Vilified when he left and celebrated when he returned, LeBron James had spent the past two seasons lugging his city's championship dreams like a bag of rocks. The weight had only grown more cumbersome — the weight of history, of disappointment, of missed opportunities.
James could feel it all on his sturdy shoulders.
On Sunday night, before a dazed and defeated crowd at Oracle Arena, James delivered on the grandest stage of his superhuman career, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship in franchise history with a 93-89 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the N.B.A. finals.
James collected 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists to punctuate one of the most remarkable individual performances in finals history. He got ample help from teammate Kyrie Irving, whose 3-pointer with 53 seconds remaining gave the Cavaliers their final lead — and one of the most improbable titles in the history of the N.B.A.
Improbable because the Cavaliers became the first team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to win a title. Improbable because the Warriors, after setting an N.B.A. record with 73 victories in the regular season, had spent months making their case as the most dominant team since Dr. James Naismith first affixed a peach basket to a wall.
And improbable, above all, because of Cleveland's ragtag history as an also-ran. Not since 1964, when the Browns won the N.F.L. championship, had the city claimed a major sports title.