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'The Curse is Gone': Cleveland Fans on the Cavaliers' NBA Title

A fan smiles after the Cavs' win inside the Q. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
A fan celebrates the Cavs' win inside the Q.

by Nick Castele

After half a century of waiting, Cleveland has now won a major athletic world championship. Thousands of people celebrated in the streets downtown last night after the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game Seven of the NBA Finals

The game may have been in Oakland, but so many people crowded into downtown Cleveland last night that police shut down many highway exits leading into the area. Quicken Loans Arena was overflowing with fans who had come for a Cavs watch party. People even took up perches in a downtown parking garage just to catch a glimpse of the game on distant outdoor big-screens. Among those celebrating was 19-year-old Kevin Hazley.

“This is the best feeling ever,” Hazley said. “Cleveland, we never had nothing, and we feel like we just won—the whole planet is ours now.”

Many had just witnessed a major Cleveland championship for the first time in their lives. Roberta Immormino endured the long drought since the Browns shut out the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game.

“I’ve been waiting for the Browns to do it, and I’m so excited that the Cavs did it,” Immormino said. “I’m 52 years old, I’ve waited my whole life for Cleveland to get a championship.”

Mark McMillen drove up from Cincinnati to follow the game in Cleveland. He’s from Northeast Ohio, and his family is one of many straddling a generational divide between those who remember the last championship, and those who don’t.

“My dad was 18 years old last time we won a championship. I’ve never seen one. Awesome moment,” McMillen said. “First thing I did was call my dad and say I love him and congratulations.”

Dan Rositano was sitting with his family near Quicken Loans Arena and watching the crowds pass by on the street. He recalled the times Cleveland teams came up short—such when the Indians lost the World Series twice in the 1990s.

“The Indians did so great in ’95,” Rositano said. “Next year, ’97, so close. I remember watching the game and just collapsing.”

The defeats and near-misses have led many fans to follow Cleveland sports with a sort of gallows humor, hoping for the best while girding themselves for disappointment. Rositano said he hopes that will change with this victory.

“You hear the frustration in the fans, you hear the cynicism,” he said. “I can’t wait to hear that cynicism go away, finally.”

The outlook on Cleveland sports was changing for Lakisha Ellis.

“Yeah, the curse is gone,” Ellis said. “It puts Cleveland on the map.”

And while celebrations rolled through Cleveland, this win had a special significance for fans like Arlandis White, who shares a Northeast Ohio hometown with the Finals MVP.

“You know, I’m from Akron, home of LeBron James, and I can’t describe it. You know, I knew he was going to do it,” White said. “I followed LeBron before he was even in the NBA.”

This victory fulfills a goal James set when he returned to the Cavaliers from Miami two years ago: to bring a championship home. And while many protested James’ departure from Cleveland in 2010, Jermaine Hughes says he saw the big picture.

“I never had even an issue with it,” Hughes said. “Because what he had to do, he had to go and like sow his oats to a certain extent, and he had to go see what it’s like to win.”

Now Cleveland and Akron know what it’s like to win, too.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said James made a "promise" that the he would win a championship upon his return to the Cavaliers.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.