Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors is one the most anticipated mathchups in NBA history. But it's more than that. This Game 7 is also the most important game in NBA History.
There have been plenty of incredible games in the past, like when Havlicek stole the ball, Jordan battled the flu and Wilt scored 100. But all of those games were great because of what happened, not what they meant for the Association at the time. Not even the battles between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the 70s Knicks and Lakers, the three-peats of the Lakers and Bulls or the 2002 Western Conference Finals carried the weight this Game 7 has for the NBA. The 2016 NBA Finals has a blend of team and individual significance the NBA has never seen in a single game. With that in mind, here's why Sunday's Game 7 is the most important in NBA history.
Warriors Going For Best NBA Season Ever
The Warriors put together the best regular season in NBA history, but that means nothing without an NBA title. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are the 1972 Miami Dolphins of the NBA right now. They own the best season in NBA history because they captured the NBA title that season. If the Warriors can't win the title this year, they become the 2007 New England Patriots: the team that dominated the regular season, but came up short where it mattered most. Sure, the Bulls can still claim they would have beaten this Warriors team and that they have only three playoff losses to the Warriors' eight, but the a win Sunday gives the Warriors an NBA title and the most wins in a single season. That's the best NBA season ever, no matter how many games the Warriors have lost in the postseason.
A Title At Last For Cleveland
This might finally be the year Cleveland breaks its championship drought. And it's not just basketball in Cleveland that has struggled. The Browns have never won a Super Bowl, although they did win titles in the 1950s and 60s during the pre-Super Bowl Era. The Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948. The Cavs have never won an NBA title. There have been numerous close calls, from "The Drive," "The Fumble" and the 1997 World Series that the Indians blew in the ninth inning of Game 7.
Cleveland's struggles in sports and its tendency to have its collective heart broken is so well-known it's spawned a 30 for 30 documentary and jokes like "God Hates Cleveland." Hope in Cleveland hasn't been this high since that 1997 World Series. The prodigal son in LeBron James will either finally deliver that elusive title, or Cleveland will suffer yet another heartbreaker.
I'm usually not a fan of legacy talk, but it's apt in this case. When he was just a high schooler in Akron, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, James was dubbed the next great NBA star. When he ended up in Cleveland, he was hailed as a savior. When he left to join the Miami Heat after seven years and just one failed Finals appearance, he was a pariah. Winning two titles with the Heat didn't help him in the eyes of Cleveland. His return to Cleveland was one filled with open arms and forgiveness, as James was truly the prodigal son returned home. But at age 31, LeBron has yet to accomplish the one thing he was always supposed to do: Win a title for The Land. He's never had a better chance and he's never had a better team in Cleveland than in 2016. Those early Cavs teams were terrible outside of James, but at a certain point, James needs turn the excuses into results. James has put together two historic efforts in his last two games and is the clear-cut Finals MVP if the Cavs win. This is the most important game of James' career. A win and another impressive effort solidifies him as the No. 2 player in NBA history behind Jordan and puts him at the top of greatest NBA Finals performances ever. But a loss would be his fifth all-time in the Finals and just the latest among many disappointment for James.
Cavs Can Pull Of A MiraCLE
No matter what happens Sunday, history will be made. There's the previously mentioned first title for Cleveland and the Warriors' record season, but the Cavs can pull off a true miracle with a win Sunday. Ten teams have come from down 3-1 in an NBA playoff series, including the Warriors against the Thunder earlier this year. But no team has ever done it in an NBA Finals. A win would complete the greatest Finals comeback in history. A win in Game 7 and three straight against this Warriors team would be the miracle Cleveland has waited so long for.