Cavs savor championship by reliving Game 7 over and over

CLEVELAND -- Whether rewatching it on NBA TV or on DVR, or reliving it at parties or on social media, watching the historic Game 7 of the NBA Finals has become a pastime over the past three months in Cleveland. Add in some tearing up at the end of the game when the Cleveland Cavaliers win, even though the outcome is well known.

Certainly this is true for Cavs fans, but it's also true for the Cavs themselves.

The 2016-17 season is officially open, but the Cavs are still savoring their championship, specifically by repeatedly rewatching their historic upset victory in Oakland on June 19. They rewind the Kyrie Irving 3-pointer that broke the tie, they play the LeBron James block of Andre Iguodala in slow motion, and they half laugh, half well up when seeing Kevin Love move his feet like he'd never moved them before in defending Steph Curry. And then they tell each other about it.

"I was rewatching the games and talking to my teammates about it, sending them snapchats of me watching," Irving said. "I got chills. My stomach was dropping knowing the ball is going in but knowing exactly, emotionally how I felt at the time. It still gets me excited thinking about it. It's such a huge moment for not only Cleveland but our team, our families, our friends."

Irving's face lit up as he talked about it, as if he were reliving a favorite Christmas memory from childhood. It was a shared experience. While not every Cavs player indulged, it became clear throughout the summer that the Cavs wanted to keep clutching the moment.

"I've seen it a few times," James said. "It was on NBA TV throughout the summer. I watch it from a fan's perspective. I see what we could've done better, but I also watch it for enjoyment, to see those three zeros on the clock."

This is a possible pitfall. The NBA is always moving forward, and it can be dangerous to stay in the past. This is commonplace for champs, and it even has a term: championship hangover. But after becoming the first team ever to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals and following two seasons full of adversity, including injuries and a coaching change, the feeling of satisfaction and relief is still washing over them.

As it became popular for fans to rewatch the game over the summer, the players fell into the crowd along with them, still in awe of what happened.

"I've watched it over and over," Iman Shumpert said. "Oh, it was enjoyable."

There are still stories coming out about the remarkable run, adding to the growing lore. This week coach Ty Lue revealed a motivational move after the team won Game 5 to send the series back to Cleveland. He called for every player, coach, trainer, staff member, executive and even owner to pull out $100 and put it into an envelope. When it was all collected, the enveloped contained more than $5,000 in cash. Lue then told everyone they'd get their money back after winning Game 6 and bringing the series back for a Game 7 in Oakland.

"It still gets me excited thinking about it. It's such a huge moment for not only Cleveland but our team, our families, our friends."
Kyrie Irving on winning Game 7 of the NBA Finals

Team owner Dan Gilbert recorded Lue standing on the desk in the visiting coach's office at Oracle Arena and hiding the cash in the ceiling. It was a trick Lue lifted from Doc Rivers, who collected money from his Boston Celtics players after a Christmas Day loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers in 2009 as incentive for the team to get back to the same Staples Center locker room for the 2010 Finals. Six months later the money was there when the Celtics came back.

"Some people got it back. Some people didn't," Lue said. "We charged $100 for a championship for some guys, and some guys we gave it back. We got it back to the right people. Some of it went toward my fine, too, so I had to keep players' money."

Lue was fined $25,000 for criticizing officials after Game 4 of the Finals. One of the players who didn't get his $100 bill back was James, though he did sign a three-year, $100 million deal a few weeks later.

"I'm still looking for my money," James said with a laugh.

At some point all this reminiscing will have to end. The Cavs don't get to carry anything over from last year. There's new game film soon to be watched. All that is understood, even as the fun still flows.

"That moment will never be forgotten," James said. "It will go down in history. I always look forward. I try not to dwell in the past. There are going to be so many challenges for us. We have to be mentally focused. And we will."