Think about this: We are tracking private jets with Zydrunas Illgauskas from Pontiac, MI to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Heat power forward Chris Bosh has a pen in hand, ready to sign an $88 Million contract with the Houston Rockets.
Maybe it’s the dog days of summer or maybe it’s just innocent water cooler talk, but the second act of “Waiting for LeBron” is in full effect.
Let us take a walk down memory lane and reminisce about the good ole’ days, when the King was still a ring-less lad playing in the Land of the Cleves. Will these be the best of his days as a Cavalier? Or are these just the first few chapters of a tale of a King who left the north for rings in the south, only to return to the north to acquire more rings?
Here are the top five (or six) moments from LeBron’s first tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers:Honorable Mention: LeBron’s Debut (Cavs @ Kings October 29, 2003)
A teenage LeBron James traveled to Sacramento to play the first regular season NBA game of his career two days before Halloween. A few years earlier he was trick or treating the streets of Akron. Now he was dubbed the “Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated, the most hyped high school star since the great Moses Malone. He did not disappoint.
Fresh out of the packaging, LeBron James scored 25 points, dished out nine assists, grabbed six rebounds and stole the ball four times. He was as good as advertised, the best draft pick in the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers ultimately lost to a much better Kings team 106-92, but it was apparent that this rookie was the real deal.
5. Chasedown block on Jason Richardson (Cavs @ Suns March 12, 2009)
In his younger Cleveland years, LeBron had a knack for chasing down opponents to reject their shot off the backboard. None were better than the one King James served up for Jason Richardson during a regular season game in Phoenix in March of 2009.
The 2002 slam dunk champion Richardson assumed he was safe to go for a 360 in-game dunk and in most cases, he’d be right. Richardson was wide open following a long outlet pass. Never mind the fact that his team was trailing 97-95 at the time, “J Rich” was going to add a little flash to this particular basket. Following his complete rotation, Richardon’s dunk attempt was thwarted by a 260-pound locomotive who came from no where. Richardson received a technical foul, the Cavaliers got the win 119-111, and LeBron James got a nice highlight to top off his 34-13-10 triple-double performance.
4. LeBron takes down the Wizards (Wizards @ Cavs May 3, 2006)
In only his third year in the league, LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the playoffs and an opening round matchup with the Gilbert Arenas-led Washington Wizards. With 3.6 seconds left in overtime of Game 5, James took a Larry Hughes inbound pass through a plethora of Wizards for a game-winning lay up over the unheralded Michael Ruffin. LeBron finished the game with 45-7-6 as the Cavaliers won the game 121-120, and went on to win the series in six games.
This was the first playoff series win for LeBron James, as well as the first for the Cleveland Cavaliers since 1993 when Mark Price and the gang defeated the late Dražen Petrovic and the New Jersey Nets.
3. Game 2 Eastern Conference Finals (Magic @ Cavs May 22, 2009)
The Orlando Magic’s Hedo Turkoglu drove to the lane during the waning seconds of Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. Turkoglu pulled up on Cavaliers guard Sasha Pavolic and hit what appeared to be the game-clinching shot from just inside the free throw line. The Orlando Magic were a mere second away from going up 2-0 in the series.
Mo Williams threw the inbounds pass to LeBron James, who only had time to catch and shoot the basketball. From the “S” at the end of “Cavaliers” in the half court graphic, LeBron launched the game winning shot (96-95). The shot was fired over the outstretched arms of, fittingly enough, Hedo Turkoglu. The Cavaliers tied the series 1-1, but went on to lose to the Magic in six games.
2. The posterization of Kevin Garnett (Celtics @ Cavs May 12, 2008)
The 2008 Playoffs pitted the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers against the Boston Celtics and their newly formed “big three” of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. The Cavaliers won game four of the semi-finals 88-77 to tie the series at 2-2.
LeBron James put an exclamation point on the victory with a thunderous “and 1” dunk over the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Garnett. At the time, Garnett was a fierce rim protector whose very presence in the paint made slashers think twice. James approached Garnett with “no regard for human life,” giving Cleveland hope against a 66-win Boston Celtics super team.
The Cavaliers lost a thrilling game seven to the eventual NBA Champion Celtics, where James and Pierce scored an incredible 86 points combined.
1. Game 5 Eastern Conference Finals (Cavs @ Pistons May 31, 2007)
The Detroit Pistons of the mid-2000’s were a throwback team. These Pistons emulated the “Bad Boys” of the late 80’s and early 90’s. They played selflessly and focused on team defense. They routinely held opponents to final scores in the 60’s or 70’s in 48-minute professional basketball games.
With the series tied 2-2, Game 5 in the Palace of Auburn Hills certainly was the pivotal game of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. A 22-year-old phenom torched the 2004 NBA Champions to the tune of 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. LeBron willed the Cavaliers to a double overtime 109-107 victory. James scored all 18 of his teams’ overtime points, 25 straight going back to regulation, and 29 of the team’s last 30. Analyst Steve Kerr used the term “Jordan-esque” to describe what he had just witnessed.
The Cavaliers rode the momentum to a blowout 98-82 Game 6 victory of the Pistons and the first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history.