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Cavaliers Look to Bring NE Ohio First Title in 51 Years

LeBron James wears his love for Akron on his sleeve,  er shoulder.   [photo: Urycki]

The NBA finals begin tonight in Oakland as the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers.   If Cleveland manages to win the best of 7 series it would be the first major sports championship the city has had in 51 years.   That’s the longest streak for a city that has three major sports.   Ideastream’s Mark Urycki reports.


A professional championship for a Cleveland team is beginning to look like a biblical struggle.  Their rookie coach David Blatt came here from Israel.   Their star, LeBron James, was called The Chosen One when he was still in high school.  And Lord knows our town has suffered plagues of sports locusts.   Author and sports columnist Terry Pluto says generations have experienced losing

“A number of years ago ESPN  said Cleveland was the most miserable sports city barely edging out Philadelphia.  I’m like “barely edging out Philadelphia?  We drill Philadelphia!” We got a lot more to be miserable, sports-wise , than Philadelphia.  We’re sort of proud of our misery too.  That would be interesting: if we actually won a title then how would we handle that?” 

Most cities have names for their playoff victories like the New York Giants’ “Shot Heard Around the World” or the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Immaculate Reception.”

Cleveland names its playoff failures –the Drive, the Fumble, The Shot,

Joe Tait play-by-play:  ..”Jordan to the circle, puts the shot in the air,  GOOD!  The game’s over and the Bulls have won.” 

One of the players on the Cavs team that suffered that heartbreaking playoff loss was Steve Kerr.   He went on to win 5 championship rings, all with other teams.  Today he’s the head coach for Golden State.

Five years ago it was The Decision,  when local hero LeBron James announced on TV he was leaving the Cavs and taking his talents to Miami.

But the Chosen One is now the Second Coming, having returned to the Cavaliers this season to lead them to the Promised Land.  He’s been embraced again by the fans..  

“I just want to try to give it back to them as best I can. Both on the floor and off the floor as a role model, as a basketball player,  as a father, whatever the case may be.    They recognize my passion not only on the floor but off the floor and I recognize their passion as well so  it’s mutual.”  

Cavaliers coach David Blatt is new in town.   Born in Massachusetts, he’s spent more than half his life in Israel.  Coach Kerr, by the way, was born in Beirut.  If Blatt didn’t know before about the losing streak he does now. 

“Fans have been so loyal to this team not only in the great season we’re having but for the last 50 years.  The fact that they’re excited about it, the fact that they’re talking about it, the fact that they’re anxious for us to try to do something special here in Cleveland and for Northeast Ohio, it’s a good feeling - it really is. “

The excitement is here but with years of near misses, fans tend to temper their enthusiasm out of sheer self-preservation.

We found a few construction workers eating out in the sunshine at a downtown plaza.  

Chadwick Freedom of Cleveland says the road to the championship has been one of many positive things happening in the city lately  . .

“I think it’s gonna be super-positive for Cleveland.  I mean it’s a championship and they’ve never had one, or it’s been a super long time anyways.  I think it’s a big win for everybody of positive morale. “ 

So would life be different waking up the day after winning championship?   Ludd Bergman keeps his optimism in check..

”I got ten bucks on it so yeah, I’ll wake up 10 bucks richer the next day.”  

And Chuck Elias would take it in stride.

“My life’s just wonderful every day I wake up.”   laughter   

So maybe it would be more relief than joy.  Author Terry Pluto says sports can serve an important role if only as a diversion.

“Whether your team wins a title or not you wake up the next morning with basically the same problems you have.   But the nice thing is when you’re dealing with –whether its medical problems or financial problems or whatever – for those few hours you put the game on,  you’re cheering for your team, and the stakes are high and your team is playing in a big game – what a wonderful relief.” 

The Cavaliers have suffered serious injuries to key players so if they don’t go all the way, Clevelanders have learned to adapt.  They’ll probably come up with a name for the loss.