Another year, another loss for Cleveland sports fans. As the city with the longest professional sports drought in America, it's not the number of losses that cuts emotionally. It's what precedes them—the glimmers of hope that keep us coming back. Our Cavaliers went into the NBA Finals missing two of our best players, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Then, due to the heroics of LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, we were up 2-1. Our role players—Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, and Timofey Mozgov—stepped up. But in the end, it wasn't enough. For Cleveland, it's never enough.
I was downtown during Game 3, which was Cleveland's first home Finals win in the Cavaliers' franchise history. The celebration was equivalent to some other cities' championship festivities. People were smashing bottles, high-five lines formed in the street, and anyone wearing a Golden State Jersey was verbally assaulted. I even had a cameo on Sportscenter.
Then Golden State came back to win the next three games. I watched the final game at the Thirsty Parrot, a watering hole in downtown Cleveland. As the fourth quarter ended, people around me cover their faces in despair. "There's always next year," some grumbled, the unofficial motto of beleaguered teams everywhere. Many of my friends headed to the casino to drown out the pain. I stuck around and wandered the streets of downtown, commiserating with my fellow Clevelanders. I ended up breaking up a fight, interviewing Sportscenter's John Anderson, meeting billionaire superfan John F. Goldstein, and bearing witness to the raw emotions of some of America's most passionate—and tragic—sports fans.
Here's what the people of Cleveland had to say about the Cavaliers loss in the Finals and the incredible performance of LeBron James.
VICE: What are your feelings on this loss?
Aaron: Typical Cleveland bullshit. We make it to the Finals, then Kyrie and Love get hurt. LeBron was with the Heat for four years. D-Wade and Bosh didn't get hurt once. It's not fair. I think Cleveland's just fucking cursed.
I don't know man. Everyone playing right now is just awful. The surrounding cast with Cleveland is just... I've never seen a worse team in my life.
What do you think we did wrong in this series?
We had no one that could play basketball at an elite level.
What do you guys have to say?
Isaiah: What I got to say is, [yells at top of voice] JR Smith and Iman Shumpert ain't show up, so they deserve to be traded out of Cleveland! And I hope they know they the most hated. I respect Lebron and Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. Everyone else played horrible.
Rell: And I want to fuck Steph Curry's wife!
How do you feel about this loss?
Breanne: Well, I think that we played our hearts out, and we couldn't really have given it any more. And I really believe that if we keep this up, we'll get so much farther than anyone would have thought that we would have come. If we can continue this, I feel like next year's our year.
Did you think we were going to win?
I really did. I thought that fan loyalty, and our passion—because we've never won—would be enough to get us through to the end, despite what Curry and the rest of the Warriors could bring to the table.
How do you think it would feel if Cleveland wins a championship?
When it does win a championship, this city's going to absolutely explode. We've suffered for long enough. It's going to be chaos.
What are your thoughts on LeBron?
Parker: Listen, LeBron—mental midget! I knew he wasn't going to be clutch! He's a mental midget!
How would you evaluate his performance in this series?
LeBron? Actually, well everyone knows the NBA is fixed, first off. Right? Refs was super blind during the finals, wasn't calling no calls. But, LeBron also came to the series by himself. Even though he's a mental midget. If he was clutch, if he was like Kobe or something, he could have done it. But he ain't Kobe, so he couldn't do it. Plus we had Love and Irving out. If we had Love and Kyrie Irving, yeah, probably would have beat them. But also, LeBron is a mental midget.
You know, we need a leader. Man, we need to trade LeBron for Carmelo or something.
How do you think the city's going to respond to this loss?
Hopefully they riot! Hopefully they burn down some buildings or something like that!
Do you think Cleveland's ever going to win a championship?
No. Never! Melo might get a championship before we get a championship.
Who were you guys rooting for?
Bill: I was rooting for Cleveland. I'm from Cleveland.
James F. Goldstein (billionaire and NBA Superfan): Warriors.
What are your guys' reactions to the series?
Bill: I mean, it was great that we got this far. I believe that if we had the whole team, we could have won it.
How do you think this is going to impact the city going forward?
Bill: We'll continue to tough it out. It's always tough in Cleveland and we're used to these kind of letdowns, but we're going to bounce back.
James: It was a very exciting series, much more exciting than I anticipated. With Cleveland having so many injuries, I didn't think they would be able to stay on the floor with the Warriors, but they overachieved. The Warriors are a very exciting team. I was quite happy with the Finals.
What is your reaction to this loss?
LaShae: I'm devastated. I didn't expect this. I thought we were going to give it all we had, and we didn't. I've been a Cleveland fan since I was in the fourth grade. I'm from Akron.
