Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James told reporters early Saturday morning that he played the last three games of the Finals with a broken hand from punching a whiteboard after Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors swept the Cavs, blowing out Cleveland, 108-85, in the final game of the series in Cleveland on Friday.
“What happened? Self-inflicted,” said James, who wore a soft black cast on his right hand during the press conference. “I pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand.”
The Cavs star admitted that he was “very emotional” about the Game 1 loss in a contest rife with scuffles between players and bad calls by the refs. Most notably, LeBron was hit with a blocking foul late in the game after the referees reversed a charge call on Warriors player Kevin Durrant. The call changed the trajectory of the game, leading to a devastating Cavs loss, thanks in no small part to J.R. Smith inexplicably dribbling out the clock with the score tied in the fourth quarter. The Warriors would go on to win that game, 112-114, despite LeBron putting on a clinic, scoring 51 points and playing the full 48 minutes.
LeBron underwent two MRIs — one last Friday and another the morning of Game 4 — and was seen holding his hand multiple times throughout the final game of the series.
He explained his emotional response to the Game 1 loss to reporters: “For a lot of different reasons, understanding how important a Game 1 is on the road for our ballclub, what would that have done for us, the way we played, the calls that was made throughout the course of that game,” he said. “I had emotions on the game was taken away from us. I had emotions of you just don’t get an opportunity like this on the road versus Golden State to be able to get a Game 1, and I let the emotions get the best of me.”
LeBron said he concealed the injury so as not to give the Warriors an advantage over him, only wearing the cast when he was out of view of Warriors players and the cameras.
I’ve been watching LeBron play since he was a high school kid at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and I’ve never once seen him storm off the court after a game the way he did after Game 1. Usually, he greets opposing players with hugs, smiles, and fist bumps. It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about him. He leaves his rage on the court and transforms instantly into an affable young man who loves the game and has deep respect for his opponents. When he headed straight for the locker room after Game 1, it wasn’t a good sign. To be sure, nobody blamed him for the response. Between that ugly blocking call and the refs turning a blind eye to Draymond Green’s unsportsmanlike taunts, LeBron’s response was completely understandable. Still, the uncharacteristic reaction left fans with a deep sense of foreboding about the rest of the series.
During Friday’s game, it was obvious that something was off. The Warriors stripped the ball from LeBron multiple times and he didn’t seem in control of the ball when dribbling with his right hand. Ultimately, the game log tells the story:
LeBron scored a remarkable 51 points in Game 1, but only averaged 28 points in the final three games of the series—still an incredible feat considering the seriousness of his injury. In the end, the Cavs were ultimately the weaker team and LeBron was unable to single-handedly carry his teammates across the finish line.
Last night’s loss may mark LeBron’s final game as a Cavalier, and the sense of impending doom was almost palpable in the crowd as the clock wound down at Quicken Loans Arena—fans seemed to be contemplating the fate of the Cavs post-LeBron.
Asked by reporters about his future plans, LeBron said that what’s best for his family would be the biggest factor in his decision. “My family is a huge part of whatever I decide to do in my career and it will continue to be.”
All things considered, there’s a deep sense of gratitude to The King for the many years of great basketball he’s given his hometown over the years as well as for his philanthropic work and the way he conducted himself on and off the court. No doubt we’ll all be telling our grandkids about the kid from Akron who transformed the game.
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