By Mike Hastings
Cursed no more, the people of the city of Cleveland can once again claim the mantle of Title Town, thanks primarily, to one of their own sons.
LeBron James was a 16-year-old basketball phenom at St Vincent St Mary’s High School in nearby Akron, Ohio in 2001. His games were televised by ESPN. Kobe and Shaq took time away from their NBA championship season to come and watch him play.
At 18, King James, as he was crowned, went directly from high school to the NBA draft. The hapless Cleveland Cavaliers had a lottery pick that year, and in a miracle of miracles, they won the number one pick and of course, selected James. A title was soon-to-come, right? Wrong.
Cleveland had long been a great sports town. Paul Brown molded one of the great football teams of all time, led first by Otto Graham, and then by Jim Brown. The Browns, who took their name from their coach, won their last title in 1964.
The Indians were a powerhouse in the 40’s with Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau and former Negro league greats Larry Dolby and Satchel Paige. They won the World Series in 1948. Though they had great teams in the 50’s and again in the 90’s, they would not win another title since then.
The Cavs had some pretty good teams in the 80’s, with Austin Carr and Hot Rod Williams and Mark Price, but they ran into a guy named Michael Jordan in the playoffs and could never beat him.
So the people of Cleveland endured disappointment after disappointment. Not just in sports.
The city’s “Boy Mayor” Dennis Kucinich led Cleveland to bankruptcy. The Cuyahoga River became so polluted, it caught on fire. Soon, the proud city was known nationally as “The Mistake by the Lake.”
Now I lived in Cleveland for 15 years. I met some amazing people there. Terrific family-oriented, down-to-earth good people. A strength that comes from facing hard times and persevering was in them.
Cleveland sports fans suffered The Drive, The Fumble, and then six years ago, The Decision - LeBron James’ nationally televised news conference where he told the world he was taking his talents to South Beach.
How could he? The Cavs became the worst team in the NBA when LeBron left. The pain was even harder to bear for Cavs fans as they watched James win two titles for the Miami Heat.
Then two years ago, James was once again a free agent. He wrote an open letter to the people of Cleveland and told them he wanted to come home, and promised that he would lead the Cavs to a title. The prodigal son was welcomed back, and this week made good on his promise.
I can’t tell you how happy I was when that final buzzer went off and Cleveland could once again be called champions. Not for LeBron, but for those amazingly good people who have suffered enough. Long live The Comeback!
Cleveland is Title Town Once Again