Cleveland Cavaliers-Chicago Bulls: This One's for Mark, Brad, Larry and Craig
I've been waiting for this one FAR too long.
I realize Michael Jordan is long gone and the current state of the Bulls franchise is a far cry from the Dynasty of the 90s, but the fact remains—we have a score to settle.
Nobody knows what the true potential was for the late 80s to early 90s Cavs teams for a couple reasons. First, center Brad Daugherty and point guard Mark Price both suffered career-altering injuries that really plagued the team during what should have been their peak. Second, THE GREATEST PLAYER IN NBA HISTORY KEPT BEATING US!
The timing really could not have been worse for the Cavs to piece together the best pre-LeBron team in franchise history. As the Boston Celtics "Big Three" began to age and fade, the Cavs assembled their own big three in Price, Daugherty and standout power forward Larry Nance.
After years in the doldrums, suddenly the Cavs were the talk of the town and packing fans into the Richfield Coliseum. Experts projected title runs, Magic Johnson said they would be the "team of the 90s."
Jordan's Bulls destroyed all of that, as well as filling the space in my heart normally reserved for joy with devastating disappointment. For those who became Cavalier fans the day LeBron was drafted and are making confused faces right now, let me recount the carnage:
In 1988, the Cavs squeaked into the playoffs at 42-40 before losing a first-round playoff series to Chicago three games to two. The following year Cleveland broke out with a franchise-record 57 wins and grabbed the third-seed in the Eastern Conference. It didn't matter as the sixth-seeded Bulls again beat the Cavs three games to two with Game Five forever remembered as "The Shot" game because of Jordan's buzzer beater.
In 1992, the Cavs again won 57 games and broke the first-round jinx by defeating the New Jersey Nets in four games. They went on to knock out Boston in a hard-fought seven game series to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. For the third time in five seasons, the Bulls were better and sent the Cavs home. The next season would be Lenny Wilkins' last as Cavs head coach. The team again topped the 50-win mark and again lost the the Bulls in the playoffs; this time in a humiliating second-round sweep.
Finally, Jordan delivered the knockout blow to the Price-Daugherty-Nance era in 1994 as the Bulls swept the Mike Fratello-coached Cavs out of the first round.
For those scoring at home, that's five playoff defeats to Chicago in seven seasons. Yeah, we owe these guys big.
Now, the tables have turned. Its Cleveland that boasts the league's best player and record. The Bulls have enjoyed little success since Jordan, but a upset over LeBron would certainly be a giant step forward for the franchise.
Which is why the Cavs have to destroy them, preferably in a sweep. If I had it my way, I would have the Cavs wear their late-80s throwback uniforms for every game of this series and bring out Mark Price to sing the Star Spangled Banner for at least two of the games.
Lastly, I would make one of the games "Craig Ehlo Night" and present him with the game ball after the Cavs won. You know, just to make a point.
Remember the television show from the 90s called Quantum Leap? In it, Scott Bakula played Dr. Samuel Beckett, who was sent back in time so he could "put right what once went wrong." For this "throwback" series between the Cavs and Bulls, I fully expect Dr. LeBron James to travel back in time for us Cavs fans and indeed put right was once went so horribly wrong.
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