After more than five decades of suffering through close calls and bitter defeats, the city of Cleveland is once again the home of a champion.The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 on Sunday night in a thrilling Game 7 of the NBA
After more than five decades of suffering through close calls and bitter defeats, the city of Cleveland is once again the home of a champion.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 on Sunday night in a thrilling Game 7 of the NBA Finals in Oakland. The Cavs became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-games-to-1 deficit in the Finals.
While the Cavaliers celebrated on the West Coast, tens of thousands of Clevelanders celebrated both inside and outside of the city's Quicken Loans Arena -- including members of the first-place Cleveland Indians.
If this weekend's Indians-White Sox series directly across the street at Progressive Field could serve as any kind of omen, the Cavaliers were already destined for a special night.
Jose Ramirezdelivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th on Sunday afternoon for the Indians, completing a weekend sweep that only fanned the flames of excitement for a city that was just hours away from winning its first major professional sports championship since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship on Dec. 27, 1964.
"Right now, we are playing good and we feel good about it," said Carlos Carrasco, who struck out six White Sox hitters and allowed just two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings on Sunday. "We have to continue to do that."
The matinee victory placed the Indians back on top by a half-game over the defending champion Kansas City Royals in the American League Central standings. As it turned out, surpassing the defending champs would become a running theme in one of the most exciting sports days in Cleveland history.
After Ramirez's hit completed the Indians' sweep, the city's focus shifted to Oakland, where the Cavaliers overcame 15 three-pointers from the Warriors to win their first NBA Finals in franchise history. Tens of thousands of maroon-and-gold clad Cavs fans watched the game in the plaza between "The Q" and Progressive Field, displaying a civic pride that hearkened back to the opening years of the Gateway district in the mid-1990s.
When the final buzzer sounded at around 10:40 p.m. ET, many Indians players took to social media to join in the celebration that has Northeast Ohio reveling in its first title since another LBJ -- U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson -- resided in the White House.
James, the Finals MVP who averaged 29.7 points, 8.9 assists and 11.3 rebounds in the Cavs' seven-game triumph, knows as well as anyone how much his team's championship means to his hometown. The Ohio native memorably shouted "Cleveland, this is for you!" from atop the trophy stage after the game, and echoed the sentiment in the postgame press conference.
"Our fans ride or die," James said. "Whether it's the Browns, the Indians or the Cavs, they continue to support us, and for us to be able to end this drought, our fans deserve it. This was for them."
From two World Series defeats in three years in the 1990s to losing a 3-1 lead to the Red Sox in the 2007 ACLS, Indians fans -- much like Cavaliers fans -- have seen their team come oh-so-close to a title only to lose in heartbreaking fashion.
But if Sunday, a day that will go down as one of the greatest in the city's sports history, is any indication, "hope" -- not "disappointment" -- is the new word on everyone's minds in Cleveland.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.