CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – There was so much to celebrate in downtown Cleveland Thursday night.
2016 was a year for the ages that washed away so many painful memories of close calls, blown opportunities and what woulda or coulda been.
The 2016 NBA Champion Cavaliers and American League Champion Cleveland Indians were both honored for authoring the most joyous and memorable year in Cleveland sports history.
LeBron James was crowned the professional athlete of the year for the eighth time – he also won High School Athlete of the Year his senior year at Akron St. Vincent St. Mary – beating out Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and UFC champion Stipe Miocic.
After ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought by becoming the first team in NBA history to erase a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, the World Champion Cavaliers were named the ‘Best moment in Cleveland sports.’
The architect of the team that wiped away generations of Cleveland sports heartbreak and heartache in historic fashion, general manager David Griffin, accepted the award on behalf of the team.
“This city believes it’s a city of champions,” Griffin said. “We think now of why we’re supposed to win, not why we won’t. Make no mistake, every one of us do what we do so we can do it again.”
The Cavaliers are in the midst of yet another controversial stretch after James criticized the team for not adding even more to the most expensive payroll in the NBA earlier this week. Griffin, who was the target – intentionally or unintentionally – of James’ comments joked about a tough couple of days after watching the video montage commemorating their championship.
“I needed to watch that video very badly,” Griffin said with a laugh.
Prior to the awards ceremony fans lined up to take pictures with the Larry O’Brien trophy, which continues it’s tour throughout Northeast Ohio, in the silent auction hall.
Cleveland Heights receiver and 4-star Ohio State recruit Jaylen Harris won the High School Athlete of the Year award.
“It means a lot [to win this award],” Harris said. “I got to keep thanking god. He keeps blessing me with great opportunities. He keeps putting me in positions to be successful.”
Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor, still sporting a cast on his right hand following surgery to repair torn tendons in his right middle finger, presented the award on behalf of the Browns to Harris. Pryor declined to comment other than to say he’ll have the cast removed in a few weeks and he is healing well. Pryor can be an unrestricted free agent in March.
The John Carroll University football team was named the winners of the Collegiate Athlete of the Year award while U.S. Olympic team boxer and Cleveland Heights native Charles Conwell Jr. was named the Amateur Athlete of the Year.
“Man, it’s overwhelming,” Conwell said. “I would never assume something like this. I was mind-blown when I found out. I was hoping not to get teary eyed. I just want to keep showing my greatness to the world and Cleveland.”
Former Indians first baseman and manager Mike Hargrove received the Lifetime Achievement Award and 3 of his former players presented it to him – pitcher Chad Ogea, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. and infielder Jim Thome.
Hargrove played for the Indians from 1979-1985 and managed the club from 1991-1999 leading the team to American League pennants and the World Series in 1995 and 1997.