They did it. On June 19, 2016, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship, defeating the Golden State Warriors in heroic fashion. Down 3-1, the Cavs did what no other NBA team in the history of the league has done. Climbed back to win it all.
The championship also fulfills LeBron James' promise of ending Cleveland's sports title drought (the Cleveland Browns last won a championship in 1964). A promise many people didn't believe he would ever fulfill.
Not when he was setup to win many more in a bigger market like Miami.
When LeBron James ended weeks of speculation by announcing his decision to leave Miami and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer, what he really did was create the kind of sports story that is quickly optioned by a major motion picture studio and hastily turned into a summer blockbuster - or slow-burned into a winter Oscar contender - depending.
Start casting the movie now.
A championship for Cleveland, for the Cavs, for LeBron and this team, is not only sports history - it’s one of the greatest sports stories ever to be told.
You have to tell this story from the beginning - from the decision to come back, through the rocky and questionable first year back, to the volcano of power and precision that we saw in the final three games of the 2016 playoffs.
So who stars in this blockbuster? Who would you cast? I have some ideas.
Rich Paul, played by Sean 'P Diddy' Combs
Paul is James’ agent - his third - who most considered the mastermind behind James’ return to Cleveland. While LeBron surely made up his own mind, Paul is the one who paved the way. Combs not only resembles Paul in many ways, but carries a similar swagger and wields the same sharp business sense.
Dan Gilbert, played by Kevin Pollak
If you’ve met Gilbert, you know he has a sense of humor similar to Pollak’s. Or at least a sense of humor that’s out there just a little bit (check out any Cleveland Cavaliers pre-draft selection). Pollak looks a bit like Gilbert and can carry the same tired - by confident - Midwestern cadence Gilbert delivers. Plus, with Gilbert and Pollak, you’re never sure if you love him or hate him. Maybe a little of both.
Pat Riley, played by James Cromwell
For Riley, you need a solid character actor with powerful screen presence. Cromwell fits the bill. He can be imposing and disarming at the same time. You trust him - and you wouldn’t want to say no to him. Which makes him perfect to play Riley.
David Blatt, played by Larry David
Sports media have described David Blatt in every single way you can imagine. Stumbling and brilliant. Acerbic and witty. Cutting and embracing. One thing’s for sure, Blatt, the first-year NBA coach with 20+ years coaching experience is a bit of a wild card. Kinda like Larry David, half the force behind Seinfeld and all of the power behind Curb Your Enthusiasm. David could play David close to the bone.
Savannah Brinson, played by Jennifer Hudson
There’s little doubt Brinson, James’ wife, didn’t confer with her husband about this move throughout his time in Miami. And it’s likely Brinson spoke with James’ inner circle and Paul on more than one occasion. It was James’ decision, but Brinson surely provided her opinion. Hudson’s inner strength portrays that well.
Cleveland Fans, embodied by Mike Polk
Clevelanders know and love Mike Polk. He is our every man. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of Polk. His exudes the love/hate relationship Cleveland has with its sports teams (“I love them and I hate myself for it”).
Jonathan and Jenny Gotschall, played by Zach Braff and Megan Aruffo
Those that followed the story closely remember all the rumors that surely confirmed LeBron’s return - the kids back in Bath schools, the renovations at his Bath home - the list goes on. The most reported rumor was the Facebook post from Caroline’s Cupcake owners Jonathan and Jenny Gotschall. They knew someone who knew someone who said LeBron’s return was a done deal. The post made national news. A little literary license would allow you to expand these two characters and show how excited Cleveland fans were during those wild two weeks. Braff and Aruffo are the perfect couple to play the cupcake couple.
Matthew Dellavedova, played by Simon Pegg
No, not Rhys Wakefield. Or Xavier Samuel. No, I’m making a call that will be unpopular with every Australian reader out there. And anyone who realizes the choice I’m making is about 30 years older than Delly. Don’t care. I really, really want to see Simon Pegg take on the undrafted, intangible, scrappy knee-bender from Down Under. Pegg’s wit and size plays well with all the bigger players
Kevin Love, played by John Krasinski
Love was a bit of question mark for the team. Did he fit the culture? Was he clashing with LeBron? Was he the square peg in the big three? All that went out the door with the Celtics Kelly Olynyk ripped his shoulder from its socket.
Kyrie Irving, played by Donald Glover
Your heart breaks knowing Kyrie spent four tough years with the Cavs when their line-ups were hodgepodge and their chances at a post-season berth were never good. Now Irving has realized his full potential. All-star on one of the two best teams in the league playing in the NBA Finals. Save, you know, for that broken kneecap. Donald Glover is the perfect actor to portray both the innocence and pathos that make up Kyrie’s story.
LeBron James, played by LeBron James
I mean, who else can you cast but the man himself?