Eleven years with the best player in the world, and possibly the best player of all time and you can only win one, yes one, single, uno, solitary, lone, sole NBA Finals?
It’s amazing to me. A team that once consisted of LeBron James, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Drew Gooden was swept in the Finals. The future looked bright. Everyone assumed that would be the summer when the Cleveland Cavaliers finally put together the roster that would be able to win it all. I mean you just need one more star at that time in the NBA and you were set. So, in the summer they add Ben Wallace, Joe Smith Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak. Ultimately ending up in a Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Orlando Magic.
Next, in 2009-2010 they added a geriatric 38 year old Shaquille O’Neal and a 33 year old Antwan Jamison. Shaq’s wheels had clearly fallen off at this point. The season ended in a devastating series loss to the Boston Celtics in 6 in the East Semifinals. This would also be the year Dan Gilbert lost LeBron and penned the famous farewell to James.
The next few seasons were rough. Watching the Cavs struggle to a 19-63 season was awful. Led by Baron Davis and Antwan Jamison the Cavs went on to lose 26 consecutive games tying the record for most consecutive losses in one season. The 76ers hold a 28 game losing streak spanning over two seasons. The losing streak helped the Cavaliers obtain the number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and selected Kyrie Irving. They also selected Tristan (Kardashain) Thompson fourth overall.
Things were exciting in Cleveland again as Kyrie was a sign of hope. Although, in the 2011-2012 season they only improved their win total by two, going 21-45 in the lockout season. They landed the fourth pick in the lottery once again and selected Dion Waiters.
In the 12-13 season the Cavs once again narrowly improved their win total to a 24-58 season. Kyrie went on to average 22.5 PPG that season and looked to be the star Cleveland needed to begin rebuilding. Byron Scott was fired after this season and Mike Brown was hired. The Cavaliers also had the first overall pick this year. They selected Anthony Bennett who ended up being a huge bust.
This season the Cavs went on the finish 33-49 finishing just two spots out from making their first playoff appearance since LeBron left. They still won the first overall pick in the lottery. This would also be the summer when he returned. When the Cavs fired their General Manager, Chris Grant in February, David Griffin was named acting General Manager and then was signed as the General Manager. It was him who made the deals that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland in the offseason, as well as LeBron James. LeBron and Griffin had a strong relationship and a mutual understanding that they would listen to each other and do what both thought was best. In other words, LeBron was able to tell David Griffin what to do.
The Cavs were back. With the new big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love the Cavs made a run to the NBA Finals. Additions such as JR Smith and Iman Shumpert helped the run. They came up short however, with injuries to both Irving and Love, LeBron carried the team to the Finals and lost in what would be the first of 4 straight years meeting the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Emerging in this series though was a new cast of players.
2015-2016 NBA Champs
This was the lone season Dan Gilbert will be able to say he finally did it. After getting down to a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors, LeBron, Kyrie and company willed their way to winning Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years. It will be forever cemented in history just like the line “Blocked by James.” JR Smith didn’t wear a shirt for weeks after the win. The bad part about this is that Dan Gilbert’s only championship as an owner came in a series where his team had to claw their way back in an unprecedented fashion.
This year felt like it had the makings of another championship for Cleveland until Kevin Durant decided to sign with the Warriors. The changes made for Cleveland in the offseason were minimal compared to the huge addition Golden State made by adding KD. The Cavs were beaten down in the Finals once again by the Warriors. Leading to the worst offseason in modern sports history for a single team, in my opinion. During the summer after the loss David Griffin was not reupped and Koby Altman was hades the reigns. His first work as General Manager was trading a disgruntled Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for a hobbled Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a first round pick from the Nets. The pick was projected to be very high in the lottery. It seemed like a blind dive off a cliff acquiring Thomas. He missed the majority of the East Finals and it was still unknown the extent of his hip injury. It certainly did not pay off.
Now to the 2017-2018 season
This season may be the end of the four year Finals run. They added players like Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Codi Osman. The new cast of Cavaliers without Kyrie Irving struggled. At the all-star break, new GM, Koby Altman made moves. Trading away Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder, DWade, and DRose. Ending the season being swept in the finals in devastating fashion. For the rest of my life I will never see a more pivotal game one. I will also never forget George Hill’s missed free throw, and JR Smith’s absolutely boneheaded last 4.7 seconds.
But after all of this, we come to LeBron’s decision. He has chose to sign a 4 year max deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and it stings. I was sick almost when I got the notification. I want to thank LeBron for the championship in 2018, but I can’t say all of this wasn’t partially his fault. He chose to outcast teammates, disregard the authority of his owner and ultimately give up on his home town team twice. Now, I know he is only doing “what’s best for him” but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. I’ll forever remember “the block” and the end of the 52 year championship drought, but like I said it doesn’t make it hurt less.
Now, where do we go from here?
We drafted PG Collin Sexton from Alabama and we have a strong core of young and veteran players, some of which were handpicked by LeBron, and we have Kevin Love. It’s not crazy to believe he can’t return to his 25-15 self he once was in Minnesota. With all that being said however, we won’t be the same. We will be playoff contenders in a weak eastern conference. We will win 38+ games. Probably have an all star in KLove. The worst part is he will most likely be traded.
In conclusion, Dan Gilbert had the greatest player of all time for 11 years and was only able to put together one championship team. He was even quoted saying “I want LeBron to leave so I get my team back.” Friends, this is absurd. Any egotistical, maniacal person who can actually say this truly doesn’t deserve to own a team. He’s dropped the ball time after time and left fans disappointed more times than a people betting on a one legged man in a balloon stomping competition. I just hope one day we will all be able to look back and appreciate what LeBron did for Cleveland and realize Dan Gilbert is the worst owner of all time.Follow @beertalkwileyp