Remembering LeBron James' Best Moments from First Stint with Cleveland Cavaliers
Whether it be from an individual or team standpoint, James brought a level of success to the Cavs that no one had ever accomplished before him. MVP awards, multiple playoff trips and even a Finals appearance headlined many of the highlights from James and the Cavaliers from 2003 to 2010.
Times were good in Cleveland and appear to be yet again.
Before he begins Round 2 with the Cavs, let's take a look at a timeline of James' seven best moments wearing the wine and gold.
First NBA Game
In what was perhaps the most anticipated debut by any athlete, well, ever, James did not disappoint.
Following three high school championships in four years at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, James was the first overall selection by the Cavaliers in 2003.
Fans in Cleveland had to wait extra long to see James, as the Cavaliers opened their season on the West Coast against the Sacramento Kings.
James, just 18 years old at the time, was excellent.
He finished the game with 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals in 42 minutes.
Although the Cavs lost that game, James made a definitive statement that he belonged in the NBA right away.
First Playoff Appearance
Through two years, James was filling up the stat sheet and quickly putting together highlight tapes.
Unfortunately, the Cavs were still losing.
Year 3 in 2005-06 was different for James. Still just 21 years old, he led the Cavaliers to a 50-32 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland's first playoff series since the 1997-98 season pitted them against Washington Wizards, a foe they would do battle with for three straight years.
James' postseason debut fittingly began with a triple-double to the tune of 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. The Cavs would take the series four games to two, with James averaging 35.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game.
His playoff heroics were off to a nice start, and the best was yet to come.
Around Northeast Ohio, mentioning the words "LeBron James" and "Game 5" still conjurers up fond memories with a lot of disbelieving head shakes.
What James did to the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals is the stuff of legend.
While 48 points is remarkable enough, the sheer dominance that James displayed that night may be the most impressive feat of his 11-year career.
The Pistons were a tough, defensive team who had taken home a championship just three years prior. James did whatever he wanted to them, over and over again.
In a double-overtime win, James scored the Cavs' last 25 points, including 29 of the final 30. He put on this scoring display with remarkable efficiency, going 18-of-33 (54.5 percent) from the floor.
Pistons' point guard Chauncey Billups had this to say about James, via ESPN.com: "We threw everything we had at him. We just couldn't stop him. It's frustrating. He put on an unbelievable display out there. It's probably the best I have seen against us ever in the playoffs."
The win was followed by a Game 6 victory that sent the Cavaliers where they had never gone before: the NBA Finals.
James Leads Cavs to First NBA Finals
In 45 years as a franchise, the Cavaliers' first and only trip to the NBA Finals came in 2007 against the San Antonio Spurs.
James led a young Cavs team against a veteran Spurs squad that would prove to be too much, despite his best efforts.
San Antonio did a great job of "limiting" James to 22 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists while sweeping the series four games to zero.
While the outcome wasn't what those in Cleveland had hoped for, it did raise a tremendous amount of hope for the future. James was still just 22 years old and could lead a starting five of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic to the Finals. What could he do with a true second star (or, spoiler alert, two) to complement him instead?
Cleveland would get swept in the series, but it was clear that progress was being made.
Two years prior, the Cavs had missed out on the playoffs.
Now, they were hosting Finals games.
James Becomes Cavs' All-Time Scoring Leader
James is the Cavaliers' career leader in 12 major categories, but perhaps none is as impressive as his total scoring mark.
Former center Brad Daugherty sat atop the team's scoring list with 10,389 points until March 21, 2008. In what took Daugherty eight years to accumulate, James passed in less than five.
After capturing the franchise scoring title early in a win over the Toronto Raptors, James would only build on to what has become a sizable lead. His 15,251 points to date now sit 4,635 above former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
It's not often one becomes the all-time leader in any category at age 23, but that's precisely what James accomplished with the Cavs back in 2008.
James Named MVP
James captured back-to-back MVP awards with the Cavaliers in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
While he had put up monster statistics for years, now team success in the regular season was starting to catch up.
In James' first MVP season he led the Cavaliers to a league-best 66-16 record, including a sizzling 39-2 home mark. Cleveland could have even reached 67 but chose to rest James and other key players on the final game of the regular season (the Cavs lost to the Philadelphia 76ers by just one point, 111-110).
James finished the season with averages of 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists. It marked the first time in franchise history that a player had taken home MVP honors.
He followed up that season with a 61-win 2009-10 campaign (while resting the final four games) to once again lead the league. This time he put up 29.7 points, 7.3 points and a career-best 8.6 assists per game.
The really neat thing about James' MVP honors?
He chose to hold both conferences in Akron with his teammates—the first at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and the second at the University of Akron's James A. Rhodes arena, where he played many of his high school games.
Playoff Game-Winner vs. Orlando Magic
Perhaps James' signature moment with the Cavaliers occurred in just a single second.
Already down 1-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals with the Orlando Magic, James took matters into his own hands.
Despite having not made a three-pointer all game, James connected when it mattered most. His shot tied up the series and gave the Cavs hope. Eventually after putting up a tough fight, Cleveland would lose to the Dwight Howard-led Magic four games to two.
For those wondering if James was clutch enough in the playoffs, this shot all but confirmed it.
James had many unforgettable seasons, games and moments in Cleveland the first time around, but perhaps none were as memorable as this.
With him returning to the Cavaliers in the prime of his career, there could be many, many more.
Greg Swartz has covered the Cleveland Cavaliers for Bleacher Report since 2010. Connect with him on Twitter for more basketball news and conversation.
All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.