An oral history of the swat that changed Cleveland history

2:16 PM ET

An all-time classic NBA Finals was coming to a close with the title still very much up for grabs.

Through the first six games of the Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors had both scored exactly 610 points, even though every game had been decided by 10 points or more.

Finally, mercifully, Game 7 saw that balance on display over four consecutive quarters, as Klay Thompson‘s layup with 4:39 remaining tied the game at 89. The score stayed locked there for the next several minutes as a blend of nerves, fatigue and defensive gusto caused clank after clank.

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In one moment, 31 years of Akron promise wiped away 52 years of heartache — and secured LeBron James’ legacy in the hearts and minds of everyone in Cleveland.

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  • LeBron James missed a jumper; Stephen Curry missed a long 3. James missed another jumper; Thompson missed a shot. James got blocked by Andre Iguodala in the paint; Iguodala missed a 3. Kevin Love missed a jump hook; Draymond Green had a 3 rattle in and out. Kyrie Irving was off on a close-range jumper.

    Like two prizefighters punching air at the end of a fight, the 0-for-9 combined drought by both teams was excruciating to watch, as they tried to create separation between each other with a knockout blow but kept missing as the time ticked away.

    Golden State appeared to find the crack in the Cavs it was searching for after Irving’s miss. Iguodala grabbed the defensive rebound and streaked up the floor with the clock showing 1:54 remaining. Curry sprinted ahead on the left wing. When Iguodala passed half court, he found Curry with a chest pass and continued to run toward the hoop. Curry received the pass and immediately fed it right back, bouncing it off the floor in front of Iguodala so the swingman could catch it in stride.

    Freeze the video from this moment and you’ll see Iguodala at the right side of the foul line, J.R. Smith with two feet planted in the left side of the lane — albeit with his body facing Curry — and James standing on the 3-point line on the left wing.

    What happened in the next two seconds defined the game. As Iguodala took two steps as he powered toward the hoop before going airborne, James sized him up and sprung at Iguodala’s shot attempt from behind, blocking the potential layup off the glass with 1:50 remaining.

    Had James not made the chase-down block, Golden State would have had the lead — and a raucous home crowd — on its side in the game’s final moments. Instead, The Block set up The Three by Kyrie Irving less than a minute later and, ultimately, the championship for Cleveland shortly thereafter.

    This is the story of The Block, told by the principal parties involved.

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