The city of Cleveland was long known for the championship curse that lasted 52 years and spread across all major sports. But in 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally broke that curse and brought a major celebration to the city.
The Cavaliers have had some of the league’s best players, even if you aren’t counting LeBron James.
The team was originally founded in 1970 as an expansion team in the Eastern Conference. The first few seasons were tough for the franchise, but the arrival of a few stars helped point things in the right direction. Players such as Austin Carr and Lenny Wilkens helped the Cavs capture their first division title in 1976. They even advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost 4-2 to the powerhouse Boston Celtics.
After a downturn in fortune in the early 1980s, the franchise returned to the playoffs later in the decade and into the 1990s. They played in some of the most famous playoff series in NBA history, playing against the likes of Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Michael Jordan. In 1992, they beat out Indiana and Boston, but suffered a heartbreaking loss in the conference finals to Jordan and the Bulls. They had great players in this tenure as well such as Mark Price and Larry Nance Sr. Their success as a franchise continued until 1998, which would be their last playoff appearance until the King arrived.
While the time up until 2003 was rough, it would ultimately represent one of the most important times in the history of their franchise, as they were able to draft Akron, OH’s LeBron James first overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. In just 3 years, James completely turned the franchise around, leading them to a playoff appearance in 2006, and a trip to NBA Finals in 2007 for the first time in franchise history.
While they were swept by Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, it was evident that LeBron had brought a new championship mindset to the organization. For the next few years, the Cavs were perennial competitors and made deep runs in the playoffs, but were unable to reach the Promised Land again.
Then in the 2010 offseason LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, bringing another tough period for the organization as a whole. But those losing seasons gave them the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With that pick they grabbed Kyrie Irving, who would become one of the best players in the entire NBA.
When LeBron returned to Cleveland, he was returned to a team with a budding superstar in Irving and an established star in Kevin Love. Those three combined to bring the first championship to Cleveland in franchise history and the first title in the city in over half a century. It wasn’t easy though, the first season they made the Finals but fell short. In their second season they returned to the Finals and pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA history, coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Finally, the city of Cleveland had captured the illustrious and long overdue title that they desired for so long. LeBron and the rest of the Cavaliers were forever cemented in the history of the franchise and the city.
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