Cavaliers basketball fans (from left) Josh Hall, Rob Hose and Mike Adams set fire to LeBron James jerseys after James announced he was leaving to join the Miami Heat on July 8, 2010 in Akron, Ohio (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Phil Masturzo).
When my editor gave me the assignment to write an article about Cavaliers basketball and the many questions surrounding the franchise leader, LeBron James, I was excited.
I’m a native Clevelander. I’ve lived through “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” and “The Shot.”
It’s not as though Cleveland hasn’t been close.
But as the old adage goes, close only counts in horseshoes.
Last year, those who rooted with their heart and souls for all things wine and gold, tasted a two games to one lead in the 2015 NBA Finals only to have that sweet hope snatched from them.
They watched James fight with every fiber in his body (the king, fearless, valiant and unyielding in leading a depleted group of wayward hopefuls to heights beyond belief), just to fall the fall that all anticipated.
At the time this article reaches the editor, the Cavs will either be emboldened by a win in Game 3 or completely dejected after a loss (the Cavaliers defeated the Warriors 120-90 in Game 3).
Either way, a question that no one dare speak aloud, looms in the dark recesses of the collective conscience that is Cavaliers basketball.
If the Cavs go on to lose the 2016 NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, no one would be surprised.
But what about a nasty little supposition like if the Cavs not only lose, but lose convincingly. Could he…would he…yes, I’m going to ask the one question no one wants to consider.
“Do you think James will leave if this Cavs team loses horribly?”
My editor wanted to see if I had the guts to ask the hungry beastlike fans that support Cavaliers basketball that very question in a bar.
Sounds like a good enough reason to go to the bar.
Armed with my question, favorite blue shirt, black blazer, button fly jeans and smart, open toe, summer slip on sandals, off I went.
I could’ve gone downtown to one of the trendy spots near Quicken Loans Arena to watch the game.
But that’s too easy.
If you want to check the pulse of a city go into its neighborhoods.
It’s eerily quiet at the corner of west 117th and Clifton, on the city’s western edge.
The fervor that is the fan base of Cavaliers basketball is alive and well once you enter The Tic Tock Tavern.
So I exchanged greetings, ordered a Bulleit on the rocks and at the risk of upsetting the faithful I began my queries.
A young lady, with neatly twisted single strand locks and a crisp white Cavs cap on was my first interview subject.
After a stiff swig of her cognac, with beer chaser, she listened to my question and said, “It would be the worst thing that could happen to him and to the city.”
James and Cavaliers basketball will forever be linked to “The Decision,” “The Return” and now possibly “The Unthinkable?”
I let an image of James in another team’s uniform, fast break through my mind’s eye, but the stream of consciousness daydream was broken up by a patron who clearly had reached his limit and found a sense of sobriety long enough to shout out, “If he leaves again that would make him less than a quitter.”
I noticed the bartender shaking her head.
Not wanting to contemplate the idea of a second departure, everyone in the establishment near me couldn’t imagine it happening again.
An older “brother” in a booth said, “Cavalier basketball would die a miserable death if he left before retiring.”
After I sipped the last of my bourbon, the affable bartender checked to see if I wanted another round.
The young lady I was interviewing and I both smiled and shook our heads at the same time, without missing a beat, in unison, we said, “Stranger things have happened”…but nothing is impossible. …Give me another Bulleit.