Tyronn Lue was a solid role player during his 11-year career in the NBA playing for the Lakers, Wizards, Magic, Rockets, Hawks, Mavericks, and Bucks. However, his biggest moment was soon-to-be Hall of Famer Allen Iverson treating him like a welcome home mat in Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Finals, stepping over a fallen Lue after sinking a huge shot.
However, his legacy will be stepping in as the head coach of a winning but divided Cavaliers team late last season, leading the team to its first NBA Finals victory and Cleveland’s first world championship since the 1964 Browns.
The 39-year-old was rewarded with a five-year, $35 million extension to remain as the Cavaliers’ head coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported Monday. Lue was already the league’s highest-paid assistant coach when he was added to now-former head coach David Blatt’s staff two summers ago on a four-year, $6.5 million deal.
But he arguably earned that new deal with one speech, in the Cavaliers’ locker room, as the team faced seemingly insurmountable odds of coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
"The two most important days of your life is when you were born and when you discover the reason why you were born," Lue said, quoting Mark Twain, which was captured in a "Mini Movie" that NBA Entertainment produces for every game of the Finals (via ESPN). "And I think we were born to be champions. We got a tough road to conquer, but we can do it. We're down 3-1 but we got to have the mindset that when we go into this game tonight, we're going to win."
The 2016 Cavaliers discovered they were all born to be the first Cleveland team in five decades to bring a championship home. King James discovered he was destined to finally wear the crown bestowed upon him in his rookie year. James Jones discovered what he already knew – when LeBron wins, he wins.
Speaking of James, Lue was reportedly the first coach to stand up to the NBA’s poster child, telling him to “shut the f**k up” during a huddle toward the end of the regular season. But Lue could do that because as James described it, they have a unique bond that supersedes the hardwood.
“I think me and Coach Lue, we connect that's something that's bigger than basketball, our upbringing,” James said after Game 6 of the NBA Finals. “Being from a single-parent household, being from an inner-city community, being a statistic that you weren't supposed to make it out and there's no way you're going to make it out.”
But, James’ admiration for Lue started before the four-time MVP was even in the NBA. A self-professed basketball nerd, James also said he remembers the 2000 finals when Lue, coming off the bench, gave Phil Jackson and the Lakers a spark.
The overall contributions get lost in the shuffle with A.I.’s infamous step over.
“I think everybody's just so caught up in the shot that A.I. (Allen Iverson) made when he stepped over him, but people don't realize the impact that he made on that team, and the guy that just accepted his role,” James said.
“He's able to win a championship.”
Lue proved James right, joining a club of select few players to win a championship as both a player and coach.
The Cavaliers went 27-14 under Lue’s tutelage in the regular season last season. Now, he will take the reigns and is poised to manage the Cavaliers’ next 410 regular season contests over the next five years.
However, he will take the position as a proven winner and player tamer, a thankless job but one that has proven to be rewarding.