Cleveland's more than half-century championship drought is finally over. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the NBA champions after beating the Golden State Warriors last night 93-89 in Game 7 of the finals. An exciting game it was. And this is an historic outcome for a city that can barely believe it. WCPN Ideastream's Mark Urycki reports.
MARK URYCKI, BYLINE: Tens of thousands of fans packed the streets of downtown Cleveland last night, watching the game in Oakland from large outdoor screens or even peering through windows of packed bars and restaurants.
URYCKI: With less than a minute to go, Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving sunk a 3-pointer to put the Cavs on top. And Cleveland fans were ecstatic when time ran out.
RICK CHRAPOWICZ: The monkey is off the back.
URYCKI: Rick Chrapowicz is referring to what many believe was the 52-year curse that was preventing Cleveland's three major professional sports teams from winning a championship. Dwayne Spencer could name the unfortunate athletes in Cleveland who had victories snatched away in the final minute.
DWAYNE SPENCER: This is for the Browns defense on The Drive. This is for Earnest Byner. This is for Bernie Kosar, Omar Vizquel, everybody who's been through it. We got a championship.
URYCKI: The finals MVP is LeBron James who grew up in nearby Akron and can, himself, rattle off Cleveland's famous losses.
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LEBRON JAMES: Take a look back to the Earnest Byner fumble, Elway going 99 yards, to Jose Mesa not be able to close out in the bottom of the ninth to the Cavs to the finals — I was on that team in 2007, us getting swept, and then, last year, us losing 4-2 so many more stories. And then our fans — they ride or die, no matter what's been going on.
URYCKI: Cavs fan Robert Datewood said it only make sense that the Cavs would dig themselves a hole against the Warriors who set a record themselves for regular-season wins this year.
ROBERT DATEWOOD: We got down 3-1. And the only thing it made me feel like was the storybook finish was going to happen. It wouldn't have been fun if we won 4-1 or — it had to be like this. That — we don't win anything else if it's not like this.
URYCKI: The Cavs became the first NBA team ever to win the finals after being down 3-1. And they did it on the Warriors' home court. Kyrie Irving, who scored 26 points, said he was imagining every possible way to win or lose.
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KYRIE IRVING: I've barely slept in the last two days. I was up just really, really — I don't think my mind has really contemplated so many scenarios ever in the last 48 hours.
URYCKI: Now, his last-minute 3-point shot may replace The Shot that Michael Jordan made to defeat the Cavs a generation ago. The tears could tell the story. Nearly every player — and even Coach Tyronn Lue had trouble composing themselves. Fans like David Jaber were also choked up.
DAVID JABER: It's been a long wait, 52 years. But you know what? I'm proud of this city. And I'm proud of that team. Today's my birthday and Father's Day. I've got three daughters, so it's quite special for me.
URYCKI: And many fans, like Robert Datewood, find this whole winning thing disorienting.
DATEWOOD: We honestly don't know how to react at this point. Our life — we're used to losing. We know how to pace that. It's a new tomorrow. I don't know that anyone knows what tomorrow means now. Everything's different. It's only a sports team win. But I think our mindset — as much improvement as we've been dealing with, now it can be real.
URYCKI: The Cavaliers return to Cleveland today. A championship parade, seemingly in the planning for 52 years, is scheduled for tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED CAVALIERS FANS: Let's go, Cavs. Let's go, Cavs. Let's go, Cavs.
URYCKI: For NPR News, I'm Mark Urycki.