Just as Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci has the Mona Lisa and German composer Ludwig van Beethoven his Fifth Symphony, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James now has his immortal work -- Sunday’s game seven of the NBA Finals .
James completed a virtuoso performance by scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and passing off 11 assists to power Cleveland over the Golden State Warriors 93-89 and capture the best-of-seven series 4-3.
“I watched the Beethoven of basketball right now, LeBron James, compose a game,” Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving said. “He had a freaking triple-double in game seven of an NBA Finals. We’re champions and our whole team is etched in history.”
The Cavaliers are the first club to trail 3-1 and rally to win the finals, the epic comeback dethroning the reigning champion Warriors and spoiling their record 73-win season.
“He’s one of the great players of all time and obviously was the key to the turnaround and had a great series,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
The statistical triple double, double-digit efforts in three categories, was only the third in NBA history in a finals seventh game, joining those of Los Angeles Lakers stars James Worthy in 1988 and Jerry West in 1969, and his seventh career triple double in the finals, one shy of the record.
Ending any doubts, James sealed his place in the pantheon of NBA legends.
“It took every bit of him,” Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson said of James. “People ask me about his legacy, but I say, ‘Why are we talking about his legacy when his story isn’t finished being written?’
“He still has about five more years of being the best player on this planet.”
“King” James averaged NBA Finals highs of 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists and led the way with more than two steals and blocked shots a game as well, an unprecedented statistical domination that fails to capture the emotional impact of his pinpoint passes, high-leaping slam dunks and defensive determination.
“There’s nobody to me that can take his throne,” Jefferson said. “He led the series in every category. Come on. What the hell. Who does that?”
James was a unanimous choice as NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, having also won the award when leading Miami to the NBA crown in 2012 and 2013.
The 31-year-old guard matched Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan as a three-time finals MVP, with only six-time winner Michael Jordan having taken it more.
“Best player in the world makes big plays when we need them,” Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson said of James.
‘Just pretty remarkable’
As if that wasn’t enough, James guided his home-region Cavaliers to their first NBA crown and snapped Cleveland’s 52-year city drought of major sport champions, making good on a vow he made when he returned from the Miami Heat in 2014.
“For him to come back and go through what he did, it’s just pretty remarkable and we’re very proud of him,” teammate Kevin Love said. “We love our leader.”
Golden State star guard Stephen Curry, the NBA scoring champion and a unanimous pick for his second consecutive regular-season NBA MVP award, could only praise James.
“There’s no denying what he was able to accomplish this series,” Curry said. “He played pretty great basketball, made some timely shots. Definitely was a huge reason they got it done.”
Another major factor was Irving, whose 26 points included the 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining that put Cleveland ahead for good.
“After the game I didn’t even really know how to feel,” said Irving, who admitted barely sleeping for two days. “I didn’t really understand the emotions that came with winning an NBA championship.”
Asked about a Cavaliers’ title repeat next season, Irving smiled and said, “Let’s not move too fast.”