CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland, Ohio.
Home of the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Let that marinate for a minute. Or two. Or three.
I’ve always felt that Cleveland never needed a world championship to validate itself as a great American city despite the national narrative that defined a region based on the success – or lack of – from three teams. Many of those who cracked jokes had never been here to appreciate the great cultural centers that include the art museum, the Rock Hall, Severance Hall – home of the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra – or Playhouse Square.
But what makes Cleveland special is the people.
Over the last half century the city has lost so much – on and off the field or court – including its football team for three long agonizing years, industrial jobs and population – but it never lost its heart or soul.
There isn’t a city in America that has fought for respect and deserved this moment more. It is finally here as generations of Clevelanders – both here and abroad – rejoice.
The fans, who against all odds, never stopped believing that this is the year, year after year after year. Sunday night next year arrived in exhilarating fashion. And how sweet it was.
No team – and there were 32 others that tried – had ever come back to win it all after falling behind in The Finals 3-1 until now. After the Cavs won Game 5 in Oakland I began to think of all the times I watched Cleveland teams lose in every historical, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking way imaginable, that how fitting would it be to end 52 years of torment in an equally historic fashion?
And did they ever.
They went into Golden State’s gym, where the Warriors had lost just 3 times the entire season and post season, and ripped the title from them by taking 2 games and winning 4 of the last 5 in the series.
LeBron James’ performance in The Finals was nothing short of legendary. No player had ever led both teams in a Finals series in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks until James. While the book on the legacy of James continues to be written, the chapter that will define it most is the one he just wrote.
Hollywood could not have written a script as good as this.
James, who grew up in Akron, spurned the team that drafted him in 2003 to go win a pair of titles in Miami before returning and delivering on a promise to do all he could to make Cleveland a title town again. Watching him collapse to the floor as time expired then cry tears of joy as he hugged teammates before hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy was surreal.
As he wept, so did the rest of Cleveland. At long last, tears of joy.
After 52 years. After 144 seasons. After 18,802 days. The Cleveland Cavaliers are world champions.
The drought is over, the weight has been lifted and the 1964 Cleveland Browns are no longer the answer to a trivia question.
No longer is Cleveland professional sports’ ‘Mistake by the Lake.’ Curses be damned. Cleveland is now the City of Champions.
See you Wednesday at the parade. What a party it’s going to be.
Rest in Peace ESPN montage of Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move, Game 7, The 2007 ALCS, The Sweep, The Decision, The Injuries.
Burn that tape for good.
We now have The Comeback.