“I’m Coming Home”. On July 10, 2014, that was the title of the essay LeBron wrote to the city of Cleveland. After leaving Miami with two rings, he chose those words to announce that as the Ohio native, he was returning to where he started. A championship had eluded the major sports teams since 1964. It was now up to the prodigal son to return and deliver. The city had gone through so many heartbreaking losses that they even have nicknames for them.
Red Right 88. In 1981, the Cleveland Browns were down two points to the Oakland Raiders in the NFL American Football Conference (AFC) divisional playoff game. Even though they were in field goal range, they called a pass play called “Red Right 88”. With less than a minute left in the game, the pass was intercepted, ending the game.
The Drive. In the 1985 NFL season, The Browns were leading the Denver Broncos 20-13 in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game. John Elway would lead the Broncos on a 98-yard game-tying drive in over five minutes. The Broncos would win in overtime on a field goal and go to the Super Bowl.
The Fumble. In the 1986 NFL season, the Browns and Broncos were again in the AFC Championship Game. The Browns were down 38-31 in the fourth quarter when running back Earnest Byner fumbled at the goal line. The Broncos would win and go back to the Super Bowl.
The Shot. In 1989, the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The best of three series was tied 2-2. With three seconds left in the game, Michael Jordan made a jump shot over Craig Ehlo to give the Bulls a 101-100 win at the buzzer.
The Move. Browns’ owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore at the end of the 1995 NFL season. The team was 11-5 when they moved. To add insult to injury, the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl in five years after being in the city.
Game 7. The Cleveland Indians were leading the Florida Marlins in the World Series 2-1. It was the bottom of the ninth inning and one out, before relief pitcher Jose Mesa blew the game. It went into extra innings, leading to a Marlins victory.
The Block. In the 2015 season, the Ravens played the Browns in their first Monday Night Football game in six years. The Browns rallied from being down 17-3 to tie the game at 27 with three seconds left. The Browns attempted a 51-yard field goal to win the game. It was blocked and returned for a touchdown, giving the Ravens the victory.
This year’s NBA Finals found the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland in another predicament. They were down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors with the home game in the Bay Area. That’s when LeBron and the team decided that they weren’t dead yet. They won Game 5, 112-97. They would head home to their fans in Game 6. The fans were ready too, knowing this was the last home game of the season. What resulted was a 115-101 victory for the Cavaliers. This would setup a Game 7 for the championship. Giving the city’s past, it was only fair for the city to have doubt. With the game tied 89-89 with 4:39 left in the fourth, it would be anyone’s game. Both teams would fail to score, until Kyrie Irving hit a game-winning three point shot with 53 seconds left. After playing great defense, and LeBron making 1 of 2 free throws, the game was over. The Cavaliers 93 the Warriors 89.
He did it! LeBron James had returned home and delivered a championship to the city. It only took him two years, to deliver what seemed like an eternity. How fitting that the Cavaliers become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a series. After losing in dramatic fashion for years, of course the city would win in dramatic fashion. The biggest exhale for the last 52 years could be heard all over Cleveland, Ohio. Congratulations Cleveland.