Is There a Doctor in the House?

May 24, 2013
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Dr. Greg Burma

On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers won the NBA Lottery for the second time in the past three seasons. Cavs fans at the Lottery party at Bar Louie, across the city and throughout Cavs nation went nuts when the Wine and Gold bypassed Orlando for the top spot.

That was a great night back in Cleveland. But what was Tuesday evening like for the Cavs contingent – who sent their “dirty dozen” on a daring mission to return with the No. 1 pick?

That group included Dan Gilbert and, of course, his son Nick – who proved again to be the luckiest little dude in franchise history. Other members of the entourage included local celebrities like rapper Machine Gun Kelly and renowned chef Michael Symon as well as broadcasters like Fred McLeod, Mike Snyder, Andy Baskin and Tony Rizzo.

Representing the Wine and Gold United members on that wild night in Manhattan was Dr. Gerry Burma – a cardiologist from Brecksville who won a random drawing to join the Cavs crew.

Burma – a Washington state native who’s been in Cleveland since graduating from Case Western medical school in ’71 – has been a Cavaliers fan since his arrival in Cleveland, although this was his first year as a season ticket holder. And he sheds some light on what his Tuesday night was like – from being in a van with a dozen guys trying to tie bow-ties to the celebratory stop at a New York Shake Shack before bringing the top pick back to Cleveland.


You must have some good luck, yourself. This was your first year as a Wine and Gold United member and you won the drawing to attend the Lottery …

Dr. Gerry Burma: Yeah, that generated a little bit of hate mail, so to speak. (laughs)You can’t imagine. I’ve had people calling me, (saying) ‘I’ve had floor seats since …”

This is just our first year. It’s so funny that I got chosen. I can’t get over it. It was just a random draw and we got lucky.

I have friends who have seats right next to the Cavs bench on the floor. Those are not cheap seats. And she’s had them for years.

So, safe to say she wasn’t very happy that you won?

Burma: (laughs) Ya think?

What was the actual day like?

Burma: We left Cleveland at 3:30. And (Dan Gilbert)’s plane, of course is … what can you say? It’s a terrific experience to fly private like that. You just walk on the plane, sit down and you’re on your way. It’s a lot of fun to fly that way.

Who did you get to speak with on the flight to New York?

Burma: We talked to Dan for a while. He came back and talked to us. And what I was kind of struck with was that he’s basically a big sports fan. He just loves all kinds of sports.

And for the most part we talked about the Indians and the Browns. We didn’t talk about the Cavs. There wasn’t much to talk about at that point. We talked about the Indians and the Browns and we talked about why the Indians weren’t drawing as much as they should and all that kinds of stuff.

Mike Snyder was on the flight and he is just a terrific guy. He’s just a fantastic person. And I got the chance to really get to know him.

Machine Gun Kelly is funny. He has to put on this persona, but really he’s actually a little bit shy at times. He’s a nice, normal, typical 23-year-old kid. But he’s got to do the shtick that probably sometimes is difficult for him to do. He has his own levels of anxiety and what-not, and it’s pretty subtle.

And it was funny, we’re just driving down the street in New York and there were people who recognized (MGK). People were yelling into the bus. And I had never heard of this kid. I had no idea who he was other than he’s on the video intro for Cavs games. So I recognized him right away from the intro.

He and Dan Gilbert get along really well. I think Dan’s taken him under his wing, but I’m just assuming that.

After you’ve landed and were driving to the Lottery, according to Fred McLeod, nobody actually knew how to tie a bow-tie?

Burma: Not a single one of us of the 12! (laughs) And we’re all reading the directions. And I’m saying to Mike Snyder: ‘Let’s see how much schooling I’ve had post-high school. I can’t get this done, I have no idea how to do it, I can’t follow the directions.’

And none of us could do it! We’re all struggling with this. So we all gave up.

On top of the tie conundrum, word is the group was running behind, stuck in Manhattan traffic?

Burma: That was an interesting ride! Tony Rizzo was having a panic attack. Dan Gilbert was thinking we weren’t going to make it – and he was freaking. There was a little tension.

Rizzo couldn’t believe people live like that and go like that. And Rizzo’s really a character, himself.

Describe what happened when the actual Lottery got started.

Burma: When they got down the last six (picks), I said to Rizzo: ‘I think we won.’ And he said: ‘Man, don’t jinx us like that!’ But I had noticed that they had three cameras going, but one of the cameras was focused solely on Dan Gilbert. And I’m thinking: ‘They’re not focused on any of the other owners.’

They had the camera the whole time on Dan and I was thinking: ‘We won this thing and they already know.’

What was going through your mind when it got down to the final three?

Burma: Well, at six I thought we had it. But when it got to the final three, I knew Washington didn’t have a chance. So it came down to Orlando and us.

So then I thought it’s a 50-50 shot, but the one camera was still focused on Dan. And then I really thought we had it.

… And when the Cavaliers finally won it?

Burma: It was a fantastic feeling! You could see the joy in the whole (Cleveland) crowd. We were clapping and cheering and we were getting dirty looks from David Stern. The rest of the place is dead silent. And we’re the ones clapping, cheering and making noise. Everyone else was looking at us like we were crazy!

The NBA has to chill out a little bit.

After the Lottery win, is it true the whole crew went to a Manhattan Shake Shack to celebrate?

Burma: That was hysterical! We pull up to this Shake Shack, and there’s maybe 75 people in line. And I thought, ‘We’re going to be here for hours!’ But Rizzo walks right into the kitchen and orders. It was so funny – only Rizzo would walk back right into the kitchen and order. And nobody in line said a word! I think they thought he was an owner or something; he was all dressed up in a suit.

So they bring all this stuff out and I have to tell you, I haven’t had a shake in 20 years or more. That was one great shake! It was the best shake I’ve had in the past 20 years!

Did you bring any lucky charms of your own? We’ve established that you’re a pretty lucky guy, too.

Burma: (laughs) I’ll give it all to Nick. I would like to say that I brought some good luck, but I’ll leave that all up to Nick. He should get all the credit for the good luck.

Can the Cavaliers take you back to the Lottery if the franchise ever goes back?

Burma: Well, we’re not going back. So it’s going to have to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.