It was about coming together as a community to celebrate the seemingly impossible idea that not only did LeBron James come back to Cleveland, but he brought Kevin Love and a cast of talent along with him. Opening night was a celebration of the things that had happened more so than a preview of what’s to come.
Cleveland had been rocking and rolling all day long. Cold weather wouldn’t stop the most anticipated party in the history of Northeast Ohio. The concerts had ended, the hype videos and introductions completed and a lengthy rendition of the anthem sung. Before tip-off there was just one thing left to do. LeBron grabbed his trademark talcum powder as the crowd hit a fever pitch, readying the confetti. Watching him throw that chalk in the air felt symbolic, the powder disappearing into the air just as all the animosity, hate and betrayal had done the same. Our prodigal son had returned and he wasn’t just embraced, he was showered with love.
Last night Cleveland threw a party and the whole world attended. Walking around the Q was the most surreal feeling I’ve ever had. Glance down East 4th and you saw ESPN setting up shop all day. Outside the arena TNT and Fox Sports were doing the same. Nike hosted a fan experience in the shadows of the gorgeous new LeBron banner and the entire area turned into a watch party at game time. When LeBron announced he was “coming home” ESPN came to Cleveland for a reaction. If last night was any indication then they might want to look into some Lakefront property because they’re rarely going to leave.
The game itself was almost an afterthought. The Cavs looked like a team of talented players who are learning how to play with one another. Love popped when LeBron thought he would roll. Everyone passed up open looks. The defense was overaggressive in the passing lanes, resulting in far too many rotations and open Knicks players. But last night wasn’t about the game if I’m being honest. It was the first of 82, a marathon regular season lasting nearly 8 months. There will be plenty of time for players to learn their assignments and allow our stars to discover when it’s their time to take over the game.
Rather, last night was about a team and its city, a homegrown hero and his fans. Opening night was a celebration of the near improbable series of events that led up to it. It was about trying to comprehend the fact that three of the top 25 players in the NBA now reside in Cleveland. It was about coming together as a community to celebrate the seemingly impossible idea that not only did LeBron James come back to Cleveland, but he brought Kevin Love and a cast of talent along with him. Opening night was a celebration of the things that had happened more so than a preview of what’s to come.
That said, perhaps the most exciting thing about everything that happened in downtown Cleveland yesterday is the fact that it wasn’t a one-time thing. Last night was the start of the journey, not the destination. Bill Simmons of ESPN recently said that Cavs home games would be near religious experiences. After seeing the complete adoration for not just LeBron but for this entire franchise, it’s hard to disagree. The result wasn’t what we wanted but the excitement for every big play was palpable. The crowd was ready to blow the roof off The Q and I have little doubt that it will happen often this year.
The night may have ended in disappointment but it’s important to remember that this is the worst you will see the Cleveland Cavaliers. The cohesion will happen. The only direction this team will go is up. LeBron was noticeably caught up in the moment of opening night. He seemed to press as he tried to rally his team in front of his town yet it resulted in statistically the worst game of his career. This, too, shall pass. Last night was something that had to happen. Perhaps losing could even be a good thing. It keeps the team grounded; reminding them that, as LeBron mentioned, nothing is given and everything must be earned.
Above all else, though, the one thing that must be remembered about the opening night of the Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-2015 season is this: it may have been the celebration of the end of an improbable journey but it was also the beginning of another. This is not the end. The best is yet to come.
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