For the February 15th American Way Adam got the bright idea to summarize the NBA issue in video form. Click thumbnail to view.
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Location: Richfield Coliseum, outside Cleveland, Ohio
The Scene: First round of the NBA playoffs
The Cleveland Cavaliers were among the darlings of the National Basketball Association. They were young. Fast. Talented. And they were the citys hope for finally winning it all in a professional sport. The Cleveland Browns had had that dubious distinction not long before this, but in two consecutive years, they dropped the ball (one time literally). More than that, when Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway orchestrated the Drive in the 1987 AFC Championship Game and then when Browns running back Earnest Byner made the Fumble in the 1988 AFC Championship Game (also against Elway and the Broncos), the city of Cleveland bore the brunt of ridicule because of its choke artists in the NFL.
Clevelands wounds hadnt yet healed when this 1989 NBA game got underway, but hopes had been rekindled. It was a different sport against a team from a different city. And the Cleveland Cavaliers had beaten the visiting Chicago Bulls six times during the regular season. Now all they had to do was win Game Five at home. In so doing, theyd cathartically dispel those two heartbreaking football seasons that defined the Cleveland Browns and the city itself.
My father managed to score us two tickets to that game at the Richfield Coliseum. Thirteen-year-old me sat there and yelled with the rest of Cleveland as the Cavs beat the Bulls up and down the court for the entire game. With six seconds left, the Bulls best player, number 23, Michael Jordan, hit a jump shot to give Chicago a 9998 lead. The very next play, our man, forward Craig Ehlo, drove the lane and scored a layup to put the Cavs ahead 10099 with 3.2 seconds remaining. The Richfield Coliseum went bananas. It was so loud, I couldnt hear my dad yelling right next to me. And I couldnt hear myself yell, either, for that matter.
Chicago called a time-out and drew up a play. When play resumed, and with one stroke of the wrist, number 23 hit the Shot over Craig Ehlo. Just as the Coliseum had been the loudest collection of voices Id ever heard only 3.2 seconds earlier, when Jordan hit that jumper from the foul line to win the game for Chicago at the buzzer, the ensuing 3.2 seconds were the quietest Id ever heard from a building packed with more than 20,000 people.
I cursed Michael Jordan that day. I cursed the city of Chicago -- the same way Id cursed the city of Denver those two years in a row.
Fast-forward 18 years, to June 2007.
For the first time in franchise history, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the NBA Finals and facing the San Antonio Spurs, a dynasty of a team. The Spurs were up on Cleveland three games to none and were only one win away from capturing their fourth NBA championship. But the Cavs had been down before -- one series earlier, against the Detroit Pistons. A comeback was coming. I was so sure of it that I called my buddy in Cleveland and told him to find two tickets: I was flying up.
Once again, the Cavaliers broke my heart. The Spurs beat us on our home court. Dream deferred. Again.
And even though my Cleveland Cavs memories are dashed year after year, and notwithstanding the fact that were in great shape right now after the All-Star break but might very well blow it, I cant help but love this game. I think a Cleveland championship would rank right up there emotionally with the birth of my children. Ive learned to be a gracious loser, though, which is why we photographed two of the NBAs powerhouses, San Antonios Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, for this, American Ways first-ever NBA issue. (Even though the tandem was the biggest Cavs-killer of them all in the 2007 Finals.)
Whether youre a basketball fan or want to become a basketball fan because all the people in your life are fans, we have you covered. We go inside the NBA and give you access to the players, the teams, the venues, and even David Stern, the commish himself. The season is half over and the Cavs are looking strong, but dont look for me in the stands if they make it to the Finals this year. Ill be watching at home, alone in my room, pillow at the ready to catch my tears.
Aw, who am I kidding? If the Cavs are in the Finals, Im there, even if it means having my heart broken. Again.