Drafted with the seventh overall pick by the Browns in the spring of 2010, Haden had begun attending Cavaliers games before he set a single spike on the field of Browns Stadium. And early last NBA season, even as Byron Scott’s bunch struggled, Haden was there – fervently supporting the Wine and Gold from his courtside seats.
Haden’s reaction the night he was drafted – not to mention his strong rookie play on the field – made the former Gator an instant Cleveland favorite. Fans could tell: Haden liked being a Brown. He liked being a Clevelander.
The All-Rookie First Teamer was always the center of attention when he arrived at a Cavaliers game. But he took fans’ imaginations to new levels in 2010-11 when he showed up for a March 21 game against the Magic wearing full Cavs regalia – jersey, shorts, black socks and shoes, wristbands.
When the Cavaliers faced the Miami Heat in the biggest post-All-Star matchup of the season, Haden once again appeared in full uniform, only this time, with a full beard painted on. That night, the Cavs went on to capture their biggest win of the year.
Just over a month later, Haden joined another pair of "Honorary Cavaliers" – Josh Cribbs and Bernie Kosar – in Secaucus, New Jersey, where Nick Gilbert and the Wine and Gold hit the jackpot at the Draft Lottery, securing the first and fourth pick in this June's Draft.
Haden got his sophomore season off to a strong start in Week 1 against Cincinnati and shut down Reggie Wayne in Indy seven days later.
As the Browns rising star prepares for a big battle with Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins, Cavs.com spent a moment with Haden to discuss his basketball roots, his thoughts on Cleveland fans and his decision to go full-uniform at The Q last season.
Have you always been a hoops fan? What's your own basketball experience?
Joe Haden: That was my first love. I love basketball. I thought I was going to be in the NBA at first. I played varsity basketball since the 9th grade. I wanted to try and walk-on at Florida, but coach (Urban) Meyer wouldn’t let me.
What was your experience at the NBA Draft Lottery in New Jersey like?
Haden: It was a whole lot of fun especially because (Joshua) Cribbs got to come with me. We enjoyed it, chilling with Dan Gilbert and his sons Nick and Grant. It was a really outstanding experience.
Haden: I feel like it’s very important especially just to get to know everybody. We’re all in this city together; we're the role models. Especially if you like the sports. If you like basketball, if you like baseball, it’s just really good for everybody to show they support each other.
What are your thoughts on The Q as an arena? About Cleveland sports fans, in general?
Haden: The Cleveland sports fans are crazy. I mean, I love their endurance, I love the way they embrace the teams, how they come out and support everybody even though they may not win all the time. They’re still out there. Then The Q is sick. I love the way the atmosphere is and just the whole thing about it.
Where did you get the idea to go with the full-uniform look? Talk about the beard and the process of getting it ‘painted’?
Haden: My little brother actually. We were just going to dress up as the players and I was like 'let’s go to the team shop and get jerseys and shorts.' Then he was like 'how about you get a beard painted on'? And I was like 'that might be real sweet!' so I called up my barber J.T. downtown and he said he could do it for me. He got the little paint and everything and put it on.
How much better are you in your sophomore season?
Haden: I’m a whole lot better this year. I feel like with one year under my belt I’m going in with a whole different attitude. I feel like I understand offenses better and everything like that. I’m going in feeling a whole lot better.