Basketball is Electric in Cleveland
Ever been to Cleveland? If you haven’t, it should be added to the list. The atmosphere in the city is not that of a charged place, as it can tend to be extremely quiet. But basketball has been there for 52 years now. They’ve won a title. They’ve been the heroes of the league. And the fans haven’t gone anywhere.
NBA Teams have lost some tough games in Cleveland over the years. The fans stay into it from the start. They don’t forget anything, and they make sure to boo visiting players as required. They make the atmosphere a tough one to play in for visiting fans, and the in-arena experience is as well-put-together as any in the entire association.
Built By Reputation
Long before the years of LeBron James leading the Cavs was the Miracle of Richfield back in the 1970s. The first time they ever made the playoffs, they made sure that the league would recognize them. They stunned the Washington Bullets in seven games in the opening round to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. And they managed to take the mighty Celtics to six games.
Early on in their existence, with some of the best players in franchise history present, they made sure to let the league know that they were here. And a part of the festivities for many years to come.
They were pretty uneventful in the 1980s before becoming a must-see team in the early 90s. They advanced in the playoffs multiple times and challenged Michael Jordan’s Bulls like few teams were able to do.
They never made an NBA Finals in those years, but Mark Price and Brad Daugherty had them as one of the most fun teams to keep track of around the association. In today’s game, those two would have been even better and garnered more notoriety via social media.
The Fans Never Left
LeBron James made the Cavs one of the hottest tickets in the league for the first seven years he spent in the league. He guided them to the NBA Finals and several appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. He was hailed as the second coming of Michael Jordan and never disappointed. He bolted for the Miami Heat in 2010, saying that Cleveland didn’t have the pieces to win a title.
When he returned for the first time as a visiting player, the arena was packed, and all 20,000 people were screaming boos at him. The team had been 7-9 to start the year, with a little hope that good days could be ahead without James present. That wasn’t the case, but that isn’t the point.
Cleveland continued to rank near the top of the league in attendance for the four years James was gone. And so, when he came back, the same crowd was there. And just as loud. More raucous now.
Most teams, when the superstar dips, tend to lose attendance. They have to work harder to keep putting cheeks in seats. Not this team. They have no such issue because the folks of Northeast Ohio are some of the best basketball fans in the world. Anybody that works for the organization or supports the team would say the same.
Going Crazy in The Finals
The second tenure of LeBron James saw the Cavs make the NBA Finals all four years. They were unstoppable within the conference, and some incredible moments ensued. LeBron’s buzzer-beaters. Kyrie’s massive performances. Kevin Love’s 33-point quarter. The eventual title in 2016, against a Warriors team that had led 3-1. A squad that had the best record in league history at 73-9 that very season.
The fans rallied behind guys like undrafted star Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov. They packed the streets every night as the NBA decided to do their pre-game shows on sight, right in the center of the city. There was nowhere to stand if not getting there a few hours early.
Still True Today
When LeBron James left the second time, the Cavs went back from being a Finals contender to a cellar dweller. But they still got great attendance. And now, as the team fights to remain relevant and contend in a tough conference, Donovan Mitchell is the new star.
He’s commented on how great the fans have been. He knows. The motto for the team now is “Let ‘Em Know.” It fits. It holds true. And the people love their team.