The Golden State Warriors didn't sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but it was as close as it gets.
The Warriors leaned on NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant through the series, letting their freshly acquired superstar rise to the occasion to deliver another championship to the Bay area. Cleveland's own superteam looked outmatched despite dominating the Eastern Conference playoffs.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love should be enough to put up a fight in any championship series, but clearly that wasn't the case this year. LeBron's spirit wasn't shaken, though, and he offered three words to Kyrie to get him focused on the road ahead.
James' leadership will be key for the Cavaliers as they bounce back from a disappointing NBA Finals series. Cleveland will have to go through another 82-game season and 12 postseason victories to get back to basketball's biggest stage.
LeBron has been in this situation plenty of times, having competed in eight NBA Finals total and seven in a row. He's won just three rings in those eight trips, but even in those five series losses James has remained focused on making it back for another shot at the gold.
That's why what James said to Kyrie immediately following their Game 5 loss as the NBA season came to a close is so important. Irving has become the future for the Cavaliers, with James mentoring the young superstar.
LeBron pulled his protege in as they walked back to the locker room and off the floor as the Warriors celebrated and had one message for him: "We'll be back."
Considering James has been back, and back, and back - another NBA Finals trip would make for his eighth in a row - it's fair for LeBron to feel like they'll be right back in the championship mix this time next year. What the Cavaliers change between then and now is one key.
The other key is keeping their most important players focused on climbing that mountain all over again, and the fatigue of back-to-back-to-back NBA Finals will be a big challenge for the Cavaliers to overcome. Irving's role in getting his team through the mud is an important one.
James is already looking ahead and clearly wants Irving doing the same instead of wallowing in pity after going 4-1 against the Warriors. LeBron has his eyes on tearing through the Eastern Conference again and needs his sidekick in Irving to be just as locked-in through the summer.