The Cleveland Cavaliers are heading to their second NBA Finals in franchise history after obliterating the Atlanta Hawks last night. Knowing this, you can’t help but notice the difference between this current iteration of the Cavs and the one which made it to the final round back in 2007 is night and day.
Eight years ago, Cleveland was dragged to the Finals by a 22-year-old LeBron James. The team upset the favorite Detroit Pistons, thanks in part to James’ historic Game 5 performance, as well as some help from Daniel “Boobie” Gibson in the closeout game. On that night, a young and still impressionable James was ecstatic beyond belief, leaping into the arms of teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas to celebrate his first ever trip to the promised land.
While his lack of experience on the grand stage showed in a positive way during his post-game celebrations then, it was also on display negatively when James and crew took on a juggernaut San Antonio Spurs team. Cleveland was thoroughly outmatched from the get-go, and despite some slight spurts here and there, it was clear the team was unprepared when it came to toppling San Antonio. While clearly on his way to becoming the best player in the NBA, it was also obvious James still had plenty to learn when it came to getting to the top of the mountain.
Flash forward to today, things have very obviously changed. For one, James is now heading to his fifth straight NBA Finals. He’s learned the hard way what can happen when you’re not as focused on winning as truly necessary. And, most importantly, he’s making sure his Cavs teammates are aware of this as well.