Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (center) stands in the back of a Rolls Royce as it makes its way through the crowd lining the parade route in downtown Cleveland, Wednesday, June 22 celebrating the team’s first NBA title (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar).
A City Divided No More
I knew my editor would call me and tell me to cover the Cavaliers parade. I was going regardless.
My older brothers and I listened and watched the miracle of Richfield when the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise won its first playoff series.
As a Clevelander, particularly a sports fan of the three major franchises of this city, a Cavaliers parade seemed nearly unreachable, unthinkable, and improbable and it hadn’t happened in 50 years of my lifetime.
From 1964 to 2016, this city has seen its streets a blazed with riots, its neighborhoods burdened by poverty, its city core ravaged by White flight and depraved indifference.
The Cuyahoga River, splitting the city at its downtown core with the Eastside being mainly Black and the Westside mainly White, divides the city of Cleveland.
The Cavaliers parade symbolized so much more than an NBA title.
A city divided by a river, burdened by pockets of poverty that breeds cyclical despair now has something that it hasn’t had for a long time – a national championship sports team.
Sports is the one common denominator that often unites all, even in commiserating loss after loss after loss after loss, year after year, after year, after year, decade after decade, after decade, after decade, after decade.
Then came LeBron James.
He signal-handedly made a city fall in love with his potential and purpose of bringing a championship to Cleveland.
But sometimes when in love, hearts can be broken.
Being swept by the Spurs in the Cavaliers’ first championship appearance was expected.
Being beaten four games to two, with a depleted, injury-riddled team in last year’s NBA Finals was a likely outcome.
Coming back, from being down three games to one, against the Golden State Warriors, a team, who in the regular season set the record for most wins in NBA history (73), was in a word, improbable at best and borderline impossible considering game seven would have to be won on the road.
The funny thing about probability is it leaves room for the possible.
The thought of a Cavaliers parade was the furthest thing from most Cleveland sports fans’ mind, but then it happened.
The drought was over.
The city cried, overwhelmed, overjoyed and over the curse.
As I drove through the city, making my way from the Westside to downtown, I knew there would be no parking downtown.
Like many major cities, the ballparks and arenas that play host to season ticket holders watching multi-millionaire athletes compete, are always located near some of the worst neighborhoods that most people speed through with their car doors locked.
I grew up in one of these zip codes that many avoid on a daily basis.
The Cavaliers parade wouldn’t be making its way through these economically challenged corridors.
But many well-heeled White fans now found themselves casually strolling through the high-crime, drug-infested housing projects with its residents, not joining the pilgrimage to the Cavaliers parade, but watching “yuppies” and “buppies” walk by with a look of puzzlement as if they couldn’t believe what their eyes were showing them.
White people, actually walking through the projects as if it were OK, and it was, because we were all going to the Cavaliers parade.
The city of Cleveland, like Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles is fraught with racial tension, socioeconomic inequality, despair and violence.
But sometimes a prophet does come from Galilee. Sometimes a phoenix does rise from the ashes. Sometimes race, class, gender, religion and philosophy, political affiliations all become irrelevant.
When a little kid from the projects of Akron, Ohio grows up and decides to heal a city, being the salve on the festering sports wound of prerenal disappointment, by making good on his promise of a championship all things are possible.
James is back.
The city of Cleveland is back.
And at the next Cavaliers parade, I have to get here earlier because I’m standing too far back.