You could argue it's the greatest shot in NBA history (many have). At the very least, it's probably the most important shot in the history of Cleveland basketball.
When Kyrie Irving's game-winning 3-pointer dropped from the heavens in the final minute of the 2016 NBA Finals, it didn't just effectively hand Cleveland the championship. It cemented Irving's reputation as the baddest clutch baller in basketball, a worthy heir to #MambaMentality. It squashed any chance the 73-9 Warriors had of entering "GOAT team" status. It altered LeBron James' narrative (are we even entertaining thoughts of LeBron leaving Cleveland if his lil' bro doesn't make this shot?). And it clinched "Draymond Green groin kick" as a forever Google search among NBA fans.
Almost two years later and the shot still resonates. Golden State recovered, thanks to the addition of a certain former MVP. Yet their failures in the final three games of that series obviously still motivate them, so much so that Steph Curry still can't watch the shot.
"I don't like seeing it; it brings back bad memories," Curry told Bleacher Report ahead of the Warriors' matchup against Irving and the Celtics on Saturday night. "But what you gonna do about it?"
3. Kyrie Irving 'The Shot' (Game 7, 2016 NBA Finals) pic.twitter.com/Nc5PjCqEOA
The Warriors didn't just recover from the heartbreak caused by Irving's shot; it brought them closer together. Even with the addition of Kevin Durant, this is not talked about enough. In the '02 Western Conference Finals, the Kings fell to a combination of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, the referees, and a Robert Horry shot. They never came that close to a ring again. The '04 Pacers might've been the best team in basketball. Then, they beat up some fans. By 2006, they were in the lottery. There was the '96 Magic breaking up after Michael Jordan's iconic "F YOU" performance. There was Horry hip-checking Steve Nash, Portland choking away a 15-point lead, the Rockets of the '80s. The shelf life of an NBA team is more fragile than Russell Westbrook's ego. It wouldn't have been surprising if Golden State's collective psyche simply melted after that Game 7. Crazier things have happened.
Meanwhile, the Cavs had peaked, even if we didn't know it at the time. They got thumped in the rematch the following year. They got old. Irving played one more season with LeBron before demanding a trade. The defense turned horrid. Players-only meetings put teammate against teammate, and now here we are.
Kevin Love, LeBron James, and Isaiah Thomas all pointing fingers on who was really sick. pic.twitter.com/EAR2HDN8Ku
Irving's desire to leave probably didn't start with that Game 7 shot. But it certainly elevated his confidence. Just how much could he accomplish on his own? Curry and Green say they saw it then, too. The moxie. The ambition. They respected it. They had to. Irving's cold-blooded dagger beat them. In their house. In Game 7.
"Obviously if I was watching on TV, I would say 'Ohh, it's an amazing shot,'" Curry told B/R. "I always say I played good defense. He hit a tough shot. Good offense always beats good defense."
Curry gets another shot at Irving this Saturday when Boston visits the Bay, and after that, they'll be on opposing sides in the All-Star Game. No matter what happens, though, Irving will never be able to avoid that Game 7 shot. Neither will Curry, even if he won't watch it.