I pull my car off to the side of the road and look out at the empty spaces where Richfield Coliseum used to be. The sky is Cleveland gray—even now, I find that I feel happiest on gray days—and rain falls on the windshield. Cleveland has never been a basketball town. Even as the playoffs rage, the talk-radio shows go on and on about Browns quarterback Brady Quinn and Indians manager Eric Wedge.
Still, there's something perfect and different about this Cavaliers team, with so many likable and selfless basketball players surrounding the star of stars, LeBron James, the Akron kid who can beat any defender, toss the perfect pass, crash to the basket....
"LeBron is God's reward to Cleveland for the suffering," Pluto says, and he's only half-serious, but he is also absolutely half-serious. Sure, our Cleveland paranoia tingles, and even as I write these words I worry about Cleveland curses and calamities and catastrophes. Even now, I can't help but feel a bit like my Cleveland friend, magazine writer Scott Raab, who says, "I have no doubt this will end in sorrow. I don't know how. I just know I'll be watching how on ESPN Classic for the rest of my life."
But maybe not—maybe not this time. I think about the Hawks game, when LeBron had the ball on the baseline. He looked at his defender, and his face had this beautiful expression. It looked as if he was saying: "How do you want me to do this?" Then he looked left, cut right, spun, found himself under the basket, came out on the other side, scored.
Let them tell their Cleveland jokes. Right now, we are Hemingway's Paris, we are Shakespeare's London, we are Caesar's Rome. James runs back up the court to cheers that sound like rock and roll.
Note to editor: Please put Cleveland on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. That's exactly where my hometown belongs.