The words Cleveland and championship do not usually go together in the same sentence, however in 2016 that all changed. That is because 3 championships were brought to Cleveland, Ohio. The UFC heavyweight championship belt, the Calder Cup, and the Larry Obrien trophy. But with 3 championships brought to the city, it begs the question: who brought first championship to Cleveland? Was it Stipe Miocic, the Lake Erie Monsters (they are called the Cleveland Monsters now, but at the time they were the Lake Erie Monsters) or the Cleveland Cavaliers?
The first pro championship that was brought to Cleveland was when the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors. In Game 1 of the series at Oracle Arena, the Warriors lead at the end of the first quarter by just 4 points, 28-24. At halftime, Golden State lead by a score of 52-43. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 74-68 Warriors. Ultimately, it was the Warriors who came up with the victory 104-89. The Warriors were led by Shaun Livingston, who 20 points off the bench for Golden State. Steph Curry was held to just 11 points and Klay Thompson was limited to just 9 points. The Cavaliers were lead in scoring by Kyrie Irving with 26 points and LeBron James had 23 points as well. Kevin Love had 17 points in the loss.
In Game 2, which was also at Oracle Arena, it was the Cavaliers who lead at the end of the first quarter by a slim two-point lead: 21-19. At halftime, the Warriors lead 52-44, just eight points separated the two teams. At the end of the third quarter the score was tied 82-82. But once again, it was Golden State that got the victory 110-77. Draymond Green lead the Warriors in scoring with 28 points, Curry had 18 points, and Klay Thompson had 17 points. LeBron James once again lead the Cavaliers in scoring with 19 and Kyrie had 12, while Kevin Love had just 5 points. The Warriors now had a 2-0 lead in the series.
The series then shifted to Quicken Loans Arena (the Q), in Cleveland for games 3 and 4. In Game 3 of the series the Cavaliers came out guns blazing. At the end of the first quarter in Game 3 it was 33-16 Cavaliers in control. At halftime, the Warriors cut the Cavaliers’ lead to just 8 points 51-43. By the end of the third quarter it began to look like total domination as the Cavaliers had built their lead to 20, 89-69. The Cavaliers were able to get the victory 120-90. The Cavs were lead in scoring by LeBron with 32 points and Kyrie had 30. Klay Thompson had 10 points for the Warriors and Steph Curry had 19 points.
Going into Game 4 at the Q, it looked like the Cavaliers had seized the momentum from the Warriors and were going to get back in series. However, at the end of the first quarter, it was Golden State who had the lead 29-28. Then at halftime it was the Cavaliers who had the lead 55-50. By the end of the third quarter, the Warriors had the lead 79-77 and then Golden State would go on to win Game 4 by a final score of 108-97 and Golden State took a commanding 3-1 series lead and were one win away from completing their historical 73-win season. But Golden State would be without a key player going into Game 5 back at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors had a chance to close out the series in Game 5 at Oracle Arena, but they had to try and do it without Draymond Green, who was suspended after receiving another flagrant foul in Game 4 that went over the limit. At the end of the first quarter the score was 32-29 Golden State. At halftime, the score was tied 61 apiece. At the end of the third quarter the score was 93-84 Cleveland and the Cavaliers would go on to force a game 6 back in Cleveland with a 112-97 victory. Both Kyrie and LeBron had 41 points, combining for 82 points! Klay Thompson had 37 points and Steph Curry had 25 points. But now the series was shifting back to Cleveland for Game 6.
Going into Game 6 of the finals, the Cavaliers did not want a repeat of what happened in Game 6 of the 2015 finals, where Golden State won the title on the Cavaliers home soil. Draymond Green was back in the lineup for Golden State but was that going to be enough? Well in a word, no. That is because the Cavaliers came out guns blazing just like in games 3 and 4. At the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers had already built a 20-point lead 31-11! Then at halftime the Cavaliers lead by 16 at 59-43! At the end of the third quarter, the Warriors had cut the Cavs’ lead to 9, 80-71. During the fourth quarter, Steph Curry was called for his sixth of the game and had fouled out for the first time in his career. But Curry also got ejected from the game as well. The Cavaliers forced a Game 7 with a 115-101 victory.
