Winning and Cleveland are two words that do not go together often. Me entire life, I had grown up hearing ever joke about this city, how it was a, “mistake on the lake”, and how it was a no good town. The sports team had been historically terrible, the city was in an economic slump and things were just not looking up for the city. Then, by the grace of God, our savior from Akron came to us and turned this city and the Cavaliers around.
Fast forward a decade, and on June 19th, 2016, the Cavaliers for the first time in franchise history found themselves one game away from winning the NBA’s crown jewel.
So naturally like every other person in the metropolitan area of Cleveland, I wanted to be downtown for Game 7. I didn’t know it at the time, but it ended up one of the wildest nights of my life. Here is that story.
Early in the morning of June 19th 2016, I knew that I was going to go out and watch the game somewhere. I messaged two of my best friends Dominik and Alex to get some plans together of where we were going to go for the game. Both of them were down for whatever that night was going to do to us, and we decided that we would go to my cousin’s bar on East 4th. Right before I went out, I texted one of my other best buds Matt to try and get him to go out with us, but he was going to stay at home with his parents and watch the game from home. Lame. But as a consolation, he gave me his parking pass for his parking garage on East 9th and Chester which was a private garage.
We left around 230 PM, and I live about only fifteen minutes from downtown. We didn’t hit the parking garage until a little before 4. That parking pass came in clutch from Matt, as it only took us ten minutes once we were off the highway to get into the parking garage.
We took the walk from East 9th and Chester and made our way to East 4th (not before a hefty chug of vodka.) When we hit East 4th, we were hit with a scene of people I have never seen before in my life. We arrived on East 4th aroud 430 PM, and it was so packed, wall to wall with people, that we didn’t even make our way to the front entrance of the bar until 630.
When we got to the front of the bar, we were stopped by Cleveland Police who were only letting a certain amount of people in at a time for safety reasons. Dom and I pushed our way to the front, and the officer only let us in after some heavy bargaining of, “my family owns this place.” We had one problem, we forgot Alex outside. We went back, grabbed him, and pushed our way to the backside of the bar.
Fast forward to the start of the second half, Dom is absolutely piss drunk. This group infront of us thought it was hilarious finding a 21 year old drinking copious amounts of craft beer, so naturally they kept buying him drinks. By the start of the fourth quarter, Dom must have had ten to twelve craft beers and we saw the inevitable coming.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the atmosphere had changed. At the start of the game, it was cautous optomism. Now, it was await euphoria. JR Smith (yes, JR Smith) bailed us out the third quarter and gave us a chance heading into the fourth quarter.
With about four minutes to go, nobody had scored for quite some time. The tension was rising in the bar, it was palpable.
Then came the moment of the game. Kyrie Irving drove down the lane and couldn’t finish at the rim whcih set up a two on one coming the other way. And the rest is history, “Igoudala to Curry, back to Igoudala up for the layup OH BLOCKED BY JAMES!” To this day, it is still the only miracle I have ever seen with my own eyes.
With a little over a minute to go, the Cavs took a timeout. Drunk Dom was ready to party, poor Alex barely had any alcohol because he had mono, and I was shitting myself with every second that passed. I remember turning to this girl that was standing next to me and saying, “We are one minute away from winning.” That was something I had never been able to say in my entire life as a Cleveland sports fan.
The Cavs came out of the timeout, everyone in the bar awaiting to celebrate for probably the first time in most of their lives, drew up a play to put the ball in Kyrie’s hands, a screen put him 1 on 1 with Steph Curry. and the rest is history.
When Curry came down the other end of the court and threw up a brick and LeBron got the rebound, that was the moment I knew we were going to win. That moment to this day I still cannot describe, jumping around with two of my best friends absolutely wasted watching my hometown team win a title was a moment I will never forget as long as I live.
Six seconds to go and I will never forget, “Curry, they give the three, NO! Rebound, Mo Speights, GOODBYE OAKLAND, ITS OVER!”
