As we have throughout the last several years, WFNY will use the last two weeks of December to discuss the most important stories of the last twelve months. Stay with us as we count down the biggest and most discussed topics of 2016. Our “Best of 2016” rolls on as we start to count down the top 10 stories of the year.
Cleveland is used to saying goodbye.
We’ve watched as Victor Martinez was crying in his locker after learning of his trade. We cried, too. When LeBron James declared he was taking his talents to South Beach, we took our own frustrations way too far. When the Cleveland Browns left for Baltimore? Well, they left a crater in Northeast Ohio that made Lake Erie feel like a puddle.
It hurts. It always hurts. The first time you see an ex-Cleveland sports star in a new uniform it feels like listening to your favorite album on shuffle; full of memories but jarring and unfamiliar. That feeling fades, as it always does. In time, the athletes who adorned our walls and hearts fade into the peripheral. You might catch a glimpse of Ron Harper when Googling old Cavaliers uniforms, or see some Sabathia jerseys in Progressive Field from people who never got around to falling in love with a new player.
We’ve played that game. You can draft an All-Star team of ex-Indians, or stock a jewelry store with Bill Belichick’s Super Bowl rings. LeBron James may have returned, but Cleveland will likely never be the city in which he hoisted the most trophies. The biggest stars in Cleveland sports are almost always remembered for their time in someone else’s city.
No one, however, will forget Kyrie Irving’s time in Cleveland.
Irving was the MVP of the Rising Stars game. He was the Rookie of the Year. He made the All-Star Game in four of his six seasons in Cleveland, winning the MVP in 2014. He won a gold medal in the Olympics. He stepped out of the biggest shadow in sports and hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history. He’s a champion. He’s just 25 years old.
Kyrie Irving may go on to great things in Boston. The Celtics have been the talk of the Eastern Conference with Irving receiving MVP hype along the way. His time in Cleveland, however, will never feel like an afterthought as it has with so many other athletes.
And yet, the man who gave sealed Cleveland’s biggest sports moment is now wearing another jersey, having requested a trade out of the city wherein he amassed all of the aforementioned hardware. We don’t get to move on. We don’t get to write his name in the history books with little hearts around it. The Cavs may have to face him in the playoffs. We have to see his quotes that take shots at our team and our city. We have to watch him try to recreate the moment we dreamed of for 52 years—against us.
Irving decided that he’d rather play for any other team than continue to play for ours. Being a title contender meanth nothing. The history meant even less. What about the fan appreciation? Sports are a business, but it’s impossible not to take such a request personally.
And honestly, Irving probably made the right choice. He isn’t a different player in Boston. He isn’t suddenly some superstar who couldn’t bloom here. He is the same guy, the guy we all loved. But now he’s an MVP candidate. It’s his name on the marquee, and it’s because he’s on his own team.
The Cavs got a nice trade package for Irving. Isaiah Thomas is a similar player—a better player, last year. Jae Crowder is helpful. The first round pick from the Brooklyn Nets looks better every day. But they aren’t the guy who hit the game-winning shot in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
And that’s what Irving will always be. He can carve out a career in Boston. He can win some rings. He can put together a Hall of Fame career that spans the next ten years. They could even put his bust in the Hall of Fame wearing a Celtics jersey.
But he’ll always be the guy that hit The Shot. The one that broke the 52-year streak. The one that cemented a comeback from down 3-1 to beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors who had the first ever unanimous MVP.
He’ll always be a Cavalier.
And he has to live with that as much as we do.