There were two times basketball gave Cleveland an injection of hope.
The first was the NBA Draft Lottery on May 22, 2003. My dad was driving me home from wrestling practice, which tells you how little basketball meant to us. But the Browns, four years into their return, were bad, and the Cleveland baseball team was gearing up to go 68-94 and finish last. We needed something to believe in.
And we found it when that lottery ball, as it had a 22% chance to do, dribbled out of the hopper, giving the Cavs the No. 1 overall pick. The fairy tale had come true. LeBron James, the kid from Akron, would start his career at home in Northeast Ohio. I remember my dad rolling down the windows of the car and letting out a, "WOO HOO," the 10-year-old appropriate version of LFG. Driving home with the windows down, cheers poured in from the suburban streets.
The second time was July 11, 2014, when I was a Cleveland Magazine intern. My editor, Steve Gleydura, had gotten word that LeBron's return, which had been rumored all summer, was imminent. Since the magazine's editors were on deadline, he assigned me to revisit coverage of The King from our archives and go out on the street to gauge the temperature around the prodigal son's return. Now with a centerpiece for our newly thriving downtown, Cleveland felt red hot.
But if I had to pick a third moment, I'd point to this summer's acquisition of Donovan Mitchell, who chats with teammate and veteran Kevin Love on page 48. Coming from the Utah Jazz, Mitchell has star-making stuff on and off the court at a time when Cleveland needs a sports hero.
As Clevelanders, we live and die by our sports teams. But if history has shown us anything, it's to stop looking for joy in the brown when there's wine and gold right in front of us.