Last week, you voted for the best LeBron James performances of all-time. Here is No. 8 moment as voted by you, the FtS community.
The day before Halloween last year was much like any other in Cleveland, it was grey. I remember wearing my wine pants to work that day with a gold cardigan. There was brightness in the air despite the drab weather.
This was not going to be a run of the mill season opener. This is something I had been waiting for what felt like an eternity to happen. LeBron James was truly home. I read the letter like everybody else that day in July. But, until that Thursday in October, it all felt like a lucid dream. Maybe I would wake up and have to go back to watching Kyrie Irving try to elevate another imbalanced roster?
No, it was real. The King had returned to his court and he brought star power when Kevin Love came in a trade and brought the promise of a reloaded 'Big Three' right here on the shores of Lake Erie.
It was all too good to be true. This doesn't happen here. We were the object of jealousy for once. I can't lie, it felt weird. I wasn't thinking about any of that leading up to that game. I heard comments from students and the internet that people were cutting downtown to go enjoy the scene at around 10 a.m.. I couldn't blame them. I would have joined them if I didn't have a class to attend and writing center hours to fulfill.
I visited YouTube during free moments to reminisce on the first LeBron Era. I saw the 'Together' ad that day for the first time and honestly didn't know how to feel. I kind of rolled my eyes but, I saw the literal evidence of the same sort of city bonding outside. My mother texted me about it, registering it a 10 on the media exposure scale because my mom had seen it the same day. I called one of my coworkers to the screen to collectively ogle at a still image of a crowded East Sixth St and Huron Road. I got a text from a friend who was on foot near The Q, "I can't get closer than three blocks away! This is epic!"
I rushed out of my class and through a crowded Dave's Market on the way home where I could hear people yelling at each other in line "Hurry Up! So we don't miss tip-off!" This was a real event in every sense of the word. I got home just in time to see Kendrick Lamar christen the new season while performing "i" during the pregame party outside of The Q.
Lamar's song begins with a speaker giving an introduction,
"We got a young brother who stands for something."
I don't think he could have thematically hit the nail on the head any harder? The whole day up until that point was a communal celebration of all things Ohio. Freaking SportsCenter was downtown that day broadcasting live. Everybody had their heads held high. No annoying failure montages and no cheap shots at the city by the anchors. Everybody just took in as much of the scene as possible.
"I done been through a whole lot"
The Cavs came out looking really out of sorts early in the game. I immediately jumped back towards James' first game in Miami that many of us in Ohio hate-watched at the time. I was in college at the time and was in a movie screening for film class, in retrospect I should have skipped that day. The same sort of uncertainty was there. The Heat also lost their big debut. The thrill was there for stretches too. Love tossing James an outlet pass at 6:30 in the first quarter comes to mind. I had seen much worse basketball during the prior four years so that was no big deal. I was immediately looking for improvement over the season and being good in May as the real barometer for success.
"I love myself (He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)"
Fans were disappointed by the result of that game but, there was new hope for all Cavaliers fans. We didn't let the loss get us down too badly. I remember sports talk radio on Friday morning. It was silly. But, the tone was astronomically more hopeful than in previous years. We were finally getting up and dusting ourselves off rather than wallowing in shortcomings. The Cavs did too; they went out and made adjustments later in the season including acquiring two of those New York Knicks to help bolster the roster for the eventual NBA Finals run.
"I love myself (One day at a time, sun gon' shine)"
In the weeks before the coming season, I look upon LeBron's first game back as a Cavalier as the beginning of the best chapter rather than a disappointment. Life as a Cavs fan can be daunting sometimes but it can be important to remember all the steps on the journey. Value these moments even if they aren't all W's in the Win/Loss column. As James himself said some things are bigger than basketball. We all know that in Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. You have to earn everything. You have to be willing to work to get what you want. If you're willing to accept these challenges, then you can always come home.