It’s one year since the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship and I feel like I’m still glowing. There won’t be a parade in Cleveland this summer, but I’m not upset. This year I had my third straight bet with a college friend, Adam, who has been a diehard Warriors fan since I met him in the late 90’s. Paying that $50 didn’t even phase me. I wrote a note simply saying, “The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead. Still true. See you next year.” Even as I wrote something spiteful and mean, my heart wasn’t in it.
In many ways, I’m still in disbelief. The Cavaliers won a championship. That team brought us to heights we only dreamed were possible before LeBron and Kyrie delivered a year ago on Father’s Day. I had my six-year-old son stay up and watch that game with me and the moment that we had when LeBron James and company delivered the championship was so much more expansive than the one-year reign that’s guaranteed by the NBA regular season and subsequent playoffs.
The Warriors did what they did in the offseason, during the ensuing regular and post-seasons. As impressive as it all was, and as dominating as they were of our Cavaliers, it didn’t matter. It’s more than a honeymoon because even in taking away the title from the Cavaliers for the next twelve months, they couldn’t take away what I experienced with my son and my city even if they’d been able to embarrass the Cavaliers with a sweep.
I don’t know how many of you even remember, but Rocky loses at the end of the 2006 film “Rocky Balboa.” Antonio Tarver plays Mason “The Line” Dixon, and he wins the fight in the end, but Rocky wins the adulation of the crowd for even competing. Because of what the Cavaliers have faced over the past three years against the Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers have the upper hand just like Rocky did as an old man in that bout. Due to injuries, the Cavaliers had no business competing with the Warriors in the first bout, yet they pushed them hard. They were heavy underdogs and embarrassed the Warriors with a historic defeat in the second meeting. The Warriors stacked the deck and held serve — merely doing what they were supposed to do — in winning this latest championship.
Even if the Cavaliers aren’t the same level of “people’s champion” that Rocky Balboa is supposed to be in the movies, they are beyond reproach here in Cleveland. You can nitpick and criticize and point fingers if you want. I expect the Cavaliers to adjust and make moves to counter what just occurred in the playoffs, but there’s absolutely no shame to be leveled at these guys for the 2016-17 season.
We will have to see how this era develops moving forward beyond the one-year anniversary. I’m sure some of the sheen will wear off, and we’ll get back to being impatient and demanding for a Championship. It would be a shame if the 2016 Cavaliers have to live a lonely existence in the rafters of The Q for the next 50 years, but even if that team does, as long as I’m alive, I’ll be the crusty old fossil telling everyone how amazing it was. I’ll be croaking about the time I got to see a sports championship with my son. I’ll be telling everyone about the time the Cavaliers defied the odds and rewrote history by expunging a 3-1 lead. The memes will likely have died by then, but they’ll be codified into the lore of Cleveland sports forever more.
One year on from that fateful day, I’m still completely satisfied, content, appeased, happy and many other likewise weak adjectives. You only get one first, and the Cavaliers delivered the first championship of my lifetime in my 37th year. Even as the Warriors exacted some revenge, capturing their second title in three years, it doesn’t eat away at me like those memories of Jordan’s shot, Elway’s drive, or the Braves and Marlins. How could it possibly hurt like that living in a world where our team were the champs?
It can’t. It doesn’t. It won’t for the foreseeable future.