Joe Haden's first love was basketball. But when he was offered 40 scholarships to play football and none to play basketball, his career path changed. The Browns Pro Bowl cornerback has brought his love of hoops to Cleveland, where he is a regular at Cavaliers games.
I came to Cleveland when LeBron [James] left. And the Cavaliers organization and Mr. [Dan] Gilbert, they were just amazing. I think they could tell how much I loved the game. Mr. Gilbert would always hook me up with the floor seats. I was like, Man, this is amazing.
LeBron is obviously my favorite player. But when I first got here, J.J. Hickson was our star player. I was still out there supporting, wearing the [Anderson] Varejao hoodie and Baron Davis gear, everything. Then when LeBron came back, I don't think there were too many in Cleveland who were more hyper than me.
What gets me is the athletic ability, the atmosphere. I was a basketball player; so Kyrie [Irving], the way that he can dribble the ball, his handle, that is spectacular. I don't think anybody in the NBA is like him. You say Chris Paul, you say Stephen Curry. But you get to go see Kyrie dribble the ball better than anybody in the world.
I'm sitting behind the bench sometimes. You get to hear the interaction between the players. You hear what the coaches are saying to them. I love it, because it's another professional team doing what they do. We're just watching the game eating popcorn.
There was one time LeBron was looking [at me], he and Tristan [Thompson]. I whispered like, "Hey, Bron, I want to take this picture." So he was like, "All right," and he and Tristan were on the bench posing. I got a selfie with LeBron and Tristan behind me on the bench.
I think the thing that makes people love what I'm doing is it's not forced. I'm just doing it because it's natural. It's coming from a genuine place. — as told to Pat McManamon