Teams always have internal motivations they use as team-bonding exercises. The Cavaliers got to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy on Sunday night for the first time in franchise history, and for the first time out of any major sports team in the city since 1964. But unbeknownst to the world, they had been assembling a trophy of their own, piece by piece, throughout the playoffs.
The story of the puzzle trophy comes from ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst:
Earlier in the season, veteran James Jones came up with an idea of a rallying point for the Cavs’ postseason run. The team would create a puzzle with 16 pieces, one for each win needed to take the title. When put together, it would form the trophy.
“We needed something to bring us together,” Jones said. “Every guy was a piece. We assembled this team. So we had to assemble the puzzle.”
The golden puzzle was kept quiet by players and coaches, revealed only after the Cavs completed the greatest comeback in Finals history with their 93-89, Game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night.
The move is eerily similar to the Cleveland Indians baseball team in the movie Major League.
The fictional team used their owner undressing as their motivating puzzle to the postseason. Dan Gilbert probably doesn’t qualify.
The first 12 pieces weren’t much trouble. They swept the Pistons and Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs and defeated the Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, a series that was never really in doubt despite two unexpected wins by Toronto. The final four pieces, though, were the toughest, and after four games it looked like they might not get there. But the series swung with Draymond Green’s suspension, and the Cavs rattled off three straight wins — the first three-game losing streak of Steve Kerr’s tenure as Warriors head coach. Those three wins allowed the Cavs to finish off the puzzle, and then hoist the real trophy.