Cleveland Cavaliers reserve James Jones flies under the radar, but as LeBron James noted in his unforgettable title parade speech, the sharpshooter has made the last six NBA Finals as he moved from Miami to Cleveland with James. Although Jones doesn't see much playing time, he has a huge influence on his teammates, who refer to the three-time NBA champion as "Champ."
On Sunday, Kevin Love wrote a touching open letter to Jones.
"Those of you who know Champ will appreciate this... I'd like to tribute the best teammate I've ever had, James Jones aka Champ. You taught me more than you know the past 2 yearsâ what it takes to win, how to be a better teammate, how to balance the good/bad off the court, and most importantly...putting team first. Sacrifice for the better of the team, and in order to lead sometimes you have to learn to follow. You've been to 6 straight Finals. You've been the constant presence we needed in the locker room. You're the ultimate work horse. The lessons you taught me will stay with me for the rest of my career and life after basketball."
Love credits Jones for sticking by him when many analysts and even Cavaliers fans were calling for Love to be benched for his poor play. Love ended up having a tremendous performance in Game 7, and locked down Stephen Curry late in the game with what LeBron is calling "The Stop."
"No one can avoid the ups and downs of the Playoffs, and when many wrote me off after a tough stretch in the Finals... you and the team stuck by me allowing me to flourish and make plays when it mattered most. Like you told me not too long ago, "don't be afraid to be yourself." And now I'll never be â thanks for everything. Keep being you Champ."