More Than a Million Fans Honor the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers
An estimated one-point-three million people filled downtown Cleveland Wednesday for something not seen in Northeast Ohio in more than half a century, a parade and rally honoring a major professional sports championship. It was a celebration billed as the end of a drought often referred to as “The Curse.”
After a parade featuring the Cavs players that took nearly three more hours than expected to move from Quicken Loans Arena to the Cleveland Convention Center because of mass of fans in the streets, "The Curse" was symbolically lifted. The last Cleveland championship was won by the 19-64 Browns. And on the rally stage, Cavs play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod oversaw the transition.
“So what we have to do is pass the torch, we have to bridge the gap between 1964 and 2016. So presenting the Larry O’Brian Championship Trophy to LeBron James, the greatest running back, the greatest football player ever, Jim Brown.”
The Cavs historic game-seven victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday cemented the championship. And on the rally stage, league MVP, LeBron James thanked the million-plus fans for their support while the team came back from a three-to-one game deficit. Though he was instrumental in winning the championship series, he thanked each teammate on stage beside him with an individual tribute, and deflected the season’s glory from himself.
“I’m just one man, one man with a plan, with drive, with determination, with will, with belief, a strong support system at home. But I’m just one guy and when I look over here and look at Jordon McCrea, a young guy who came to our team from the D-league and he automatically bought in to what we wanted to do.”
Half Century of Waiting
The million-plus fans on-hand to celebrate came from all over Greater Cleveland and from across Ohio. Many made the pilgrimage to witness history and cleanse themselves of past Cleveland sports failures. Bruce Sliney of Mansfield made the trip with his wife and daughter.
“I remember when the Browns won in 1964 and have been waiting the next 52 years. I grew up in Cleveland, in Parma and I was at ‘The Drive" and all the Indian’s stuff, so can’t pass up this opportunity. Who knows if it’ll ever happen again.”
Big Crowds, Big Business
While the huge crowd created traffic headaches and made walking through downtown difficult, the celebration was good for businesses. Mary Ellen Jones of The Greenhouse Tavern says the event surpassed even Cleveland’s big yearly parade in March.
“Definitely much busier than St. Patrick’s Day, there’s more kids down here which is fun. It’s definitely a drinking day, but people are just excited to be in the downtown area, so we opened earlier at 8:30 versus our usual 11:00. And people were standing outside our door at 7:30 waiting for us to open.”
A Tribute to Loyal Fans
Back at the rally stage, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue summed up the team’s appreciation for those fan’s help.
“I know, a little rocky for a second being down three-one, you stayed loyal, you always supported and never lost faith. So for that I want to thank you very much form myself, my coaching staff, all the players, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, and I just want to say, we did it baby!”
Fans have another opportunity to celebrate the end of “The Curse.” Akron hosts its own victory party tonight for its hometown hero LeBron James and the Cavs. It starts at 7:00 at Lock 3 downtown.