‘Cleveland, this is for you’: Looking back on Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– What a year 2016 was for Cleveland sports fans.

The then-Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup. Stipe Miocic won his first UFC Heavyweight title. And the Cleveland Cavaliers ended the city’s 52-year major sports title drought by becoming NBA Champions. (Let’s not talk about the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series right now, OK?)

We were, “All In 216,” not just a nod to the Cleveland area code, but the Cavs’ path to 16 playoff wins.

The Cavs swept the Pistons and the Hawks in the first two rounds of the postseason, then finished the Raptors in six games for their second of four-straight Eastern Conference titles.

There was a familiar foe waiting for Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals: the defending champion Golden State Warriors with a historic 73-9 regular season record and first-ever unanimous MVP Steph Curry.

The game:

Things looked bleak for the Cavs, who fell to the Warriors in six games the previous year. They were down 3-1 in the Finals. No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficient to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.

But when the Cavaliers evened the series at three each in front of an insanely-loud home crowd, we got to hear the two most exciting words in all of sports: Game 7.

Back on the West Coast at Oracle Arena on June 19, 2016, it was 75-76 Warriors to start the fourth quarter. The game came down to three iconic plays: “The Block,” “The Shot” and “The Stop.”

Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the hoop against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Cleveland Cavaliers bench reacts during the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, center, is defended by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Anderson Varejao during the first half of Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a three-point basket against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Marreese Speights during the first half of Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers blocks a shot by Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23, Kevin Love #0, and Matthew Dellavedova #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 and the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California.
Powered by an amazing effort from LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers completed the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, dethroning defending champion Golden State 93-89 to capture their first NBA title. The Cavaliers won the best-of-seven series 4-3 to claim the first league crown in their 46-season history and deliver the first major sports champion to Cleveland since the 1964 NFL Browns, ending the longest such title drought for any American city.
/ AFP / Beck Diefenbach (Photo credit should read BECK DIEFENBACH/AFP via Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“The Block”: Warriors Andre Iguodala rebounded a shot by Kyrie Irving and powered down the court. You know what happens next. The words play in the heads of Cleveland sports fans like their favorite song: “Iguodala to Curry, back to Iguodala. Blocked by James!” With less than 2 minutes left, a chase down block by LeBron James kept Cleveland in the game.

“The Shot:” Irving posted 26 points in the game, but was one for four on three-pointers until this moment. It was 89-89 and Kyrie was in a standoff with Curry. There were just 55 seconds on the clock when he pulled back and sunk the three.

“The Stop:” Kevin Love ended up covering Curry while Irving was on Draymond Green. Love’s defense forced Curry to pass to Green and when the ball came back, the NBA MVP didn’t make the shot.

A foul shot by LeBron sealed the 93-89 victory and his words, “Cleveland, this is for you!” became chiseled in sports history.

The celebrations:

Once the initial shock wore off, it was pure joy inside the watch party at Quicken Loans Arena, which was mid-renovations for the 2016 Republican National Convention. Outside, confetti rained down on Gateway Plaza and the party downtown stretched into the early-morning hours.

Cleveland Cavalier fans celebrate after the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Finals, Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Brian Wilson prays in the final minutes of Game 7 of the NBA basketball Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Jordan Hohl celebrates after the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Finals, Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers fans celebrate after the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Finals, Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers fans celebrate after the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Finals, Monday, June 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova, from Australia, yells to fans after arriving in Cleveland, Monday, June 20, 2016. The Cavaliers defeated Golden State in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday in Oakland, Calif.(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Confetti is sprayed over the crowd as the Cleveland Cavaliers arrive at the airport after winning Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors the previous night, Monday, June 20, 2016, in Cleveland. Cleveland won 93-89. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Confetti is sprayed over the crowd as the Cleveland Cavaliers arrive at the airport after winning Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors the previous night, Monday, June 20, 2016, in Cleveland. Cleveland won 93-89. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Our champions returned to Cleveland the following morning to a massive crowd at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Kyrie Irving #2, LeBron James #23, Tristan Thompson #13, Kevin Love #0 and J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The parade:

The streets of Cleveland were wine and gold on the morning of June 22, 2016 for a parade unlike the city had ever seen. It was supposed to be short: Start at Quicken Loans Arena, down East 9th Street to Lakeside Avenue and end at the Huntington Convention Center. But with more than a million people downtown, the parade stretched for more than five hours on a sweltering day.

J.R. Smith stayed shirtless, Mo Williams puffed cigars and Kevin Love wore wrestling belts over his shoulders. And LeBron James, with his arms stretched wide like the billboard of his likeness just feet away, took in the moment.

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland fans celebrate during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors to bring the first professional sports championship to the city of Cleveland since 1964. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers takes a photo as the crowd cheers during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Fans look on from a parking garage near a sign reading “J.R.’s Shirt” during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Iman Shumpert #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers throws beads to the crowd during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Fans scale the side of a parking garage to get a better view during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic looks on during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving opens his arms for the crowd during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors to bring the first professional sports championship to the city of Cleveland since 1964. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
Fans look on from a parking garage near a sign reading “R.I.P. 1964” during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Matthew Dellavedova #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers takes photos with fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers fans wait for the team to arrive at a rally, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and end the city’s 52-year drought without a professional sports championship. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Richard Jefferson #24, Kevin Love #0, Channing Frye #9 and Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue acknowledges the crowd as he speaks at a rally, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and end the city’s 52-year drought without a professional sports championship. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Jordan McRae, left to right, James Jones, Dahntay Jones, LeBron James, and J.R. Smith all share a laugh during a rally, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and end the city’s 52-year drought without a professional sports championship. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, right, and Kyrie Irving hug during a rally Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and end the city’s 52-year drought without a professional sports championship. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds up the Larry O’Brien Trophy during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds up the Larry O’Brien Trophy during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

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