The Cleveland Cavaliers were brushed aside by the Golden State Warriors last night, completing a four-game sweep in the best-of-seven NBA finals to be crowned the best team in US basketball for the second year in a row.
That the Cavaliers were competitive at all—or that they even made the finals—was down to their talismanic forward, LeBron James, who was nursing an injury for the past three games. James, playing in his eighth consecutive finals, revealed after last night’s game that he broke his hand in the first game.
James apparently broke his hand after punching the whiteboard in the locker room in frustration after the first game of the series with the Warriors, when teammate J.R. Smith inexplicably dribbled away from the basket rather than take a short-range shot with the score tied and seconds remaining in regulation. The Warriors won the game in overtime.
James scored 51 points in that game, and wasn’t able to recapture his form in the subsequent three contests. He scored 23 points in what turned out to be the last game of the finals last night.
Playing with a broken hand—and for more than one game—is in itself an incredible feat. Subir Jossan, a hand and orthopedic surgeon at the Centers for Advanced Orthopedics near Washington, DC, says playing with a broken hand risks more injury. Referring to another player with a hand injury, Jossan said:
I guess the best analogy is bones are like eggs. So he has a cracked eggshell on a hard-boiled egg. But the shell looks perfectly like it should. He has the risk of cracking the whole shell or breaking the whole shell and then he gets pieces rather than just one egg. That’s the worry.
A disappointed James is widely expected to leave the Cavaliers this summer, for the second time. The loss—James has now played in nine finals and won three—means that the debate about whether the 33-year-old is the best player of all time rages on.
This was the fourth year in a row the Warriors, now well on their way to establishing one of the great basketball dynasties, played the Cavaliers in the NBA finals. And it was the first time that a team had lost a finals in a clean sweep since 2007, when the San Antonio Spurs inflicted that pain on… the James-led Cavaliers.