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.