I am not a basketball fan. I do not watch basketball and the only the things I can tell you about the recent NBA regular season are that the Golden State Warriors set a wins record, and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended up first
in their league / division / whatever. But my parents watch basketball and so, while we were with my parents in Ohio, we watched two Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games.
The first game we watched was Game 6 of the championship finals against Golden State. The Cavaliers were up 31 to 11 at the end of the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be one of those lopsided games. But the game was tough and the Cavs needed every home court advantage they could get. They won by a score of 115 to 101, but it felt like a close game that could go either way in the second half.
The second game we watched was the last game in the championship finals. Back at Oracle Arena. In the place where the Warriors had won almost every game they played all season. It was noisy and loud and the lead changed over and over. Golden State dominated the second quarter, but the Cleveland Cavaliers charged back in the third quarter. Then the score was tied at 89 for what felt like half of the fourth quarter. We couldn’t believe the Cavs were shooting and not scoring. We couldn’t believe Golden State was shooting and not scoring! Then a great block, a basket for the lead, and a foul shot that set the lead at four points. The Cleveland Cavaliers were NBA Champions!
We couldn’t believe it. We celebrated, but it didn’t feel real. We were sure that something would happen to take away the championship. When LeBron James fell and hurt his wrist in the final minute, you could almost hear all of Ohio sigh and say “not again!” Up until they handed the team the trophy, we felt as if – any minute – they would announce that there was really a different ending to the game. Or some penalty or someone was ineligible.
Professional sports in northeast Ohio are different than they are other places. The teams may, occasionally, make it to the finals in their sports, but they never win. Something drastic always happens. The unstoppable Jose Mesa blows a save. Red Right 88. The Fumble. The Decision. The Move. The Shot. The Drive. Cleveland fans are some of the most loyal sports fans in the world and – year after year – their sports teams find new ways to break their hearts.
But not this year. This year the Cleveland Cavaliers fulfilled their promise. They battled back from being down 3 games to 1 in the championship finals. They did something – a good thing! – no other team has every done before. And 1.3 million people greeted the team in a thank you parade in Cleveland. Another 25,000 greeted LeBron James in Akron the day after the parade. People who never watch basketball became Cleveland Cavaliers fans. Five days after the championship game I still get teary when I see pictures of people celebrating.
So thank you, Cleveland Cavaliers. Thank you for making Cleveland “Believeland”. Thank you for giving us something good to celebrate and remember. Thank you for following through on your promise and being champions off the court as well as on.