By Thomas Hester II (@thomasahester2)
On Thursday the Cleveland Cavaliers will visit the defending champs, Golden State.
After losing fellow stars Kevin Love & Kyrie Irving to injuries during the road to the Finals LeBron James gave a historic performance putting The Land within 2 wins of breaking the 50+ year championship drought before running out of steam.
This time seems different.
With first year head coach, Tyronn Lue, a healthy squad and valuable rest after a historic 10-0 start they are revitalized and looking for revenge.
Peyton Manning ended his career after 18 years at Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos shocking the 15-1 Carolina Panthers.
After celebrating a dominate win over the Cardinals, league MVP Cam Newton remarked they were facing the “sheriff” harkening back to Jon Gruden’s nickname about about how the 5x MVP Peyton Manning “laid down the law”.
It was the classic matchup of the best defense versus the best offense.
The defense of Von Miller was the factor in Denver getting the job done & defense is how Cleveland will try and knock off the 73-9 Warriors.
Peyton Manning & LeBron James has had similar paths in two different sports.
Unlike Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant they dominated earlier and had to handle the pressures of living up to unrealistic expectations.
A 16 year old teenager was crowned as the ‘chosen one’ on Sports Illustrated after exciting play from the St. Vincent-St. Mary product and as the son of a college football legend Peyton was destined to pick up where his father Archie left off.
Both went against the grain early.
Being a ‘Manning’ it was all but guaranteed that he would add to the legacy at Ole Miss but unlike Eli Peyton went to SEC rival Tennessee.
James instead of joining fellow high school stand out Carmelo Anthony in the NCAA he declared eligibility for the NBA.
Drafted by Cleveland Cavaliers Ohioan James inherited the hopes of the whole state.
He succeeded in many ways winning Rookie of The Year and bringing them to the playoffs in only his 3rd year.
The next year proved monumental with them winning their first Eastern Conference Championship. Though they got swept by the San Antonio Spurs it was a showcase for the 22 year old, becoming a superstar, in the now iconic Game 5.
At Auburn Hills in the ECF, fans were delighted by a defining performance, defeating the Pistons while scoring the last 25 points for the Cavs.
And with the success came the rebirth of hope for the dormant city.
Expectations were through the roof for the next couple of years with dreams of finally defeating those pesky Celtics in route to a dream match up of facing Kobe’s Lakers.
Disappointment mounted with the Cavs losing in 2009 to the Orlando Magic.
Collapsing to Boston and the sight of ‘#23’ taking off his jersey before exiting the court rose questions of whether the hometown kid would leave the safety of Cleveland and the accessibility of Akron.
Instead of impressive Ryan Leaf the Indianapolis Colts with their first overall pick selected the Vols’ QB. Peyton Manning didn’t disappoint setting 5 different records for NFL rookies including most TD passes.
It wasn’t all perfect with him throwing a league high 28 interceptions with the team posting a 3-13 record.
The Colts became AFC East champions the next year reversing to 13-3 before losing to Super Bowl bound Titans.
Indianapolis shocked the Eagles in 2002 with Manning having a perfect passing rating before losing to the Jets in the Wild Card game. Even with the let down he earned Pro Bowl honors again.
Peyton in 2003 and 2004 became the back to back NFL MVP then finally in 2006 won the Super Bowl.
The durability of James and Manning has never been doubted.
So much so that both have had to combat rumors of HGH use.
Manning before the neck surgery, which made him miss the entire 2011season, didn’t miss any of his previous 13 season games.
Fully recovered Manning ended the Tebow era in Denver signing with the Broncos.
Unlike the hate poured out against King James, The Sheriff was met with appreciation from the Colts.
Both are arguably the greatest regular season players in their perspective sports but have the same constant critique.
While Brady & Bryant have both prospered respectfully, in Belichick/Jackson systems, with 4 rings & 5 rings fans and critics have lamented about an unimpressive post season record, with Manning posting a decent 14-13 & James’ disappointing 2-4 in the Finals.
Between Manning and James each have had uncharacteristic series and embarrassing loses.
The Broncos were handed one of the most lopsided losses in Super Bowl history against the Seahawks.
LeBron’s Heat were outplayed by underdogs, with the Dallas Mavericks winning in the American Airlines Arena. Then Miami’s 3-peat dreams were steamrolled by the Spurs in 2014.
4 Finals appearances, 2 rings, 2 MVPs, including 2 Finals MVPs and 1 gold medal later “the best player in the world” left the Heatles and became re-established in Akron.
Publishing a letter he announced his return to the Rust Belt joining Kyrie Irving with the goal of winning one for The Land.
The Broncos tenure though rocky ended up with a Super Bowl win with Manning riding off in the sunset.
For James the opportunity to silence naysayers is in front of him, the chance to show whether he still reigns over the NBA even with an unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry.
Will there be a parade down Euclid Ave in place of another in Oakland?
With LeBron James & James Jones accomplishing what hasn’t been done in 50 years, joining on the Celtics dynasty with 6 straight trips to the NBA Finals can he finally fulfill his promise?
“I have a goal, a huge goal and that’s to bring a championship to Cleveland and won’t stop till l get it”