IT WAS LATE, but apparently not too late.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had lost the first two games of the NBA Finals by a combined 48 points. The Golden State Warriors were dominating every phase of the game. And LeBron James was looking for something, for anything, he could say to his teammates to help them believe a comeback was possible.
LeBron had spent the weekend watching old Muhammad Ali fights, in awe at the champ's perseverance. His longtime friend and adviser, Nike executive Lynn Merritt, had suggested he study the way Ali carried himself in those epic 12- and 15-round fights. The way Ali took punches, knowing his opponent would eventually tire. The way he taunted opponents, flaunting his superior skill and talents, knowing he would get into their heads. His teammates needed something else, though. Something they could connect to that would make them believe this series was not over. And so LeBron gathered everyone in the Cavaliers locker room before Game 3 and played a portion of Steve Jobs' commencement address to Stanford University in 2005.
The Apple founder, who died in 2011, had told a story about dropping out of college and how taking a calligraphy class ended up helping him design the elegant fonts and interface of the first Apple computers. "Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later," Jobs said in his address.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
THE MORNING OF June 21, 2012, the front cover of The Miami Herald carried the headline, "REIGN BEGINS." There was LeBron James raising the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time, and across the league it was a no-brainer: If you can't beat those guys, you can't win. A string of Heat titles -- "not five, not six ..." -- seemed, for the moment, likely.
History, though, screams a different story. Predicting dynasties is a lousy business. In the 3-point era, which began in 1980, there have been just eight back-to-back champions, and of those, only three repeated a third time. Which means that of the past 37 postseasons, only 11 champs have repeated.
Dominant though a team might appear, events tend to conspire against trophies in bunches. The Heat dynasty resulted in a worthy haul of two titles. Rare and impressive -- but hardly making it "reign" -- and, like so often happens, it was all undone by something nobody saw coming. Just two years after the Herald headline, on July 11, 2014, James' smiling face was on the front cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, "I'M COMING HOME." To Cleveland.
And just like that, the reign was over. Two of the Heat's big three were out of Heat uniforms (LeBron as a Cav, Chris Bosh in street clothes) just four years later. Who knows when Miami will win another title?
All of which leads us to the Warriors, who -- though younger than those Heat -- came within a minute of being the 73-win back-to-back champions. If ever there were a dynasty to project, this would have been it. But of course, as history would predict, things didn't go that way because they usually don't.
CLEVELAND -- Kevin Love fervently believes you are what you eat. In fact, he literally counts on it.
"Not 10 almonds, not 18 almonds -- 14 almonds," trainer Rob McClanaghan says when discussing Love, his most dedicated client. "Kevin is exactly on point. If he's supposed to eat every two hours, then on the days when he wants to sleep in, he'll wake up, eat and go back to sleep."
Love has so drastically altered his eating habits that his teammates heckle him on social media. He switched to a plant-based diet in 2012, with salmon and grilled chicken as his preferred entrees. He eats five to six small meals a day, and when he was traded to Cleveland in 2014, Love hired a full-time chef who prepares menus that feature organic egg whites, beet juice, shredded wheat with almond butter and protein shakes.
During a team breakfast before Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Cavs players were devouring pancakes, waffles and bacon.
"Kev had two bran muffins and a banana with skim milk,'' Cavs forward Richard Jefferson says. "He eats like an 80-year-old lady who's trying make sure she's regular."
Love often transports his own meals -- a pair of kale salads and grilled chicken -- on the team plane rather than be tempted by a postgame spread that might be high in calories and carbohydrates. The ribbing, he says, comes with the territory.