide open Donyell Marshall who missed the potential game winner. He missed the game winner in Game 2 after attacking it to the paint.
He scored 12 in the fourth quarter to push Cleveland to a Game 3 win, 13 in the fourth quarter of the Game 4 win.
Just the precursor to what was an all-time game in Game 5.
James' performance sent the series back to Cleveland for Game 6. Rookie Daniel Gibson stepped up and scored 31 points including going 5-5 from three point distance to help propel the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance where they eventually got swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
A decade later, Lebron is still going strong as the league's best player and the best basketball player in the world. After a controversial exit from Cleveland in 2010 now dubbed as "The Decision", James went to Miami where he went to four straight Finals appearances and two championships.
He came back home in 2014 and the Cavaliers have made two straight Finals appearances with their third starting Thursday night and last season, the Cavaliers brought Cleveland their first championship in 52 years.
It's crazy to think that not only is Lebron still the best player in the league a decade after that performance but that he's way better than he was at that point and he's still getting better with age.
He's had some amazing performances the last several years in the postseason but nothing in my opinion will ever beat Game 5 vs Detroit.
Categories: Cleveland Cavaliers