It pays to have a boss who’s a bigger sports fan than I am. Despite time off in the coming month and a half slated for Montreal, Atlanta, and Mexico, when I told him my favorite team won a world championship and I needed to fly out to Wednesday’s parade, the Mets and Islanders fan saw it as an emergency.
“Well congratulations,” he told me, before he asked for all of the details about Cleveland’s big win, as if I’d fathered a child. “Make sure you bring back pictures.”
During my nineteen seasons as a Cavaliers fan, they often finished at the bottom. Their draft picks rarely panned out, and free agents refused to sign with Cleveland, taking less money to play in sunnier places. The North Shore of Ohio, not Minnesota, became basketball Siberia.
When they did reach the playoffs, thanks in large part to the privilege of drafting home grown basketball savant Lebron James in 2003, it usually ended in disappointment.
Knocked out twice by the Celtics. Swept by the Spurs. Upset by the Magic. And the ultimate blow, Lebron’s departure and the four years of futility that followed. While my support and interest didn’t waver, I wondered if they’d ever reach the top.
Lebron returned to his home team and I made a trip to Cleveland last year (see my post here) to catch their first playoff game in five years.
Well, that year ended in disappointment, too – season ending injuries to two of the team’s top three players and a loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors.
In 2016 the team’s fortune changed in a big way. After trailing the defending champion Warriors three games to one, the Cavs avenged last year’s Finals loss and became the first team to claw their way back from such a deficit in the best-of-seven championship series.
There are countless photos and accounts of the day the Cleveland Cavaliers finally celebrated their first championship in 46 years of existence (here‘s a good one), and the City of Cleveland’s first title in 52 years. Here’s mine.
This couple likely can’t remember Cleveland’s last championship parade, which was held for the 1948 Cleveland Indians.
The trains weren’t running, so I had to walk across the Hope Memorial bridge from my West Side AirBnb to the downtown festivities. I didn’t notice at the time, but the sister-in-law of one of my best friends – who I recently visited in North Carolina – was standing right behind me. She’s back and to the left, with shades and a gray “Two Won Five” shirt.
My sister Mia met me in Cleveland to celebrate!
Over two hours before the parade was set to start, fans already lined up the beginning of the parade route.
The scene on West Fourth Street.
With long, slow-moving food lines, I skipped breakfast.
Trees, buildings, sculptures – people climbed anything to get a better view of the parade.
I knew that the City of Cleveland was ill-equipped to hand this parade when citizens banded together to help cars get through, before the parade began. Amazingly, there were no barricades along most of the parade route.
After walking the entire route, we decided we’d stay on the grassy mall, where a stage was set up for a post-parade rally.
Lucky fans – or smart ones – had chairs.
Visibility was hard in such a tight crowd. This fan used his cooler to get a better view.
Like I said, people climbed on anything.
Three Cavaliers players are New Jersey natives – including the two starters shown by these fans, Kyrie Irving and JR Smith.
This person stayed in that tree for hours.
The sea of humanity was breathtaking. All in all there were over one million attendees in a small stretch of downtown Cleveland. The crowd put so much stress on the cell phone networks that it was impossible to use the internet all day.
It was also exhausting. We got to the mall at 10:30 for a parade that was supposed to start at 11. The players were supposed to arrive for the rally no later than 1:30pm. The parade started at 11:45 and the players didn’t get to the mall until 4:30. Fans were burnt out after hours of no food or water. A lot left.
The parade finally started and we watched from the screen.
I was a little older than this young girl when I became a Cavs fan. She laughed and danced all day – didn’t seem too bothered by the situation.
By the time the players arrived, we had worked out way to the front of the public section. Here, Lebron James congratulates all of his teammates.
Confetti and the “We are the Champions” song
Jim Brown’s golf cart pulled up right next to me. I didn’t react quickly enough to meet him, so I all I got was this photo of the greatest ever. Brown, now 80, won Cleveland its last championship 52 years ago.
The trains were delayed as much as four hours, and on top of that there was a shooting at the main train station – so we walked home.