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Hot in Cleveland

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

One night can’t possibly wash away 52 years of broken dreams and torturous despair, but it’s a great start.

Finally, after a half of a century, the city of Cleveland can celebrate without having the carpet pulled out from under them. On Sunday night, the Cavaliers brought home the city’s first world title since 1964.

Prior to the weekend, Cleveland had been synonymous with futility and heartbreak. Over the decades, their fans had endured some of the most gut-wrenching moments in sports history.

When Jim Brown and Otto Graham were in town, Cleveland was the place to be. From 1950 until 1964, the Browns won four NFL championships.

But once Brown retired in 1965, it was all downhill.

There were no more championship runs, only brutal stumbles right at the door of a championship—stumbles like “Red Right 88,” “The Drive” and “The Fumble.”

The anguish intensified when Browns owner Art Modell decided to move the team to Baltimore and change the name to the “Ravens.” And of course, when they moved, that’s when the franchise took home two Super Bowls.

When it came to baseball, the Indians’ greatest accomplishments that the fans could celebrate all came from the two “Major League” films. It took Hollywood to deliver the city a winner.

With no Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Willie Mays Hayes, all the Tribe could do was take a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox in the 2005 Wild Card, just to see Boston come back and win the series.

The past had been unforgiving for the Cavs as well.

In 1989, Michael Jordan handed the franchise a soul-crushing defeat when he hit “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo in the playoffs.

Then, native son (actually from nearby Akron) LeBron James left Cleveland fans at the alter crying tears of betrayal when he bolted for Miami with “The Decision” in 2010. There, he went on to win two championships.

LeBron finally mended his relationship with the city when he returned two years ago, but more agony appeared to be on the way as the Cavs fell down 3-1 to the Warriors heading into a road trip to Golden State for game five. But then, something crazy happened, something that just wasn’t supposed to happen to a team from Cleveland.

The Cavs turned the series on a dime. LeBron and Kyrie Irving took over, their defense frustrated league MVP Stephen Curry and the offense began to fire on all cylinders.

Not only did they win in Oakland, they won back-to-back games there, a place where the Warriors had only lost three times all year.

In winning the franchise’s first ever championship, the Cavs made NBA history as the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a title.

During this miracle comeback, we found out a few things. For one, we found out that though Curry has had a great run these last couple of years, LeBron is still the best player on the planet.

Just look at what he did when his team needed him the most. Down 3-1, he put up back-to-back 41-point games and finished with a triple-double in game seven.

He was the first player in NBA history in any postseason series to lead or tie for the lead among all players from both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks for the entire series.

I also loved the fact that he stepped out of the plane the next day holding the championship trophy high and wearing an Ultimate Warrior T-shirt. Well played, sir.

Speaking of the Warriors, we found out that they weren’t as good as they thought they were.

After breaking the 1995-96 Bulls’ record by going 73-9 during the regular season and going up 2-0 in the series, many were already engaging in dynasty talk and entertaining the idea of them being all-time great.

Klay Thompson only perpetuated that by saying they were better than the “Showtime” Lakers of the ‘80s.

I said it then, and I’ll say it now. The Warriors are a great team. All-time great? No way. They wouldn’t beat Jordan and the Bulls. They wouldn’t beat the “Showtime” Lakers. They wouldn’t beat the Shaq and Kobe-led Lakers either.

They didn’t blow the series; the Cavs won it.

With their backs against the wall, they fought off everyone. They fought off the Warriors, the haters, the history books, and most importantly, they fought off those dastardly demons that have tormented the city for decades.

After 52 years, the demons have been exorcized. It’s a new day in Cleveland.