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JUN
28

LeBron James: He Gone?

It was never a question of whether or not I would go. And, despite the epic hard-coreness that is my fandom, it was never really a question of whether or not the Cavs would win the championship. I would go, and they would lose. Not that the outcome of the game, or the series, really mattered to me, in that I would go regardless. I would cheer regardless. I would believe regardless. I would wear Cavs gear throughout April, May, and June regardless. And I would very nearly end up in the poor house due to the way the airlines jack up prices in cities hosting major events regardless. Yet, I digress.

The fact is, as a Cavaliers fan, watching Lebron make it to the finals this year was nothing short of magic. It was also torturous, but magic trumps torture. A seven-game first round they almost didn’t make it past, a second-round sweep that made a commanding statement, another seven-game series in the third round that took more than it should have, and then the ugly championship sweep full of so many injustices I can’t even think about it. But through it all there was Lebron, and the near-constant reminder that he is still the greatest—not just in The Land, but in the world. Still. After 15 seasons.

I lived in Cleveland once. I lived there when he played as a Cavalier the first time around. I lived there when he left. I lived there when he came back. And now I’m the lone Californian who flies to Cleveland every year to see him play in the finals. And I love him the way the entire city of Cleveland loves him. I want him to stay the way the entire city of Cleveland wants him to stay. I doubt there’s a path to another championship there, and so I doubt he’ll stay, but I wish it didn’t have to be about that. I wish it was simply about playing basketball where you want to play basketball, raising your family in the place where you grew up, being content in the knowledge that you will always be known as one of the greatest to ever play the game regardless of if there are 3 or 4 or 5 rings. He deserves to still be winning championships, he’s that good, but isn’t the legend stronger when you stay in the city that’s yours?

JUN
17

Picture This

Picture booking a trip to Cleveland for game 6 of the NBA finals and then realizing with your team down 3-0 that game 6 is likely not to happen. Picture changing your plans at the last minute and booking the last seat on a plane to Cleveland for game 4. Picture lugging the dresses and heels and suits you wore over a week-long work trip with you across the country, as the last minute-ness of the change in plans doesn't allow you to go home first.

Picture upsetting your ex's family by asking in this state of last minute-ness (ie. no hotels available) if you can crash with them for a night. Picture sobbing in an airport bathroom when you realize the door to their friendship is no longer open, even though this is probably as it always should have been.

Picture getting pulled over in Cleveland and trying to get out of a ticket when you say you're here for "the game" and have a California drivers license. Picture the Cavs shirt you're wearing saving the day. Because it does.

Picture winning.

Of course, I could tell you to picture it all falling apart in the next game anyway, but that really doesn't matter. Because if you can picture 20,000+ fans erupting in unison after each (record-breaking) three-pointer, if you can picture being unable to keep yourself from jumping to your feet every possession, if you can picture the glee in watching Steph Curry momentarily being made to look like a lost little boy, if you can picture hope and belief in their most unadulterated forms ("Cavs in se-ven!"), then you will have gotten what you came for.

So picture that.

 

JUN
20

For Cleveland

The thing about Cleveland is it was only mine for seven years. That’s as long as I lived there. But it’s the first city that really felt like mine; the first city that saw me moving across the country, knowing no one, and beginning to build a life for myself. It’s also the first city I ever lived in that had an NBA team. So, in a way, the Cavaliers were probably destined to be mine, too.

I was surprised during these finals how many people didn’t think that the Cavs would win. Very nearly everyone predicted a Warriors repeat. I confess being down 3-1 was a bit foreboding. I myself was in Cleveland for game 4. Oakland is a lot closer, but I flew my Californian ass to Cleveland and cheered my heart out along with 20,561 others; 20,561 others who left Quicken Loans arena probably just as discouraged as I was. But the thing is, it wasn’t over. And just before getting on a plane and winging my way back west, I said to someone, “All we have to do is win three in a row.” And I was being sincere, in that, taken one game at a time, I didn’t see how it wasn’t possible. Even probable. Them boys were on a mission. To me it seemed so obvious that they wanted it more than Golden State. They wanted it for Cleveland.

I’ve run into some who can’t root for Cleveland because of the seeming fickleness of the fans. The fact that we loved LeBron, hated him, and then loved him again. As a person who lived in Cleveland for the best of the LeBron years, the years he played for Miami, and then was still living there when he made the decision to return, I can assure you that it was certainly a fascinating fandom flip-flop. But it’s really not that hard to understand. We were hurt, indescribably so. “The Decision” was a lousy way for a star athlete to make such an announcement. But if you read the essay LeBron wrote that accompanied his decision to return to Cleveland, he addresses the folly of “The Decision,” and explains why coming home and bringing a championship to Cleveland was, he’d realized, more important. Hurt as we were, you couldn’t read that essay without feeling not only that you were witnessing growth, but also sincerity. So is it any wonder that when I heard the news—while in the dressing room of the Anthropologie store on Chagrin Blvd.—I broke into a smile that wouldn’t go away? (Let me say, for the record, that I sometimes miss the low cost of living that allowed me to even shop at Anthropologie in the first place something fierce.)

I have wanted this for Cleveland for all of those seven years, and the two since I left as well. I realize that’s not nearly as long as many Cleveland fans; fans who have endured decades (or a lifetime) of their teams coming up short. But it’s long enough to feel a sense of satisfaction over last night’s win that goes beyond a mere victory or title. It’s long enough to have cried when that buzzer sounded. And it’s certainly long enough to be a Cleveland fan for always. Hats off to you, Believeland. You deserve it.

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