Last year I wrote a piece on the day after the finals ended. I was a little shocked at how quickly it all came to an end. I liked last year’s team and thought that they fought admirably in the face of crazy odds and even worse injury luck.
This year, I expected things to look a lot better on the court after Kevin Love and LeBron James re-signed in the offseason. Another year together couldn’t help but make everything run a bit smoother for the Big 3 on the court.
Midway through the season, the Cavs were looking very familiar.
Just as things were about to change for the Cavaliers, things changed for me personally as well. Family hardship hit our house as my Grandpa took a turn for the worst down in Georgia.
We went down to see both him and my Grandmother this Christmas after getting the news a week before hand. When we got there, this man, the guy I had grown up seeing drive golf balls almost 400 yards, was confined to a bed and had to use oxygen.
It was crushing, my mother explained Hospice to me. They told me we just needed to make him comfortable. I didn’t want to believe it. He had helped my mother and I so much. We all lived together for a lot of my childhood. He purchased the first hoop and the second one that I learned to play on. The guy was my Superman.
Christmas day came and as a family we have a strict ritual of watching pretty much all of the basketball that comes on during ABC and ESPN’s coverage. I couldn’t bring myself to pay attention to almost any of it. My mother waited until the Cavs came on to open presents. I opened my phone and a Cavaliers hat and the Cavs tipped-off. It wasn’t long before the iffy shooting and sloppiness got to me.
I went into Pop’s room and he was awake. He asked me what the score was. I was floored. Why would you care at a time like this? This man doesn’t want to eat but here he is concerned that the offense looks out of whack.
He told me that they would get it together and that if they lose today, Cleveland can still get to the Championship. "I feel like they can do it."
I went back to Cleveland 2 days later and Pop passed about a day or so after that. My parents didn’t want to tell me because they were afraid of how I would react. "I’m sorry, we just didn’t know how," my mother said to me.
After that, I cared the least about basketball that I ever have. I had been an absolute basketball junkie my entire life before the last year. I played pickup a minimum of 3 days a week, watched most games, league pass, NBA Jam in bars, 2k at home, writing here about it, sport camp instructor, intramural champion. The whole thing.
None of that mattered to me in the course of five days. I got yelled at on the court for not being focused and passive. People claimed that I stopped reaching out completely. I went from looking forward to a Finals rematch to literally just sitting outside looking at the clear Hogansville, GA skies.
I had to move on at some time though. I went back to school and tried to push through the pain and uncertainty.
As time went on I felt the pressure to start focusing on getting ready for graduation. The games started to bleed together. We all know, this team wasn’t going to be judged by its regular season, it was going to be judged by how it played right now.
There were moments of true joy, like LeBron’s running hook against the Nets, throughout the subtweets and weirdly balanced games. Slowly some of my interest started to flow back. I’m not as intense as I once was but I can enjoy the game.
That is what I am thankful to these Cavaliers for, they freaking snapped me out of it partially. I’m not all the way there. Do you ever really do recover when important people go away? But, it’s been darn fun to believe and root for something again.
I was at every home game this year covering the team for GiveMeSport over in the UK. Covering the NBA Finals has been my dream since my college years. Pop always said it would happen, he missed it by a couple of months, he still probably saw though. I would sit in the arena near our own David Zavac and marvel at the intensity of these playoff clashes. In person the arena feels worlds away from the place I watched on T.V. all season.
My family and friends have really been energized by this run and the city has been overjoyed. This counts Games 1 and 2 where the Cavs were either frustrating or disappointing in spots.
Being in the crowd for Game 3 of these finals and feeling the absolute fervor in the Q from the moment The Star Spangled Banner started up till the final horn will stick with me for a while.
Be proud Cavs fans, that crowd is one of the most spirited I can remember. The pride on display warmed me in a way that I didn’t think possible. Cleveland is a great place and don’t let some national media personality tell you otherwise, while they use the city as the broadcast equivalent of a Family Guy cutaway gag.
More importantly: we shouldn’t bury this team before they’re completely done. I’m watching Game 5, or at least enough of it before I get salty, and I think we all owe it to ourselves to watch this team try to bring it back to "The Land" for one more game.
I am glad to be living in possibly the greatest era of Cleveland basketball, maybe we should be focusing on that. This year’s team has taught me that you have to appreciate things when they happen instead of after the fact. We might "tell ourselves stories in order to live" but, this Cavs team has helped me take back a huge part of my life and I am grateful.