Stephen Curry was born in Akron. Who were you rooting for?
I was rooting for the Cavs. And Akron was too.
What does this mean to Akron going forward?
I think Akron's going to have to take a long time to recover from this, because we were really hoping for a championship. We've never had one.
What if we never get one?
I think we would all be very upset. There's nothing we can really do. We just have to keep pushing and stay positive.
What do you guys have to say about the loss?
Smik: We ain't got a loss! I mean, we gotta build onto next year! There's no loss! We were underdogs since day one. And if you don't know, now you know. We're C-L-E till we die! C-L-E till we die! Whoo!
How do you feel about the future?
Smik: Man, C-L-E till we die!
RJ: Next season, it's going to be over. We have Varejao—
Smik: Don't hate on us, dude! We were the underdogs since day one! Fuck!
How do you feel about the Golden State Warriors?
Smik: Fuck the Golden State Warriors!
RJ: They had a better team than Cleveland. But Cleveland's team is rowdier.
Smik: C-L-E till we die!
How do you feel about this loss?
Joe: It's devastating, man. Right when we thought we had something good going for the city, it just... I don't know, it wasn't enough defense or something, I don't know.
So you feel confused about the loss?
Yeah, basically. Like I'm just really confused. Like we finally had something going. I thought this was going to be the year, for real. Everything was happening right.
How long have you been a Cleveland fan for?
All my life. Indians, Browns, Cavs, that's all I knew. This the closest we've ever got to a championship. We went six games. We were two games away from a win.
Is this the biggest sports heartbreak you've felt in your life?
Yeah, this is the most I've ever felt hurt since LeBron left the first time.
Let's talk about what just happened. That Warriors fan just tried to fight you. What's really good?
Ivan: Yeah, man, I swear to God, I just showed up. His sister was tripping, his mother was fighting his battles for him, honestly. I walked up to him, I said, "What's going on? What's up? What do you want to do with your life? Cause I don't think you want these problems."
Was he gloating?
I feel like he was just being ignorant. It's cool to enjoy your championship win and everything like that, but you can't come into somebody else's city and try to wild out on everybody.
What is your reaction to this loss?
Honestly, Imma keep it real, I'm really not a fan of Cleveland anymore. It's just a lot of bad history, and I don't really want to be [sad] all the time. LeBron's probably pretty pissed. But we got next year. We got more draft picks, we need to fire the head coach—'cause he's not even coaching right now, let's keep it real—get a new coach, have a system, and then keep our players in line.
But about that Golden State Warriors fan?
He's lucky. He almost got knocked the fuck out.
Later, the police arrested the Warriors fan who tried to fight Ivan:
Kyle: I'm disappointed, but I know the Cavaliers gave everything they could. There's only so much you can ask from LeBron James as one human being.
How long have you been a Cleveland sports fan for?
Since I was a toddler.
How do you feel the city's gonna take this?
We're going to come back hurt. But next year I know we're going to rise back up and once Kyrie gets better, once Kevin comes back from his shoulder injury, we're going to rise up, like every true Cleveland sports fan will, and we're going to support the hell out of the Cavs! And on opening day, next October, we're going to be there loud as hell to support the Cleveland Cavaliers!
John Anderson, before you go on Sportscenter, what is your reaction to the series?
John: That the better team won, the better player lost. God bless LeBron, he was great, but he was in an unfair fight.
Did he deserve the Finals MVP?
Probably, yeah. If I would have voted, I would have given it to him, yet he didn't win. I think they gave it to the right guy. Iguodala's numbers weren't overwhelming, but he certainly was the difference maker for Golden State.
What's your take on Cleveland as a city?
The city has been great for the ten days that we've been out here. They have every right to be proud and go crazy. It's a shame that the sad title drought continues, but the fact that LeBron dragged them into a six games series is fairly impressive.
Where are you from?
So you came all the way from Oakland to see this game? How does it feel to win?
Man, I feel blessed. I waited 27 years, I couldn't wait! Man, I've followed them to New Orleans, Memphis, and Houston, and I'm here. Now, we're world champs, man! World champs! I've been waiting for this my whole life!
What are your thoughts on the city of Cleveland?
I hate this city! I'm ready for another championship, let's go, man! Let's go!
What are you going to do tonight?
We gonna celebrate all night, stay up, we got a flight early in the morning, and Friday, we got the parade!
Golden State had a championship drought until today. As a city that had similar struggles, do you feel any sympathy for Cleveland?
I think you guys will get one soon. It will come.
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