Unlike the first six games of the series which had all been blowouts, Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals was a very tight and competitive game. At the end of the first quarter the score was 23-22 in favor of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But in the second quarter, the Warriors came storming back outscoring the Cavaliers 27-19 to lead at halftime by 7, the score was 49-42. In the third quarter, it was the Cavaliers who outscored the Warriors 33-27, but it was Golden State who had the lead 76-75. And then it “The Block” “The Shot” and “The Stop” which all culminated in the fourth quarter to give the Cavaliers their first title in franchise history, 93-89. LeBron was the scoring leader for the Cavaliers with 27 and Kyrie had 26. Steph Curry had 17 points, Draymond Green had 32 points, and Klay Thompson had 14 points.
The Cavaliers did bring the first pro championship to the city of the Cleveland, but did they bring the first championship of 2016 to Cleveland? No, they did not do that. The first championship that was brought to the city of Cleveland was the UFC heavyweight belt, won by Stipe Miocic against Fabrício Werdum at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil. Stipe won the title by knocking out Werdum in the first round of the main event. Werdum was coming forward at an angle and Stipe was backing up, and as Fabrício was coming forward, Miocic was able to land a short punch that knocked out Werdum.
After beating Werdum at UFC 198, Stipe had to defend the belt as he was now the new champion. His first title defense would be in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena against Alistair “The Reem” Overeem at UFC 203. In the middle part of the first round, it looked like Overeem was going to ruin the Cleveland party and win the belt away from Stipe. That’s because Overeem had locked in a choke and he was trying to make Stipe tap out. Instead, Stipe was able to fight off the choke hold and started chasing Alistair down. Then Stipe caught Alistair and knocked him down, but instead of going for the choke, Miocic started raining down punches until the ref stepped in and called the fight.
Stipe’s next title defense would come at UFC 211 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. This title defense would be against who he had lost to earlier in his career, it was Junior Dos Santos “JDS.” Dos Santos came out early looking for the leg kicks and it was working against Miocic, but eventually Stipe’s punching power overwhelmed JDS and the ref had to step in and stop the fight again. This was another first round finish for Stipe. Right now the record for the longest title defense in the UFC heavyweight division is two.If Stipe is able to win his next fight, he will set the record for the longest title defense in the UFC heavyweight division at three.
Yes, the Cavaliers brought the first pro championship to Cleveland in 2016, but they weren’t the first team to win a championship in 2016. That distinction goes to the Lake Erie Monsters, (who are now the Cleveland Monsters). Before the 2016 season began, the Monsters became the AHL affiliates of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This brought in a whole new crop of players for the Monsters, like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Zach Werenski, Anton Forsberg, and many others. In the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs, the Monsters swept the Rockford Ice Hogs (affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks) three games to none. Then they moved on to the second round for a matchup with their biggest rivals, the Grand Rapids Griffins (affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings). The Monsters took care of the Griffins in six grueling games. Next, they were on to the Western Conference Finals where they would meet an opponent they were unfamiliar with, the Ontario Reign (affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings). Despite the unfamiliarity, the Monsters were able to sweep the Reign and move onto the Calder Cup Finals for a date with the Hershey Bears, affiliate of the Washington Capitals.
In Game 4, the Monsters and Bears were tied 0-0 in overtime and it looked like the game was heading for a second overtime period. However, Oliver Bjorkstrand put a puck in the back of the net with 1.9 seconds remaining in overtime to win the Calder Cup in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Cavaliers brought home the most significant championship in 2016, however, they didn’t bring home the first championship in 2016. That honor belongs to Stipe after beating Werdum at UFC 198 in Brazil. However, the Monsters were the only team to capture championship gold in front of the hometown fans in Cleveland.