In case any Cleveland Cavaliers (and even NBA) fans forgot, the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead just two years ago, culminating in the best night in Cleveland sports history in at least 52 years. Just over two years ago, the Cavs delivered Cleveland its first major sports championship in just over a half-century. No matter where you were watching that special Game 7, there’s a good chance you not only remember where you were, but who you were with as well and even exact moments from that night as well.
I was lucky (and smart) enough to head downtown for the game, hoping that the night would turn into an unforgettable one, one that I would never forget. I knew I would regret not being downtown if the Cavs (somehow) did win that Game 7 and beat the Golden State Warriors in the best-of-seven series. Luckily, I made the right choice. It was a night I will never forget and then some, to say the least.
Just over two years later, I still remember almost every moment of that night. Singing the national anthem inside a jam-packed (and most likely way over capacity) Panini’s on West Sixth. Every second of the game was filled with cheers, boos, happiness, and sometimes sadness. LeBron’s block gained so many cheers, but with about a minute left came Kyrie Irving’s three-pointer. It was at that moment, for the first time, I was confident that somehow, the Cavs were going to win the NBA title. When it was obvious that the Warriors weren’t going to tie the game, beer was thrown everywhere. Then came the emotions. Tears filled my eyes, trying to outdo the wetness of the alcohol that was quickly covering both my face and clothing, which was being thrown by the over-capacity Panini’s crowd.
Still, to this day, I have no idea how my iPhone survived that night. With just a little case on it,1 the amount of beer that my phone had to have taken on even though it was in my pocket couldn’t have been good for the phone itself. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t reek of alcohol years later.
Watching highlights from that Game 7 will never get old. Hearing “The Block”, “The Shot”, and the post-game celebrations will always give me goosebumps and chills, no matter how many times I watch them. Being an Ohio State fan, I’ve experienced two national championships in football in my life already, but nothing will ever top that incredible night on June 19, 2016. Strangers hugged as if they were lifelong friends,2 race and ethnicity didn’t matter, and, even if it was just for one night, everyone’s problems were pushed aside while thousands (and eventually 1.3 million) people celebrated in the streets of Cleveland.
It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I’m sure the majority of Cleveland fans would agree. Sports outlets could no longer go on and on about Cleveland not having a major sports championship since 1964. Instead, they were forced to talk about the Cavs winning the title and the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead.3
June 19, 2016 (and the days following) will not only be a time I will never forget, but it changed my sports fandom forever. I was no longer starving for a professional sports championship for one of my teams. It made me look at sports in a totally different light. Although I did prior to that, that title made me realize that there are so many more important things in life than wins and losses, even if it’s against one of your teams’ biggest rivals. A Cleveland team capturing another title in my life would be fun, but it will never top that one in 2016. I’m not only grateful for the Cavs winning the title and ending the drought, but I’m thankful that they changed the way I look at sports as well.
LeBron may have decided to leave the Cavs (again), but that special night on June 19, 2016, and the celebrations in the days following will never, ever be taken away from us.
And for that, I am forever grateful.