Cleveland parties with Cavs; LeBron says he's staying
Cleveland — Cheered by a sea fans spilling off sidewalks and choking the streets, LeBron James and the Cavaliers paraded and rallied as NBA champs in a once in a generation party for Cleveland.
The city’s title drought is over. The party — and procession slowed to a crawl by a mass of humanity — is just getting started.
“For some crazy reason, I feel like I’m gonna wake up and it’s going to be Game 4 again” with the Cavaliers down 2-1 to the Warriors, James told thousands of fans before thanking each of his teammates one by one.
James gave those hometown fans even more reason to celebrate by telling reporters he intends to stay in Cleveland, skipping the drama of previous splashy announcements when he decided to go to Miami in 2010 then come back to the Cavaliers four years later.
“I’m just one man with a plan, with a drive, with a determination,” James said.
The crowd, some fans arriving Tuesday night to camp out so they could get as close as possible, overwhelmed downtown Cleveland to celebrate with James, Kyrie Irving and their teammates. The Cavs made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, ending the city’s 52-year championship drought.
The team delivered again with a raucous celebration filled with selfies and new nicknames for fresh moments — rare positive memories — for long-suffering Cleveland sports fans.
Kyrie Irving gave props to James’ block on Andre Iguodala that set up his 3-pointer to take the lead for good in Game 7. James raved about Irving but also Kevin Love’s defense in the final moments against NBA MVP Stephen Curry.
And Richard Jefferson, who said after winning the title that he planned to retire, got caught up by crowd chants of “one more year” and told them if they wanted him back, he’d return.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Irving said.
This was the parade Cleveland has waited to throw since 1964, when the beloved Browns owned the NFL. There were lean years — and so many close calls — in between before James, born in nearby Akron, made good on his promise to bring home a championship.
Fans stood on rooftops, portable toilets and hung out of office building windows hoping to get a glimpse of James, who rode in a Rolls-Royce with his wife, Savannah, and their three children.
Near the start of the route and just feet from where his 10-stories-tall banner hangs, James stood and posed with his arms outstretched just as he does on the giant mural — life imitating art, the photo op of a lifetime.
With the parade slowed, J.R. Smith and Irving hopped off their trucks to mix it up with the crowd, giving high fives, taking selfies. Smith also waved to crowds stacked in a nearby parking garage and blew cigar smoke high into the air.
The rally ended with Browns great Jim Brown passing James the Larry O’Brien trophy, a symbolic passing of the torch for Cleveland sports icons.