Reflecting on the Cavs' 2016 title and finding hope in the NBA's new era
Seven years ago this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from a 3-to-1 series deficit to win the team's first NBA title. It’s still fresh in the mind of our sports commentator Terry Pluto, who was writing his Cleveland.com column during the game from the then-Oracle Arena, where the Golden State Warriors played.
“I have two columns going, one with them winning and one with them losing. It's a close game all the way, and I had approximately, or exactly, the way it looks, like 18 minutes to send in the story to get it right, a championship story,” Pluto said.
Pluto said there was one moment that stood out the most.
“As the Warrior fans are trudging out, kind of their shuffling their feet, their heads are down and sort of grumbling, here come the Cavs fans. There must have been about a thousand of them in there. I don't know how they all got tickets, and they are circling the arena and they're just chanting, ‘Let's go Cavs! Let's go Cavs!’ And it was one of the coolest fan things I've ever seen,” Pluto said.
Pluto said from 2015 to 2018, the Cavs and the Warriors dominated the NBA.
“In fact, it was almost monotonous,” Pluto said. “It was LeBron against the Warriors. And then, you know, after the summer of 2018, LeBron went to the Lakers and then it changed.”
The NBA has had different title winners in each of the last five seasons: Denver, Golden State, Milwaukee, the L.A. Lakers and Toronto.
Pluto said this year’s Denver Nuggets team can give Cavs’ fans some hope.
“Their drought was 47 years,” Pluto said. “The Cavaliers' was 46 years.”
“The Nuggets talk about having a homegrown team, and by that they mean most of the guys, they're players they drafted or that they develop. I mean, the coach is Michael Malone. The first three years, they don't even make the playoffs. It took him seven years to win that title, and they had Nikola Jokic and some other players," Pluto said. "But the big thing there was they kept changing players around their two players, Jamal Murray and Jokic, and the coach. But they didn't dump out of the coach (and) they didn’t decide they got to break up these two stars because they can't win a title. They stayed with it and they won."
Pluto said a lot of how the league has changed is centered on LeBron James.
“Because remember at one point, LeBron had been to the NBA Finals eight times in nine years, dating back to his time with Miami. And those days are gone. LeBron's still a great player, but he isn't the LeBron James that we saw here who could just put that team on his back and take him to the finals year after year,” Pluto said.
Pluto said he welcomes the change, while holding on to the memories of the 2016 title run.
“As a fan of basketball and a fan of Cleveland, I like the fact that it's changed so much. We'll always savor that title in 2016." Pluto said. "And I'll never forget the sights and sounds of those Cavs' fans circling that arena, chanting, ‘Let's go Cavs!’ and LeBron and hugging people and crying. And just this pandemonium of seeing Cleveland take over a West Coast arena."