If you’re into watching men beat the snot out of one another, then holy smokes was Sunday night a good night for you.
This collective four-hour pop culture orgasm was brought to you by the good folks at HBO and the NBA, who provided us with the overlap of the penultimate episode of Season 6 of Game of Thrones, called “The Battle of the Bastards,” along with Game 7 of the NBA finals, a victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors, who threw up bricks all night.
At the end of the game—after LeBron James made one of the most incredible blocks I’ve ever seen, followed by a cool Kyrie Irving three-pointer—the celebrating began, as it very well should have, given the fact that the city of Cleveland can now celebrate a major sports championship, a party they’ve been waiting to have for 52 years. They deserved it too, as they had just ousted a cocksure, three-chucking Warriors team led by the league MVP whose infamous mouthpiece had a better game (and perhaps series) than he did. In the end, I believe that the Warriors, the team that secured the best regular record in NBA history, lost because the Cavs were more mentally tough. And because they had LeBron James, who was a man among boys for the latter half of the series.
At the end of the game, LeBron fell to the floor and cried. Cameras surrounded him and took good pictures, then he hugged his teammates and dedicated the win to the city of Cleveland. Mission accomplished. Around this time, my friend texted me, “Holy mother,” followed by “So Big for NE Ohio, man.”
Soon, ABC’s camera panned to the Cavs bench, where head coach Tyronn Lue sat with his face in his hands and weeped and weeped. Grown men were crying everywhere, which, believe it or not, is somewhat of a rarity in professional sports, especially in a game of this magnitude. And as I watched Lue cry, I couldn’t help but think of David Blatt, who was fired mid-season after leading the Cavs to a 30-11 record, tops in the Eastern Conference at the time. Lue, an assistant at the time, set up shop at the ship’s wheel and steered the team from there.
So how does Blatt feel right about now? I don’t know, but probably not great. Shitty, is my bet, if you’re taking wagers on how David Blatt is feeling. In fact, before the Cavs won the title, YNet caught up with Blatt, who’s now coaching a Turkish team, telling the Israeli publication that he hadn’t really been able to watch the games, and that he felt “hurt.”
And while I can feel Blatt’s pain, it’s obvious LeBron needed him to go so he could transcend his duties as player and assume larger duties as player-coach, a role he could only be afforded—and be set free into—with Lue at the helm.
“You learn to work with people like [James],” said Blatt. “This takes time. There are a lot of things I would have done differently, with him included. In the reality of the NBA and this team, there is no doubt that LeBron is the center. He is the cornerstone of the club, there is no doubt that LeBron was more important to the system than me.”
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.