There is no denying that the 2016 NBA Finals will go down as the greatest NBA Finals series of all time. With two historic sides facing off in a rematch from the previous year, it was an all-time classic series that had an ending so unbelievable that it felt like it came out of a storybook.
In the 2015 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors defeated a depleted Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games. LeBron James lost his All-Star teammates Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the series, and couldn't overcome a sensational Warriors team. The next year, the Warriors got even better.
The Golden State Warriors finished the season with a record-breaking 73-9 record. And they looked primed to win the NBA championship. But LeBron and the Cavs would have their chance at redemption, and with their big three available for them. The shot at redemption looked bleak 4 games in, as the Warriors took a 3-1 lead.
The Cavaliers looked set to lose the NBA Finals once again. But the turning point came in Game 5 when Draymond Green hit LeBron James in the groin.
As a result, Green was suspended for the all-important Game 6. The Cavaliers were able to win Games 5 and 6, then defeated the Warriors in Game 7, becoming the only team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
One member of that Cavaliers squad thinks Draymond's suspension in Game 6 was the biggest reason they won. Iman Shumpert spoke in an interview recently about Draymond Green's role in the Warriors.
He said Green was as important to them as an All-Star, even if he isn't considered one. And he questions whether the Cavs could have beaten the Warriors with Green, as they are a different team with him.
“People say ‘he isn’t an All-Star’. Bro, he means that much to them. We knew in Game 6 when that man didn’t play, we saw how different they was… It’d be tough. They’re a different ball club with him. It was like, no bullsh*t, coming up to the park and beating up on some kids and their big brother just ain’t there right now. That’s what it felt like. It felt like we just came up to the park, and bust y’all a** and your big homie wasn’t there, and we beat y’all ass. Y’all aint do sh*t about it, y’all are calling dude and he gotta come back to the park the next game.”
The Cavs capitalized on Green's suspension in Game 6 and pushed the series to a Game 7. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James had one of the most iconic duo performances in Finals history, both scoring 41 points as they helped the Cavs win Game 6. And of course, both players had incredible clutch moments in Game 7.
The NBA Finals in 2016 changed the league forever, as the Warriors added former MVP Kevin Durant in the following offseason, thus creating one of the most dominant NBA teams in history. That move has had ramifications on the NBA to this day.