The euphoroia, knowing that there is no way they can take it away from you, that your hometown after fifty two years was finally champions again, was a feeling to this day I still cannot describe with words.
In the moments following, the bartenders were pouring shots of Jim Beam like it was water, and Dom decided that it would be a good idea to take multiple shots. We saw LeBron lift the Larry O’Brien Trohpy, a sight that I thought I would never see, and we made our way outside the bar.
When I stepped outside, I stood outside the door and took a good look around on the thousands of people that had engulfed East 4th Street, and felt the most incredible feeling in the world: togetherness. It didn’t matter that night if you were black, white, asian, hispanic, catholic, lutheran, straight, gay, bi, republican or democrat, everyone that night was one thing and one thing: a Clevelander.
While Alex was with Dom who was puking in the bathroom, I met a total stranger who helped me up on the fence of my cousin’s bar. I looked both ways, and the guy who had helped me up turned to me and said, “Enjoy it, soak it in, you will never see anything like ever again!” I didn’t think much about it then, but my God was he right.
Alex and Dom eventually came and found me outside, and we made our way to get more beer at a gas station. We walked the entire way from East 4th to the corner of East 9th and Carnegie (which is not a short walk for anyone that knows this.) The entire way, Alex and I were holding drunk Dom up and keeping him from falling every five seconds.
When we got to the BP on the corner, the line was around the corner and we knew that it was going to take at least a half hour to get inside, and we knew that Dom would not last another half hour without getting some water in him. So we decided to take action and go back towards East 4th and try to get water somewhere.
We ended up back on East 4th street, and we took a right hand turn onto Euclid Avenue and for some fucking reason, we decided to go into the Raddisson Hotel and try and get water out of the vending machines. Alex made the decision to split up with us, he went up the elevator and searched every floor vending machine trying to get water for Dom, and I was stuck with Captain Blackout on the fourth floor. It had been about twenty minutes and I was starting to get worried where Alex went, so I made the choice to get Dom up and into the elevator so I could get him to a place that had some water. As soon as the elevator door opens, its Alex with ten fucking bottles of Coca Cola with this look on his face that said it all.
We made our way down to the lobby and Dom needed to yack, so we went into the bathroom in the lobby and let Dom take care of his business. We were in there for a solid ten minutes, sitting on the sink counter top when two Cleveland Police officers walked in with the, “what the fuck are you doing” sitting on a sink counter top when there is a giant party going on outside. We pointed to the toilet, one of the officers looked in and started laughing.
About a half hour passed, and we made the decisioni to head back to Parma to take Dom back. On the way back to Parma, Dom kept sticking his head out the side of the window like a fucking dog.
Getting Dom into his house was the highlight of my night, even more than the Cavs winning. We walked him into his garage, and he was tripping over literally nothing and I kept cracking up the entire time. We got Dom inside, said goodnight and Alex and I proceeded to go back downtown and party some more. The entire time driving downtown apparently I kept sticking my head out the window and kept saying, “FUCK STEPH CURRY!”
I got home that night around 430AM. I have this terrible habit of waking up at 7AM regardless of what time I was up until. I woke up the next morning with a raging hangover, and a bombardment of texts. I went back downtown to grab my credit card which I had left at the bar and it looked like the world’s largest frat party had occured the night before.
On the way home from downtown, I grabbed a newspaper from the gas station. The title on the front page, “CHAMPS! ITS NO DREAM – CAVS WIN NBA TITLE”
I have cried very few times in my life, sitting in that parking lot reading the newspaper headline made me cry. Fifty two years of pain, torment, and anguish had been erased in one beautfiul moment, a moment that no one could ever take away from the city. Ty Lue said it best, “its like a blood transfusion, it will never leave you.”
And therein ended the wildest night of my life. It is impossible to describe what that title meant to this city to people that are not from here. It was unequivocally the greatest moment this century for this great city. It is a moment that I know I will be telling my grandchildren about one day. It is something I will never get to experience again, but if I had to do it all over again, I would still go out downtown with Dom and Alex and enjoy that night with two of my bet friends.