City of Cleveland will be center of sports universe

Cavaliers will collect rings on same night as Indians host Game 1 of World Series

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

It’s not likely any of the big Las Vegas sports books actually offered this as a proposition bet – that the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers would stage their 2016 ring ceremony on the same night that the American League pennant-winning Cleveland Indians host Game 1 of the World Series.

And it’s a good thing, because if one of them had and some inebriated high-roller from northeast Ohio had dropped by to lay serious money on the astronomical odds, we’d be seeing fresh video of a Vegas casino implosion. Only from spontaneous combustion, not some carefully engineered demolition plan.

No disrespect to the NHL or the big kahuna NFL even on non-game weeknights, but downtown Cleveland is going to be the center of the major U.S. sports universe Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers will open the NBA’s 2016-17 regular season against the New York Knicks, basking in and determined not to get distracted when they receive the doorstop-sized, jewel-encrusted rings they earned so memorably four months ago with their comeback from 3-1 in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Meanwhile, a couple hundred feet away from Quicken Loans Arena, the Indians will host the World Series opener for the first time in the franchise’s 116-year history. They will face the winner of the National League’s championship series, the Chicago Cubs.

For the Indians, this will be their first trip to the series since 1997, their fifth overall and a chance to win MLB’s championship for the first time since 1948. For the Cavaliers, of course, their second consecutive trip to the Finals in June produced the 47-year-0ld franchise’s first NBA title.

Between the two long-beloved, once-beleaguered teams, could anything make the night more special Tuesday? Cavs star LeBron James had one idea, as reported by Cleveland.com:

“I don’t know, having an ice cream truck outside of both arenas at the same time as well — the icing on the cake,” James quipped following the Cavaliers’ practice Thursday afternoon. “It’s great. We get to host the World Series and we get our rings on the same night at the same time. If we had a retractable roof it would be probably the loudest we ever heard, so it’s pretty special.”

The first part of James’ response was a joke. But the Akron native understands the magnitude. He’s been through a pair of ring nights in his career already. Even still, that was Miami. As special as those times were, they don’t match what he and the Cavaliers accomplished this past June, ending Cleveland’s 52-year title drought in historic fashion and filling the city with a renewed sense of pride and hope.

“We’re champs and they carry themselves like that and rightfully so,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said of Clevelanders. “This city has been good to this team and this franchise. Like I always talk about, when LeBron left they still came out and supported the team, even when they were going through tough times. This city deserves it, they’re great fans, so why not?”

For the record, only twice before have NBA and MLB teams in the same market won their league’s titles in the same year. The Los Angeles Lakers’ Finals victories in 1988 and 2002 were matched by the NL Dodgers and the AL Angels, respectively.

L.A., of course, is a vast metropolis spread across hundreds of square miles, with two basketball and two baseball teams to increase the odds and enough familiarity with winning to make particular victories perhaps a little less special. Cleveland is a compact, old-school city where sports success historically has been elusive, the ups and downs seeming to only deepen local fans’ loyalty.

When James returned in 2014 after a four-year sojourn in Miami, he went back as a native son (Akron) hoping to have an impact across arena and ballpark lines. He spoke of that Thursday:

“Well, I mean, that’s what we want to do,” James said. “That’s part of my whole mindset is to inspire as many people as I possibly can from kids growing up in my inner city to professional athletes in our city and if I can do that and we can do that as a group then that’s just part of my DNA every day and it’s how my walk of life is. It’s my path and the fact that (Indians) said that and seeing that it makes me happy.”

The Cavs did their part. The Indians are looking to follow the same path, now four wins away from another Cleveland championship, which would solidify 2016 as the most memorable sports year in the city’s history.

It’s Cleveland against the world, James recently said.


Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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