CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – There are few things in life that get built up that actually live up to the hype.
The Cavs championship parade and rally Wednesday was one of the few. Times 10.
For 52 long, agonizing years we’ve been left to imagine, ‘what would it be like’ and on Wednesday we got our answer. Pure joy, exhilaration and insanity.
This 2016 title which saw the Cavs become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to end the championship drought that spanned 144 seasons between the Cavs, Browns and Indians will be remembered in a variety of ways for generations to come: The Block, The Shot, The Stop, The Comeback, The Parade.
Here are the top 5 moments from Wednesday’s incredible celebration.
The Pilgrimage – Native Clevelanders drove overnight from all over the region including as far away as Baltimore, Rhode Island, Chicago, Cincinnati and flew in from all parts of the country including New England, the west coach and Florida to partake in the festivities. Hearing their stories and why it was so important to be there made the day special.
The Pose – It didn’t take long for LeBron James to provide one of the most iconic images of the day. Shortly after he began the ride in a Rolls Royce convertible and arrived at the corner of Huron and Ontario, James turned toward the massive 10-story tall Nike banner that hangs across from Quicken Loans Arena on the side of the Sherwin Williams corporate headquarters, stretched out his arms and looked to the sky mimicking the mural.
The Speeches – Kevin Love wore an ‘Ohio Against The World’ hat and draped 2 wrestling belts across his body. Kyrie Irving thanked and credited James for the game 7 win, “There is no shot without the block,” Irving said. Owner Dan Gilbert revealed an email sent by general manager David Griffin to the staff and team predicting the historic comeback following their game 4 loss. Mayor Frank Jackson handed out a pair of proclamations – one to Gilbert and the other to head coach Tyronn Lue – and awarded keys to the city to the entire team. In a 20-minute speech James thanked each individual teammate while offering a story or nugget about each player – some shorter than others – but it was the beautiful heartfelt way that he peeled back the curtain on the 2016 NBA champions’ locker room that was so unforgettable. He also sent program directors, news directors and producers into a panic with some colorful language that is NSFW (not suitable for work) or the FCC. But if you were really that offended by James or what he had to say, get a grip.
The Crowd – An estimated 1-1.3 million descended upon downtown Wednesday and while it is a best guesstimate, who am I to argue it? Everywhere you turned was a sea of humanity bathed in the Cavs’ colors of wine, gold, white and blue. They lined rooftops and windows of office buildings, stood on the top of bus stops and portable toilets and even hung on the edges of every parking garage that lined the parade route. The rest of the crowd spilled into the streets because the sidewalks just couldn’t contain them all. East 9th became so crowded there was moment where it appeared there was no way the parade would even make it to Lakeside but Cleveland police were able to part the crowd just enough for the cars and floats to squeeze by. Players embraced the madness of the nearly 4-hour parade by posing for selfies with adoring fans, hugging or high hiving them and signing autographs every time it came to a complete halt, which happened to be every other minute.
Passing The Torch – After the speeches, proclamations, jokes, hugs and high-fives came the most memorable moment of the day. Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown picked up the Larry O’Brien trophy and walked it to the front of the stage where he turned to his left and handed it to LeBron James. It was a symbolic moment that will be forever etched in my memory. A passing of the torch if you will, from one champion to the other. From the 1964 NFL Champion Browns to the 2016 NBA Champion Cavaliers. The two embraced before James triumphantly hoisted the trophy above his head for all to see setting off streams of confetti and fireworks to Queen’s “We are the champions.”