Between Game 4 and Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, things looked (very) bleak for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As the entire NBA world knows, that picture changed drastically on the heels of the Draymond Green suspension and the Cavs rose from the grave to rattle off three straight wins in the now legendary comeback victory.
While Green’s suspension is still discussed as perhaps the pivot point in the series, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson may have poked the bear in his own way. At the time, Thompson said the following about the incident between James and Green that prompted the technical and suspension:
“Guys talk trash in this league all the time. I’m just kind of shocked some guys take it so personal. You know, it’s a man’s league and I’ve heard a lot of bad things on that court, but at the end of the day, it stays on the court. We’re all competitive people. Trash talk is a part of the game in basketball. I feel like it’s a part of any sport, especially this competitive.”
Thompson’s indication that the NBA is “a man’s league” did not sit well with James and, during that same press availability, Thompson said that “his feeling just got hurt” with regard to the soon-to-be Finals MVP.
While it is well publicized just how absurd James was in the three-game comeback performance, the best player in the league hasn’t stopped there and it can all potentially be traced back to an opponent challenging his manhood to some extent.
In the 11 playoff games since the exchange, LeBron has been absolutely absurd.
The raw numbers seen above are off the charts and they translate to 35.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game with high-end defensive impact and highly efficient (50 percent FG, 45 percent 3-PT) shooting. More importantly, however, the Cavs have been perfect over that 11-game sample.
It should be noted that other players exist and the Cavaliers would not have been able to claim the 2016 title without Kyrie’s shot and impactful play from a wide variety of contributors. Still, the centerpiece of it all has been LeBron James and this perhaps the best 11-game stretch of play in NBA history.
From a raw numerical perspective, you could find better 11-game periods, especially when including the regular season. Still, this performance came on the highest possible stage and the Cavaliers are simply eviscerating the competition in the postseason based on the way their best player is operating. It might not continue all the way through the 2017 NBA Playoffs, simply because the Cavs must face a highly motivated Warriors team in the Finals should they cruise past the Celtics or Wizards.
For now, though, we are simply left to marvel and the game’s greatest player doing what he does.