It's here and it feels better than ever. We are just 10 hours away from a Cleveland sports team playing for a championship for the first time since 1997. With Game 7 of the NBA Finals taking place in Oakland on Sunday night, let's take a look back at my top ten favorite Cavs moments.
Joining the Cavs bandwagon when I was in fourth grade, just one year before some guy named LeBron James suited up in the wine and gold, I have lived with this team through thick and thin. Even after King James took his talents to South Beach in 2010, I remained committed, suffering through the days of Semih Erden, Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions, Manny Harris, Alonzo Gee, CJ Miles and Luke Harangody, among many other not-so-good basketball players, to get to this point.
Just 48 minutes away from a title, let's see what cracks the top ten.
10. Christian Eyenga Dunks All Over Pau Gasol and the Lakers
In the most excruciating season that I have ever endured as a sports fan, this was something that gave me a reason to smile. In a game against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the same team that beat the Cavs by 55 points earlier in the season, Christian "Skyenga" Eyenga drove baseline and dunked all over Pau Gasol, in arguably the biggest of Cleveland's 19 wins in 2010-11.
9. LeBron's Back-to-Back 41-point 2016 Finals Performances
This is a recent memory, but nonetheless, a great one. With Cleveland's back against the wall, LeBron, who was taking as much criticism as any time since his return to the Cavs, responded in the most brilliant way possible. Torching the Golden State Warriors with back-to-back 41-point performances in elimination games, James brought what was once a 3-1 deficit to a fate-determining Game 7. I am hoping these two performances are not downplayed with a runner-up finish tonight.
8. LeBron's Debut in Sacramento
My parents let me stay up late for this West Coast battle against the Sacramento Kings in LeBron's highly-anticipated debut on Oct. 29, 2003. With two identical "The Wait is Over" LeBron posters hanging between a freshly printed James jersey on the wall in my room, King James began his NBA career as well as anyone ever has, going for 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists in a 106-92 Cavs loss. It was at this moment I knew LeBron was for real.
7. Cavs Win NBA Draft Lottery (The Second Time)
After a dreadful 19-63 season in the first Non-LeBron season, Cavs fans needed a little hope. That hope arrived on May 17, 2011. Just 11 days before my high school graduation, the Cavs secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, in which they would eventually select Kyrie Irving aka Uncle Drew. Fun fact: At the time, I was advocating for the Cavs to select Arizona forward Derrick Williams. Please do not let me near an NBA GM job any time soon.
6. LeBron, Jay-Z Diss DeShawn Stevenson
A forgotten piece of Cavs history, the mini-feud between LeBron James and DeShawn Stevenson (who?) prior to the 2008 NBA playoffs was a favorite memory of my high school years. In a beef that LeBron compared to Jay-Z vs. Soulja Boy, Sean Carter himself took matters into his own hands. Take a listen below.
5. LeBron Returns With Heartfelt Letter
The day that changed everything. I was in West Palm Beach coaching a baseball tournament when word broke that LeBron was returning to Cleveland. After days of speculation, the feeling I had about a possible LeBron return is similar to what I am feeling right now. It sounded too good to be true. July 11, 2014 will always be one of the greatest days of my life as a sports fan. I am hoping June 19, 2016 joins that category.
4. Antawn Jamison, Cavs Snap 26-Game Losing Streak
I remember it like it was yesterday. In a battle against the Los Angeles Clippers (hey, thanks for Kyrie Irving), the Cavs snapped an NBA-record 26-straight losses in impressive fashion. Whether it was JJ Hickson dunking all over Blake Griffin, or 57-year-old Antawn Jamison going off for 35 points, the Cavs just had 'it' on Feb. 11, 2011. The win was Cleveland's first since Dec. 18, 2010.
3. The Shot Heard 'Round the World: Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals
With Cleveland possibly facing a steep 2-0 deficit against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, LeBron took matters into his own hands in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. With Cleveland trailing 95-93 with just a second remaining, James miraculously caught and sunk a buzzer-beating from the top of the key, leaving the Cavs to fight another day in an emphatic 96-95 victory. While Cleveland would go on to lose the series, LeBron played some of his very best basketball, averaging 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and eight assists per game.
2. No Regard for Human Life: LeBron Dunks on Kevin Garnett
In Game 4 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Cavs facing a 2-1 deficit, LeBron flushed down one of the more iconic dunks of his career. With the Cavs leading 82-78 with a little less than two minutes remaining, LeBron drove right and threw down a ferocious poster slam over Celtics' bad boy Kevin Garnett, which nearly ripped the roof off the Quicken Loans Arena. While James' 21-point, 13-assist performance tied the series, the Cavs would fall in seven games (ugh) to the eventual champion Celtics.
1. LeBron Torches the Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals
This was the moment that LeBron had officially 'arrived.' Just four years out of high school, LeBron had arguably the greatest performance of his career against the same team that knocked him out of the playoffs the previous year. Dropping the first two games of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals to the Detroit Pistons, LeBron and the Cavaliers would need a miracle of a performance in order to win Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead in Detroit, and boy did they get it. Scoring Cleveland's final 25 points in an iconic 48-point performance in a 109-107 win over the Pistons, LeBron began to receive the first of many comparisons to one Michael Jordan. This performance helped push the Cavs into its first-ever Finals appearance and was the first of many legendary LeBron playoff memories. Cleveland's dispatching of the Pistons also seemingly put an end to a strong era for Detroit, who has never really gotten back to an elite level of basketball. For me, this is the cream of the crop for LeBron performances, but this can easily be eclipsed tonight with a win in Game 7 at Golden State.
Bring it home, LeBron.