I am not a Cleveland fan by birth. In fact, save for the Cavaliers, I have no feeling either way about any Cleveland team. Some people would even argue that to this day, I’m not really a Cleveland fan, I’m a LeBron fan.
It’s a fair criticism. I became a LeBron fan back in 2002, when I started the website LeBronJamesNews.com (long since shut down, obviously). I didn’t even really start caring about the team he was on until late in his second season, when they fired Paul Silas and looked like they were getting serious about making LeBron happy in Cleveland.
So, knowing all that, you know where I come from as a Cleveland fan. I haven’t lived through the years of heartbreak. Sure, I know the stories of “The Shot”, “The Drive”, “The Fumble”, Willie Mays’ catch, Jose Mesa’s blown save, and... well, I’m sure I’m missing some, but I don’t need to go on and on. For me, these moments are things that happened to someone else. I watched some of them as an outsider, and, though it probably seems blasphemous to other Cavs fans, I was actually a Jordan fan when he hit “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo, and “The Shot, Pt. 2” over Gerald Wilkins.
Since LeBron arrived in Cleveland, the “Cleveland Moments” had been, well, non-existent. Sure, the Cavs got swept in the 2007 Finals, but the fact that LeBron carried the team that far was a minor miracle, so there wasn’t as much sting to that. However, through one game, 47 minutes and 59 seconds of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, I felt like I was experiencing my first “Cleveland Moment”. After Hedo Turkoglu hit his go-ahead shot, I couldn’t have felt more negative about the team, the series, or really basketball in general. I finally knew how Cleveland fans felt through all those other moments.
Only, there was one second left, and for the first time since the Jim Brown years, Cleveland has the difference-maker on its side. Basically, LeBron James is reversing the entire fortunes of a city, one magical moment at a time. Time will tell where this one ranks for me, but right now I have it No. 2, behind the 48-point performance in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Remember, that series had its own set of “Cleveland Moments” (particularly, when LeBron passed to Donyell Marshall, who missed a potential game-tying shot at the end of Game 1), but once again LeBron came through. He’s made a career of doing that, and I hope he keeps doing it, in Cleveland, for years to come.