Davies: An attempt to put past week into words
What else can be said that hasn’t already been said?
Seven days ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers etched their mark in history three-fold—for their franchise, their league and their city.
The team won its first title ever as the only group in NBA history to roar back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals and, most importantly, put a stop to a 52-year championship drought in Cleveland.
Tears were shed, hugs were given out from stranger-to-stranger and hope finally paid off for the loyal fans in Northeast Ohio.
Over the past week, I’ve tried to figure out a way to put all of this craziness and the experiences themselves into words, so here goes nothing.
A fan-turned-media-professional sees childhood flash before his eyes
As a journalist in sports media, it is expected of you to remain unbiased and objective of what you’re covering, no matter what sport and what circumstances.
To be honest, this entire season I have been with the Cavs. It was my inaugural season covering the team on an every day basis for this website, in addition to other outlets.
In the playoffs, nothing changed. As a matter of fact, I did more features and offered more coverage of the opposing teams more frequently than Cleveland.
I found myself observing and sitting back, watching closely as more of a fan of basketball than of a certain team.
Even during the first few games of the Finals, my fanhood took a backseat to my work, especially once the Warriors came in to Cleveland and won Game 4 to put the Cavs on the brink of elimination.
Though I usually keep things in perspective, I was certain that it was over and Golden State had repeated as champions. I’d come to terms with it and just wanted to do my job.
But then Game 5 happened.
There was something different about it. The Cavs back-against-the-wall attitude brought out the best in the wine and gold. The duo of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was unstoppable.
I can specifically remember a moment that saw me pump my fist and got me on my feet for the first time in the series. It was the first of what would be many—LeBron’s first emphatic denial of Stephen Curry on a chasedown, to which I would react by leaping out of my chair.
The not-so-funny, yet funny, part was I hit the table so hard my water spilled all over the surface onto my laptop and phone (luckily everything seems alright). The point is, that play made me feel like a fan again.
And isn’t that the sole reason people like me get into this business?
[pullquote] I was certain that it was over and Golden State had repeated as champions. I’d come to terms with it and just wanted to do my job. But then Game 5 happened.[/pullquote]
Too many times I see some professionals out there ridicule their peers because of a little enthusiasm.
Did you know that it’s entirely possible to be objective in watching and analyzing a basketball game while pulling for one team or another? Crazy concept, I know.
But back to what I was getting at—I wanted to get into sports media because I love sport itself. To tell you the truth, this season covering the Cavs—that got lost in the shuffle. I was more focused on establishing myself as a respectable, credible multimedia journalist.
Yet once that buzzer sounded one week ago, it was a moment I’ll never forget. Surrounded by my father, aunt and 10-year-old brother, the embrace was unlike any other I’ve ever experienced in my 24 years of life.
The scene after it was like something out of a movie. Streets were flooded, car horns were blaring and people of every background, age were brought together.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience drew the 14-year-old kid with his bedroom walls painted in an off-shade of wine and gold back out.
The crazed fanatic who stuck through everything:
Watching Wesley Person knock down threes with his beautiful jumper in the late ‘90s.
Suffering through a 17-win season where the only players you could look forward to watching were Andre Miller and Lamond Murray (okay sometimes Ricky Davis and Darius Miles, I’ll admit it).
Falling in love with the sight of a half-court alley-oop from Jeff McInnis to that kid from Akron that changed everything for the franchise.
Shaking his head when Larry Hughes couldn’t hit an 8-footer against the Pistons in the conference semifinals.
Rejoicing when a rookie Daniel Gibson put on a show to send the team to the Finals the very next year in Detroit.
Asking why when a 60+ win team couldn’t get the job done not once, but TWO years in a row.
Going back through the dark days when Northeast Ohio’s favorite son went south to win two titles in Miami.
Staying up every night to see a starting lineup of Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins get their tails kicked by the opposition each game.
Regaining hope when Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson were chosen as the cornerstones to rebuild an organization that desperately needed it.
Witnessing a king return to his rightful throne.
Drowning in his sorrows when the “Big 3” failed to stay healthy and came up short in 2015.
Sobbing in joy when the goal was finally met.
In the end, it was all worth it. Not only did I get to cover the team I loved, but I also got to enjoy the moment like every other Clevelander did that night.
It made me re-discover why I chose this path, and because of that, I’ll always be grateful for the Cavs’ historic run to a title.
The moment that never came
As every Cleveland sports enthusiast is aware of, this place and its sports have drawn the short end of the stick for a seemingly never-ending period of time.
You could look back to any of those Browns teams falling shy of their championship aspirations to one Mr. Elway in the mid-1980s.
You could cite arguably the best teams in Indians history losing twice in the World Series in a three-year span in the mid-to-late-1990s.
You can remember less than a decade ago when the Cavs had the best record in the NBA in back-to-back seasons and still were unable to even make it to the Finals and failed to accomplish their goal.
Even as recently as one year ago with emotions riding high in LeBron James’ first season back with the wine and gold, the Cavs saw injury after injury plague a great run in their first Finals appearance since 2007.
Fast-forward to June 18 and they were back in the same position as they were before. The vibes were feeling good in the city, the Warriors’ backs were against the wall and history was ready to be made.
But to me, it was too perfect of a situation. I wasn’t exactly confident that it would happen.
Then, the game started. The Cavs energy was up, but so was Golden State’s. Both teams were sloppy, but it was a closely contended matchup.
While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson weren’t at their best, Draymond Green went lights out in the first half and couldn’t miss a jump shot.
[pullquote] The vibes were feeling good in the city, the Warriors’ backs were against the wall and history was ready to be made. But to me, it was too perfect of a situation.[/pullquote]
JR Smith would fire right back with a barrage of his own in the third quarter to spark the momentum. It was a huge boost for a team that was getting back to a stagnant state on offense.
Back came the Warriors in the fourth, as the league’s unanimous MVP began to shine as usual. Thompson started to heat up and Green started to get it going inside.
LeBron James would carry the load from there along with Kyrie Irving, who knocked down an iconic elbow three over the outstretched arms of Curry to put the Cavs ahead by three.
A few key defensive possessions later, James would attempt to seal the deal by throwing down the most emphatic dunk in NBA Finals history over Green, but he missed it and went down hard.
As he lay on the ground grimacing in pain, I thought to myself: “This is it. This is the next chapter of Cleveland sports misery. He’s holding his wrist. It’s hurt, badly. He’s got to shoot his free throws still. He’s going to miss both. Oh no, he’s going to be short on both attempts. Curry’s going to hit a three on the other end and we’re going to overtime…”
The first free throw goes up…off the front iron. The nightmares of the past are getting closer and closer. All of the negative thoughts are creeping through my head even more.
“Why?” I ask myself. “Why must these things always have to happen? Can’t something just go our way for once?”
As I prepare for one more metaphorical stab in the chest, James shot his next free throw…but the ball went in. The Cavs were less than six seconds away from making this a reality.
Low and behold, after face guarding Curry and forcing a contested three, the game was over.
The scoreboard flashed “final.” That was all she wrote. The moment all Cleveland fans expected, the all-too-familiar sinking feeling in our stomachs as fans of Northeast Ohio sports teams—it never came.
All of those past worries and doubts were now irrelevant to anything going on, because the Cavs did the unthinkable and brought the gold home.
Instead of disappointment, it was jubilation. Instead of self-pity, it was adulation.
Instead of fantasy, it was reality.