Cleveland, long-known as the punchline of the sports world for its utter ineptitude for the past 52 years, can now breath easy.

After suffering heartbreak after heartbreak, which included infamous moments prefixed by “the” like The Drive, The Shot and The Fumble, a savior was born just 40 miles away in Akron, Ohio. He went on to be dubbed “The Chosen One,” the best basketball player we’d seen since the great Michael Jordan. The stars aligned, allowing him to be drafted right out of high school to the Cleveland Cavaliers and giving the native son, who suffered much of the heartbreak firsthand, the opportunity to put an end to his city’s suffering.

It didn’t pan out the way he had hoped, initially, and he spurned Cleveland for greener pastures, himself imposing more heartbreak on the city that had been through so much with yet another “the,” The Decision. When he left, the Cavaliers returned to the basement of the NBA and became the league’s punching bag once again, the city becoming the laughing stock of the sports world once again. He left for the sunshine and palm trees in Miami. There, he would learn what winning felt like. He would learn what it took to become a champion. He brought those lessons with him when he returned home to Cleveland, intent on relieving the torture that has plagued the city for so long.

LeBron James accomplished his lifelong goal on Sunday, leading the Cavaliers to a 93-89 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. The Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win the title, as James was named Finals MVP after averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists. In the face of adversity with the daunting task of beating the Warriors, a team that won a record 73 games this season, three straight times, James led Cleveland on a ferocious comeback with back-to-back-to-back masterful performances, culminating with a triple-double in Game 7 (29 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).

Many will say Golden State “choked” on the biggest stage, losing three straight games for the first time in two years. That is such an ignorant and disrespectful stance to take. That diminishes the job Cleveland did over the past three games. When the Warriors had the NBA championship within reach, the Cavaliers stormed back to snatch it away from them. That’s not “choking.” That’s called strategy, that’s called outstanding defense, that’s called a will to win.

When faced with the task of limiting the vaunted Golden State offense, led by two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue adjusted his strategy. The players bought in and defended like their lives depended on it, with unsung heroes like Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert stepping up to slow down the league’s most prolific offensive player. Curry was limited to 22.6 points on 40 percent shooting in the series. He and Thompson combined for just 31 points on a collective 12-of-36 shooting in Game 7. After struggling to score in the three losses, James and Kyrie Irving simply refused to lose and carried the team on their backs with 40-point performances and second-half scoring explosions. Tied at 89 in Game 7’s waning moments, it was Irving, not James, who took the go-ahead shot and sank a dagger three-pointer to secure the win. It was then the defense of Kevin Love, long-known for his defensive ineptitude, that forced Curry to miss a potential game-tying shot.

As the final buzzer sounded and the Cavaliers celebrated, only one member of the team truly understood the weight of that moment. Gone are the days of fans wearing paper bags over their faces. Gone are the days of the torment from people who like to laugh at a city’s pain. LeBron James fell to the floor, overcome with emotion and elation, knowing that he accomplished what used to seem impossible. The native son can now breath easy knowing he brought home a championship, ending the suffering of the city of Cleveland.

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