Happy Tuesday, WFNY!
For those of you lucky enough to work someplace that recognizes federal holidays, welcome back to work. For the rest of you, like me, well, welcome to Tuesday. We’re one day closer to the weekend than we were yesterday, so, hooray progress!
With all the sarcasm I can muster, I’d just like to start off by saying what a phenomenal NBA All-Star Game we just had! Stuff….happened. Buckets were had, points were scored. Taking off my sarcasm hat and putting on my basketball fan hat, I seriously don’t understand how anyone enjoys the NBA All-Star Game. It’s a mockery of my favorite sport and it’s so boring to me watching players just stand around, going through the motions. It’s like watching a televised shootaround, basically. If you like it, more power to you. I’m happy you had something fun to watch on a Sunday night. Me? I made it through the first half before I had to find a more productive way to spend my time.
But the All-Star break is nice for a couple reasons. For one thing, it gives us all a chance to take a breather in the middle of the season. It’s great for the players and for the reporters and broadcasters who travel all over the country with these teams. It’s also nice for people who just stay up past their bedtime writing post-game thoughts for an independent sports site like this one. It’s just nice to have a week off to reenergize and collect some thoughts before the push toward the real season, the postseason, begins.
I’ve been using this week off to really reflect on this team and trying to live more in the moment. I was listening to the Road Trippin’ podcast over the weekend as Kyrie Irving tried to explain that the earth is flat, and I was just enthralled by it. Maybe it was the sleep-hazed delirium of the flu that I was going through, but I really got to thinking about how special this Cleveland Cavaliers team is.
It’s easy to take them for granted, even just eight months after they delivered Cleveland its first Championship since 1948. Sure, the games are fun to watch. It’s great to have three amazing players like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love to root for. But how often do we really step back to think just how amazing and special this moment in time is? Or, more specifically, how lucky we all are to live in a time when this specific group of players were brought together to play for the team we root for.
We all knew, more or less, how close this team is. We’ve been reading post-Championship stories galore on the bond this team has, how LeBron is the ultimate camaraderie guy, how Channing Frye worked to make these players realize how special this team is and brought everyone together, how Richard Jefferson’s use of “Lil Kev” was a rallying moment for the team, how James Jones put together the Larry O’Brien Trophy puzzle the team assembled as they made their march to the title. But the Road Trippin’ podcast has been an absolute revelation for me.
It’s honestly the most unguarded, down to earth, and casual conversation I have ever heard NBA players talk. It feels less like listening to a podcast and more like sitting at the table with the players as they have dinner together. It’s an invitation into their real lives in a way we so rarely get as sports fans. Whether it’s Bill Walton talking about Luke Walton’s friends, including Richard Jefferson, spending countless nights at the Walton household where there apparently are beds just all over the place, or LeBron James talking about how grateful he is to have Kyrie around so Kyrie can be LeBron’s kids’ basketball hero allowing LeBron to just be “dad” to them, or Kevin Love talking about his middle kid syndrome growing up, or Tristan Thompson relating the story of how he actually met Khloe Kardashian, the entire podcast is a giant introspection of the team dynamic.
We’ve learned more about Richard Jefferson and the fascinating journey he has had in his basketball life and we’ve learned more about Channing Frye’s infatuation with talking about fast food restaurants. We get to know the players for more than just what they do on the court as basketball players. We get to know them for the people that they are.
It’s funny, you know? If DeAndre Jordan doesn’t renege on his verbal agreement to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, RJ never becomes a Cavalier. Cleveland very well might have still gone on to win the NBA Championship. But I’m not sure the team would be as much fun. When the Cavaliers signed RJ, I’ll admit, I didn’t think much of it. I figured he was just a guy who would get a few minutes here and there. I didn’t expect him to play an important role in the NBA Finals. But more importantly, I didn’t realize what RJ would bring to the team off the court.
It started, really, with the Snapchat account. Lil Kev, he was called. It was must-see entertainment. Not only was it just genuinely funny, but we started to learn more about the team through it. We knew when the team was having dinner together, or hanging out at someone’s house. We knew all this because Lil Kev was there. From there, we got RJ’s post-game segments with Fred McLeod on Fox Sports Ohio broadcasts called “Was It Something I Said?” where we get to see more of the team dynamic and personality. Now we have the podcast.
I can’t say RJ was the most important signing in recent years (I think LeBron James has a pretty firm grasp on that title), but he’s been perhaps the most important acquisition in terms of my overall enjoyment of the team.
I love basketball. I find so much enjoyment in simply watching the best in the world play this game. So I don’t need all the off-the-court stuff to enjoy this team. Watching them win games and play in NBA Finals, and bringing home that Championship is more than enough. But in Kyrie’s last appearance on the podcast, he talked about how he wants to be known for so much more than just being a basketball player. In the same vein, I enjoy getting to know more about these players beyond just what they do on the court. It allows me to better live in the moment.
There’s going to come a time in the near future when LeBron James is no longer the same dominant force. I don’t want that time to come and for me to have regrets about not enjoying this team more in the moment. We are so, so lucky to have this specific team, these specific players, on “our” team. So while it’s frustrating to go through so many injuries like they’ve had this year, and it’s annoying when they go through a losing January, and it’s maddening when they don’t play defense as hard as we think they should or they don’t pass the ball around as much as we wish they would, it’s important to just remember how lucky we are.
The four years the team spent in the LeBron-less wilderness feel like a blur now. But it was not fun in that moment. The way things played out, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. But I think those four years have made it easier to simply enjoy this team for what they are. I desperately want them to win more Championships. I hope they do. I hope they repeat this year. But the Golden State Warriors are awfully formidable. And if the Cavs lose, it will suck. But it’s ok because we’re still lucky. We still get to watch LeBron and Kyrie and Kevin play night in and night out. We got to celebrate a Championship. And this team is full of really fascinating personalities and we’re fortunate enough to have several platforms through which we can learn more about them.
So with the playoffs right around the corner, and the stress that is going to come with that, I’m just trying to hang on to this moment. I’m enjoying every episode of the podcast, every game, every swing of momentum. This is basketball, and it’s awesome. And it’s only that much better when you have a group of players that are this much fun to root for.
You know what? I’ve had enough of this All-Star break. I’m ready for Thursday when the team is back on the floor. I’m ready to just enjoy whatever the rest of this season has in store for us.