INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James delivered on a promise and ended decades of Cleveland sports misery in 2016.
For leading the Cavaliers to an NBA title and ending the city’s 52-year title drought, James was chosen Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year on Thursday, joining Tiger Woods as the award’s only two-time winners since its inception in 1954.
“I’m honored,” James said following shootaround before the Cavs hosted the Los Angeles Clippers. “I’m more happy for my family, my kids, for my wife, my mom, and for my foundation, for the kids that I represent and the kids that use me as a role model and an inspiration.”
Appearing in his sixth straight NBA Finals in June, James rallied the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the favored Golden State Warriors, who won 73 games during the regular season but couldn’t put Cleveland away. James scored 41 points in Games 5 and 6 and made a key block in the final minutes of an epic Game 7, making the Cavs the first Cleveland major sports franchise to win a title since the Browns in 1964.
James was selected finals MVP for the third time in his career.
The 31-year-old James returned to Cleveland as a free agent in 2014 and pledged to bring a title to his home state. He did it in his second season, an achievement that ranks as the greatest accomplishment of his career.
James had spurned Cleveland in 2010, leaving for Miami, where he and close friend Dwyane Wade led the Heat to two titles and four consecutive finals.
“It’s hard to remember a year with such a crowded field of Sportsperson candidates,” said Chris Stone, SI’s editor in chief. “But in the end, LeBron James was the clear choice.”
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.