The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Lebron James or: How we learned to stop worrying and love the Cavs

I really love basketball. It is my favorite among favorites. Like my love for any sport, I truly enjoy it most when it’s played at the highest level. The NBA is the highest level of basketball in the world. That said, this past season for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers for all the reasons by this point we know too well, was a team really hard to love, and one far from capable of playing basketball at its highest level.

I mean, sure, any fan of this organization has more of a context for losing than they ever do of anything else. So winning only 19 games was merely an unfortunate truth of nothing new. In fact there have been 3 other years which were worse as this season actually marked the 4th time the team has failed to win 20 games in its 41 years of existence. By comparison the Lakers over that same 41 year stretch have only 4 times not made the playoffs. And even those years where they did their worst, LA still managed to at least win 30 games. The Cavs have been so bad that they’ve twice only won 15 games and their overall franchise record sits 250 games under the half way mark.

So, losing , Cavs, we get it. So much so we even are left to celebrate players like Bingo Smith, Austin Carr and World B. Free who were all exciting players and ones certainly worthy of some accolade, yet over their careers in Cavaliers uniforms none of them won more games than they lost and nor will they ever be considered for the Hall of Fame. And in the case of World B. Free, he never even once played on a Cavs team that ended a season with a winning record. We make do as best we can though and celebrate them nonetheless. Besides, how can you not love a guy who named himself World B. Free?

It’s also has led to why people around here have never really cared about basketball as much as they do their other sports in town. Certainly, beyond “the miracle“, with the late ’80s and ’90s our attitudes might have changed if not for Michael -the greatest player ever- Jordan and a few stupid moves by the organization. Ron Harper trade. Shawn Kemp. Anyone? Those things did happen though and they also pretty much made sure we didn’t ever get too excited.

Withstanding all that though, a very odd and unique occurrence happened this year amongst all of our team’s well set precedence for losing. Something that’s truly unlike anything ever in all of known sports history. We rooted more against a player and a team, so thoroughly, it ultimately led us down the path of  rooting for our own Cavs like never before.

When Lebron made his decision it was unlike when Modell took the Browns to Baltimore where we were left as the only ones without and the only ones wanting and rooting to see the move fail. Nope, when Lebron left and essential set fire to his home town on his way to one of the worst places in the world there is as far as fan support, he also spurned the potential suitors of Chicago and New York to do so. Net result of this hubris bubble shift, it burst, and the entire world ended up rooting against him right along with us. All year.

Add into that then an unprecedented level of coverage which scrutinized, analyzed, psycho-analyzed and questioned his every word and play whether in its proper context or not (as well as no matter to whether it was right or wrong to do so), that then only fed into everyone rooting against him. Big ups to ESPN for most of that. What it resulted in though was that we were given everything we’ve needed to realize a love for our team and our city. And almost solely through the means of hating Lebron.

We literally began to love all that we have, through a simple hatred of someone who left.

Of course having an owner in Dan Gilbert helped in all of this as he quickly turned the affair into a classic revenge novel playing it like it’s Northeast Ohio starring as The Count of Monte Cristo. Which is only more befitting when you consider the author of that literary classic, Alexandre Dumas, also penned the Three Musketeers. Doesn’t get much more Cavalier than that, Cavs fans. It also doesn’t hurt that Gilbert has the bank, just like said Count, to fund this revenge on Lebron and will go to any and all costs necessary to make sure our team will compete again for a championship, and do so as soon as possible.

I really didn’t see a shift of hate to love happening within this though. Who could? I just noted on all the frustration and angst and saw it a necessary cathartic release for Cleveland. I also mostly feared this anger would ultimately only add to our already well documented sports misery of the last half century. I certainly never thought it potentially ending with anything truly positive beyond just being a function of the Kübler-Ross model and the 5 the steps it takes to cope with a loss. But then it started to happen…

The signs were all there for it to happen too. First, though the season was essentially 98% sold out before Lebron left, people still went to the games. Again, all year. To watch a 19 win team that at times played even worse than that. Hello Tampa Bay Buccaneers and being synonymous with the longest losing streak in North America’s pro sport diary of things that sucked the most. By its end though when Tony Parker took to the court the last game of the year against the Wizards and called us “the best fans in the world” and thanked us for our yearlong support, it didn’t feel fake or merely an empty gestured PR move; it actually felt very real, genuine and apt.

Then some good fortune that some might call karma played out in the form of Donald Sterling. Who, through his unparalleled levels of losing and lunacy, traded away Baron Davis and what turned out to be the #1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Kyrie Irving. All for a Mo Williams and a washed up Harlem Globetrotter. And I still giggle joyously every time I think of this. When that happened just before the trade deadline, our year and our hopes started to drastically take shape into something with an actual tangible future of hope.

