LeBron James had a chance to give Cleveland its first NBA title in 2015, but an injury to Kyrie Irving left James all alone with Kevin Love already out.
Despite dominating the Eastern Conference, the injuries to LeBron’s two co-stars proved to be too large to overcome. The Cavs could not hold on to a 2-1 series lead against Steph Curry and the Warriors, losing 4-2 eventually. However, the King believes that the outcome could have been vastly different if Kyrie was healthy.
As Irving deals with an ankle sprain in these playoffs, thoughts of the All Star’s injury in the 2015 Finals come back to mind. The Nets superstar is set to miss game 5 of the Bucks and Nets series. Brooklyn is extremely vulnerable as Harden nurses a sore hamstring, leaving Durant alone on the court, just like LeBron was.
Kyrie Irving appeared to roll his ankle while landing on the foot of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Irving limped to the locker room on his own. pic.twitter.com/CTxMM9s4nq
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 13, 2021
LeBron James & The Cavaliers Return To The Finals To Take On The Ascending Golden State Warriors
The 2014-15 season was marked by LeBron’s return to the Cavaliers. After spending 4 years in Miami where he became an NBA champion, the King decided it was finally time to return home.
He had told Cleveland that they would be a city of champions, and by bolting to Miami, James had left that promise unfulfilled. It was time to finish what he had started.
Kyrie Irving was a budding superstar at the time, and the Cavaliers held the number one overall pick in that year’s draft. That pick turned into Andrew Wiggins which the Cavs would flip for Timberwolves All Star Kevin Love. The stage was set to take Cleveland to the promise land.
At the same time, a storm was brewing on the other side of the NBA landscape. Golden State had parted ways with Mark Jackson and hired former Bulls legend Steve Kerr to take them over the hump. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were coming into their own and Draymond Green looked like the perfect defensive anchor.
Nobody could have predicted the Warriors quick ascension to NBA dominance, however. They finished first in the Western Conference with a 67-15 record as Curry won his first MVP award.
A Cavs vs. Warriors Finals was the last thing anyone would have predicted that year as more established teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets looked as formidable as ever. Nevertheless, the Warriors made it out of the West, hardly breaking a sweat, fully healthy.
The same couldn’t be said about the Cavs. They lost Kevin Love to a dislocated shoulder against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he wouldn’t come back the rest of the way. Already down a star, the Cavs faced an uphill battle.
Kyrie Irving Goes Down In Game 1, James Can’t Bring Cleveland The Title Alone
In a thrilling overtime victory, the Golden State Warriors took the first game of the series. However, the bigger storyline from that game was Kyrie Irving’s injury. He had left with an injured knee, and from the way he was grimacing, his outlook going ahead didn’t look positive either.
Cavs fans held their breaths in anticipation for any news regarding their All Star. News would come, but it wouldn’t be the news Cleveland was looking for. Irving was ruled out of the rest of the series with a knee injury, meaning LeBron would have to carry the Cavaliers alone.
It wasn’t something James wasn’t used to, but against the number one seed in the West, who were completely healthy, he faced a tough task. Incredibly, James and the Cavs still took the next two games from Golden State, holding a strong 2-1 lead heading into Game 4.
However, the fatigue of putting up heroic performance after heroic performance finally caught up to the Cavaliers legend. The Warriors would take the next 3 games, winning their first championship in 50 years. James was in no way to blame, however.
Playing an absurd 45.7 minutes per game, James put up 35.8 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game, and 8.8 assists per game. His play was so dominant that voters were genuinely considering giving him the Finals MVP award despite losing the overall series.
Had Kyrie Irving been healthy, the Finals could have gone an entirely different direction. To stay with the Warriors for 6 games was impressive, and it led many to question Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for not taking care of business earlier.
For that same reason, LeBron still believes that if Irving was healthy, the Cavaliers would have been the ones up at the podium and not Golden State. This is, of course, without even mentioning Kevin Love’s absence. Imagine how different things could have been if Cleveland won that title.
Maybe, LeBron James is closer to Michael Jordan than we think he is right now. He’d have 5 rings and instead of 6 Finals losses, he’d have 5. Additionally, do the Warriors even sign Kevin Durant if they lose two straight Finals to the Cavs, or would KD choose somewhere else to go?
History could have been vastly different if either one of the Cavaliers’ stars were healthy. For now, all we can do is speculate.
Report: LeBron James ‘still’ believes Cavs could’ve won 2015 finals with healthy Kyrie Irving https://t.co/VNxGHle8g2
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) June 14, 2021