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Terry Pluto: The Cavs Fan Base Reaches Well Beyond Northeast Ohio

photo of Cavs home court

The Cleveland Cavaliers are waiting to see who they’ll face in the eastern conference final, but believe it or not, t’s more than just fans in Cleveland or even in northeast ohio who are eager to see the team get back on the court.  Our sports commentator Terry Pluto says the Cavs are bigger the northeast ohio, much bigger.

He says he spent 40 years here and writing, and only just begin realizing the difference between the Cavs and the Browns and the Indians when it comes to their standing in the area.

“One is a regional team.  The other two are not.”

The competition
Pluto says with the Indians, to the East, there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, to the south, the Cincinnati Reds, to the north, there’s the Detroit Tigers.  That’s about a 100 mile radius, maybe 150 miles before they start bumping into other teams.  He says it’s the same thing with the Browns.  There’s the Bengals, the Steelers, the Lions, and the Bills.

For the Cavs, the closest team is the Pistons.  And then, Terry says, who else?  Historically, there was the Buffalo Braves and the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA and the Pittsburgh Condors and the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA, but that was a long time ago.

“What this has done is given the Cavaliers a much wider fan base on any given regular season game.”

According to Cavs CEO Len Komoroski, 60 percent of fans come from outside of Cuyahoga County.  They come from as far away as Western Pennsylvania, Cincinnati, even Kentucky.  During the playoffs, that figure is closer to 70 percent.  Pluto says “It’s because they are the only show around, if you like NBA basketball.”

Cleveland’s Three Franchises
In the NBA, the star is the franchise.  For Cleveland’s three franchises, this means there’s the Indians, the Browns, and then there’s LeBron James  “because LeBron brings this whole national microscope on your franchise.” However, Pluto says when you look at the four years James was with the heat, the team still drew an average attendance of more than 17-thousand.  A sell-out which they’re doing with James back with the team is 21,562.   Pluto says they may not have been charging as much for tickets during those four years, but they arena was still three-quarters filled and “they had the worst combined NBA record.  Period.”

The difference?
Dan Gilbert.  Pluto credits Gilbert with being willing to spend on payroll.  When LeBron James was here the first time, Cleveland was in the top five in the NBA on payroll, sometimes, in the top three, and Gilbert wasn’t afraid to pay the luxury tax for going over the salary cap.  Of course, what CEO Len Komoroski and his team has done hasn’t hurt:  “They’ve got their gigantic scoreboard, they’ve go their dancing girls, they’ve got the scream team… It has a real appeal.”  But in the end, Pluto says the fans believe Dan Gilbert will spend and that helped during the four years LeBron was in Miami when they could have gotten very angry.