And keep in mind Sterling (he named himself too but didn’t come close to going the World B. Free route) did it mostly because he had buyers remorse for giving the kind of money he did to Baron Davis when everyone including Baron’s history of discord and inability to stay in shape, healthy and give 100%, told him not to.Fix one mistake with another is his chosen method to his madness apparently ( and for the record, a Baron Davis at 60-70% is better than a Mo or Moon, and at 80-90%, where he should be the start of next year, is better than both those jokers combined).

In other words Donald is literally more crazy than Al Davis, except he doesn’t have the winning to justify any of it. And we now owe him a big thank you for being the nut he is. If I ever meet him (fingers crossed), I’ll be sure to give him a Coke.

By the way, Donald and Al are good friends. -Seriously, when you have the time read that article I linked on him and keep in mind as you do that his LA Clippers, which he’s owned for 30 years, makes our Cavs look like the Lakers-

Of course we still needed Lebron James and the Miami Heat to lose at least this year. It really was how it had to happen for all of this to work out as it has. Without it, our depression would have only sunk lower as our frustration levels rose higher, and Lebron would have only found immediate satisfaction and justification for leaving. Thankfully, as the championship parade gods would have it, and to the better team being the Dallas Mavericks full of hardened veterans led by Dirk Nowitzki and a pension for singing “We are the Champions” out of key, the reality of Lebron and the Heat losing took place with all the world watching on the biggest stage possible, the NBA Finals. It also happened on Miami’s court, the very place where the absurdly staged “Yes. We. Did.” hoopla introduction took place, which only made it all the more sweet.

I still wasn’t yet convinced though. Not that the team wasn’t on the right path led by coach Byron Scott and GM Chris Grant all funded by Dan Gilbert and his Comic Sans written vendetta pact. I was sure of that from day one and have talked about on my show ever since. What I wasn’t convinced of was whether or not we could love anywhere near as much as we’ve hated (which I’ve also talked about on my show). Now I might be convinced this is indeed possible though, and what has me thinking it has been the fans interest of late in all things Cavs even with the season over and the Heat left wondering what went wrong.

Then there was the fun of the Draft Lottery night where we landed the #1 and #4 pick all to Nick Gilbert stating “What’s not to like?”, and immediately season tickets sales which had to have been all but non-existent, started to spike. That just made sense though.

What really started to drive the possibility of this idea home was last Thursday when 7,500 people went to the Q to watch the Draft live on the jumbo-tron. That means 7,500 people went downtown on a Thursday night to pay outrageous arena prices for beer and food to watch a television show they could have watched anywhere else. Like say, at home. I mean, really. I had more than a few friends who had to work and they were able to watch it on their phones. And all these fans went to the Q? The year before Lebron James set foot in that place getting 7,500 people in there was almost the average attendance for an actual game.

That’s a true sign of fans behind their team and wanting and rooting them on to glory, not just ones showing up to boo someone who left.

Then came the capper. If there even needed to be any further evidence (I like a lot of evidence, what can I say). An article written by Terry Pluto for which posted last Sunday night at 5:41pm. It was nothing more than a write up of the press conference welcoming Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to the Cavaliers where in a single headline Byron Scott explained through Terry’s words, “defense was at the heart of the team’s draft strategy”. Not a flashy headline at all, nor the story. And again, it was posted on a Sunday night. Yet by the time of my stumbling upon the article in writing my own review of the Draft only an hour later, there had already been 110 comments posted on it by Cleveland fans (well mostly all Cleveland fans anyway,there’s always a hater or two lurking).

That’s crazy. That’s interest. That’s die-hard in the way we mostly only know Browns fans to be. And it also ended up changing what I was writing about with the Draft, to this.

It’s true Cleveland, the proof is all around you. A team, and game, that before Lebron ranked a distant third in our sports world which had the Browns and Indians long before it ever had the Cavs, has risen. Not on the shoulders of the “king” as we had hoped either, but through the loathing of his “decision” to leave. And now, through this hate and disgust, the thing I love most in sports is beginning to be shared and felt equally within a city I love so dearly as well. Basketball is now a king here too, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, our much maligned NBA franchise, are one day soon going to make good on Dan Gilbert’s promise and win a championship. That’s a DC Show promise.

Who wants to go see some Cavs games with me next year?

-Mike James


PS- I still think there likely won’t be much of a season next year, if there’s one at all (which I stated 8 months before Charles Barkley just did). If that’s the case it will be due to the much talked about pending lockout that appears necessary to fix what’s broken about the business of the NBA since the players look unwilling to budge on their stance of keeping with the status quo. Which I’ll write and talk much more about later. But who wants to hear about any of that now. Go Cavs!




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Posted by on Jun 28 2011. Filed under Cavaliers, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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