- NBA Championships: 1
- Last NBA Championship: 2016
- Claim to Fame: Some guy named LeBron. James is the franchise’s all-time leader in games, minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, win shares, and player efficiency rating.
- Claim to Shame: Cleveland selected Anthony Bennett, the biggest bust in NBA history, with the first pick in the 2013 Draft. The UNLV product averaged 4.2 points per game in his first season and was promptly traded the following year.
The history of the Cleveland Cavaliers can be divided into two periods: Pre-LeBron and Post-LeBron.
The first period began in 1970 and was marked by years of failure and ineptitude. The Cavs won 15 games in their inaugural season and reached the playoffs just three times in their first 14 years. Things improved slightly in the late 80’s with All-Star talent like Mark Price and Brad Daugherty onboard, but that era was also marked by heartache and disappointment as the Bulls consistently sent them packing in the postseason.
Cleveland’s fortunes finally began to improve in 2003 when they drafted a local high school phenom named LeBron James. The 6’8”, 240 lb. manchild entered the league with an NBA-ready game and led the Cavs to an 18-game improvement during his rookie season. It was just a taste of things to come as LeBron would guide Cleveland to its first NBA Finals in franchise history just three years later.
LeBron took his talents to South Beach for four seasons from 2010-14, but eventually returned home and helped Cleveland capture its first NBA championship in 2016. Two more Finals appearances followed in 2017 and 2018, but Cleveland was crushed in both series by the heavily favored Warriors.
LeBron has since signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, leaving behind a roster full of aging role players and unwanted, overpaid veterans. Cleveland has the depth and experience to remain competitive in 2018-19, but without LeBron leading the charge it has zero chance of returning to the NBA’s promised land. Check in on this squad in a few more years after they inevitably bottom out and earn their next number one draft pick.