It was a warm Friday night in Northeast Ohio. One of those Mid-June evenings that bridges the gap between spring and summer. However this evening there wasn’t much joy being felt over this fact. In an arena in downtown Cleveland, the city’s beloved basketball team the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the final minutes of a certain defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, a team that seemed destined to win the Championship over the Cavs. Fans looked downcast, some holding back tears, as the final minute ticked away. This was it, game four was ending and the Cavs were one loss away from series defeat. Worse, they were headed back to Oakland for game five……
Game five took place on a Monday night, a night strangely chilly for June 13th. On that chilly night though, began what now are easily remembered as six day of magic for all those living on shores of the lake called Erie with a tower that is Terminal. That night, behind 41 point performances from both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, the Cavaliers shocked everyone by beating the Warriors on their home court,112-97, and successfully sending the series back to Cleveland for game six; a game that everyone knew, would be the biggest sporting event the town had hosted in many years.
That Thursday night was definitely a big deal! Fans who attended the game were give a black shirt with a big Cavs “C” on it. The goal was to give the effect of a sea of black in the stands, and it worked. The Cavs picked up right where they left off in game five, opening the game with a 8-0 run, leading to a 31-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The crowd was electric the entire game and the Cavs never lost the lead for the entire game, though the Warriors naturally made it quite close at times. However, the final was 115-101, and suddenly NE Ohio began to buzz. Suddenly the reality began to set in. The Cavs had forced a game seven; something that less than a week prior had seemed unthinkable!
Father’s day. June 18th, 2016. What a day. I was actually at the Indians game that afternoon with my parents. The Indians won the game, and as the fans were exiting Jacob’s Field, chants of ‘Let’s go Cavs! Let’s go Cavs!!” broke out. The city of Cleveland was alive with a buzz that I have not experienced very often. That afternoon, there were equal amounts of traffic leaving downtown after the Indians game, and entering downtown to get ready for what would go down as perhaps the biggest city wide watch party in the history of Cleveland, OH. People lined up in parking garages to watch the game on the giant screen outside Quicken Loans Arena, while inside that same arena 20,000 fans lined the seats to watch the game on the giant screens inside. Every bar was filled to the max. Many ran out of everything. However, no one was overly angry about it. This night would belong to Cleveland folklore forever.
You all know the rest and don’t need me to re-count it in full detail, but needless to say as Kyrie Irving hit the three pointer with under a minute left, and LeBron hit his second free throw to ice the Cavs 93-89 win, downtown Cleveland became the scene of perhaps the biggest celebration possible. Policemen were heard saying back to their dispatchers, “we are currently watching a giant crowd of people. They aren’t violent, they are just very happy.” Strangers hugged. People high-fived and shook hands with city police officers. That night, there was total unity of mind and heart. For one night, politics didn’t matter. Differing beliefs about doctrine didn’t matter.. For the Christian it was a microscopic example of what heaven will be like one day, where all believers are completely united in love and mind before Christ. Sports, while often heavily idolized, are one of the few uniters of people we still have, and can be harnessed for so much good. That night in Cleveland, no one rioted. No one looted. Everyone took care of each other. May we begin to see that happen more and more in Cleveland!
Even if the Cavs bring us another championship this year, it won’t be quite like the experience of that first one. Things like what this town experienced over those crazy six nights, are unrivalled and unprecedented. A Cleveland team overcoming a 3-1 deficit was simply unthinkable. No one dared even believe it was possible. That is why the first ever Cleveland Cavalier’s Championship in franchise history, and the first championship for Cleveland in 52 years was record breaking and stunning and absolutely euphoric. A second championship in many years would be fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but I also won’t be devastated if this year doesn’t end with a repeat championship. LeBron and company got us one championship, and if we are all honest, that is more than probably many of us thought we would see in our lifetime. Never forget the joy of last year’s win. No matter what happens this year, no one can ever take that away. Go Cavs!