It is hard to believe nearly five years have passed since LeBron James famously declared he was taking his talents to South Beach in a highly maligned decision that turned the Akron, Ohio, product into the most detested figure in sports. Flash forward to 2015 and that separation seems like a distant memory.
James has slowly built his place as one of the game’s best players after leading Miami to consecutive NBA titles in 2012 and 2013, along the way, booking four consecutive Finals appearances. Now, the fairy tale ending to the prodigal son’s tale can be wrapped up with a potential third championship for the best player in the world and a highly coveted trophy for his hometown Cavaliers. Despite these challenges, James recently shared how everything fell into place and pointed out the person who convinced him of the Cavaliers’ chances of bringing home the city’s first major sports championship -- Kyrie Irving.
"Part of the reason I decided to come back from the beginning was how special he [Irving] was. I noticed that," James said recently in describing North East Ohio Media Group Irving’s emergence as the major reason for his return. "To see him grow and see him learn what it means to truly be a professional every day since I've been here has been a huge reward and it's great to see it.”
In the same interview, the 31-year-old James said even at diminished health, Irving is a luxury to have on the court rather than relegated to the bench. James pointed out Irving’s decision to play in the close-out game against the Atlanta Hawks boosted the squad’s chances by providing the emotional boost the team needed to ensure the NBA Finals trip and with it, additional rest days to rejuvenate their banged-up bodies.
Irving’s health has been one of the hotly discussed talking points of the NBA Finals between the Cavs and Golden State Warriors given Cleveland is set to face the dangerous backcourt tandem of reigning MVP Stephen Curry and sweet shooting starting two-guard Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers' offensive emergence has been one of the great stories of this season and Cleveland is aware any chance of containing the output of the Curry and Thompson relies heavily on challenging them to exert energy on the defensive end -- a complication that could have been solved easily by a healthy Irving.
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt has been reserved on Irving's health, offering few details, disclosing only his lead guard still doesn't look the same at practice. The former Rookie of the Year was held out from Games 2 and 3 of the conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks to rest an assortment of ailments affecting his knee and foot.
Kyrie Irving took part in some of today's practice. David Blatt says he's still not himself yet.
â€” Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 31, 2015
Irving looked healthier in his Game 4 return; however, his health has remained a mystery just days ahead of Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals at the Oracle Arena. James and company can hope nearly eight days rest for the banged-up Cavaliers is sufficient to give Irving et al a fighting chance to go toe to toe with the Warriors.