Editor’s Note: Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen this announcement on Media Day, but it’s worth re-sharing here. Throughout the course of the next 11 months, in addition to my work at WFNY, I will be covering the Cavaliers for Bleacher Report on an enterprise basis. One story per week, reported out, shaped by that current period’s news. I’m looking forward to the challenge as it’ll be a bit different than I’m used to. My first story went live Monday morning and discusses how Dwyane Wade is primed for a rebound from a rough 2016-17 season. I hope you all follow along there as well, but I’ll be sure to link my stories in this space on a weekly basis. Consider this your Team Stream, but for all things WFNY on B/R. Cheers.
A common refrain in the world of sports storytelling exists in the form of “What if I told you” lines of questioning. The entire “30 for 30” series launched by ESPN was predicated upon the unfathomable — The O.J. chase, Len Bias’ death, Cleveland winning a championship… When LeBron James returned to the Cavs, the story was so large due to James’ importance in the league, but much more so because of his return to a city that, just four years earlier, felt like a place where he would never be welcomed. A place that had plummeted from the peak of the NBA spotlight down to the dregs of the league standings in the matter of nine months’ time.
Speculation surrounding “what if” scenarios, however, are ripe for picking when it comes to fans. Sports radio wouldn’t exist as a form of media if it weren’t for the inability of fans to see their respective forests for the trees which comprise them. Players, however, are much different. They tend to see through the bullshit, especially veteran ones who have been through much more in the way of life as a professional athlete than the younger, more innocent batch. Which is why when Dwyane Wade is asked if he ever saw this coming — signing with the Cavs just one year after choosing a hefty pay day in Chicago over playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, just seven years after the two men forever tilted the NBA’s landscape by uniting with the Miami Heat — even he can’t reach into the depths of fan fiction to imagine the day he would be wearing wine and gold.
It’s like, ‘How did this happen? How did we get here?’
—Dwyane Wade on joining the Cavs
The Cavs attempted to sign Wade in the summer of 2016 after things went south in Miami, but could only offer $3.5 million. He opted for a two-year, $47 million deal with Chicago, joking that as much as he wanted to win another championship, his wife would not have let him give up $21 million per year. When Wade arrived to Cleveland on the first day of Training Camp, however, James compared it to the uneasy feeling of walking into a grade school classroom for the first time and then having the weight lifted off his shoulders once he realized his best friend was going to be with him for the entire year. Wade, who compared the two players to peanut butter and jelly — “We just go together” — went as far as calling the entire situation surreal.
“Every time we walk by each other in the locker room and everywhere, we just look at each other and shake our head because it just don’t seem real,” Wade said during his introduction to the local media. “It’s like, ‘How did this happen? How did we get here?’ We just start laughing every time we walk by each other.”
Wade admits to have missing the spotlight, spoiled by the four years in Miami where Biscayne Bay was the epicenter of the entire league. He admits that, while the pay day was nice, playing with hopes of merely getting into the playoffs — knowing full well that James and the Cavaliers were a buzzsaw for the rest of the Eastern Conference — wasn’t something to look forward to. He missed getting to prove people wrong, but mostly missed getting to do it alongside his best friend.
Here are two grown-ass men who send each other voice messages on their iPhones, have sleepovers, order dinner for each other if one party happens to be running late — “Bron got me on seabass” — and have no shame to be seated on an inflatable banana as it careens through the Caribbean. Fast forward to the team’s Wine and Gold Scrimmage this past Monday where James, who did not play due to an ankle injury, waited for his friend and new teammate as he left the floor to a raucous ovation, spent time with the media outside of the team’s locker room, and then had to shower before the two would head into the night, set to take on the world in their hoodies and sweatpants.
“Do you have to talk?” James asks Wade, referencing the few media members still lingering outside the locker room.
“Already did, my man,” Wade responds.
It would be the first time in more than three years the two would leave the same locker room following a game. What if I told you… If everything goes their way, they’ll get to do it at least 98 more times between now and mid-June?
This Week in #ActualSportswriting:
“Six Days in September: NFL Players Seized Control as League Scrambled” by Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham (ESPN)1
“Why Do Bobbleaheads Usually Look So Terrible” by Joon Lee (Bleacher Report)
“Pulling Back the Curtain to see the real woman behind Charlotte Flair” by Arash Markazi (ESPN)
“Rick Pitino’s Legacy Will Reflect College Hoops at Its Best and Its Worst” by Tim Layden (Sports Illustrated)2
This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:
“Losing the Part” by Geoff Edgers (Washington Post)3
“The Fairy Tale Come-up of Cardi B” by Lindsay Zoladz (The Ringer)
“Long Live the Group Chat” by Aaron Edwards (The Outline)4
“Beware the Open-Plan Kitchen” by Caitlin Flanagan (Vulture)5
This Week in Picks:
NOW, we’re talking. Anybody can guess during a Week 1 slate where we never quite know what we’re working with. After getting pummled during the season’s opening week, things have been looking up—so much so that I was able to go 4-1 on my five-game Sunday tweet and a perfect 3-0 ATS in this very space. San Francisco didn’t win, but there was no reason Arizona should’ve been laying more than a touchdown. Philly barely pulled on out against the Chargers, but that’s why it was a pick. The Broncos took care of business against the Raiders in a low-scoring affair.
Another tough week abounds, however, as nine games on the 14-game bill are less than a field goal with seven of them being either “pick” or one point. The public doesn’t quite know what to do with this as there are no games where at least 70 percent of folks are leaning one way or the other, which means if anyone wins, it’s going to be Las Vegas.
INDIANAPOLIS (pick) vs. San Francisco
New York Giants (-3.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Baltimore (+2.5) at Oakland
YTD ATS: 7-5
Last week: 3-0
- Any time these two write a story individually, they’re must-read. More so when they tag team a byline. [↩]
- A column, on deadline. Actual Sportswriting. [↩]
- SNL fans will appreciate this story on a cast member who lost the role of a lifetime. [↩]
- This is really, really well done. [↩]
- Is HGTV spearheading another housing bubble? [↩]