LeBron James wept while Cleveland cheered.
The prodigal son who left for Miami in 2010 to win two NBA titles, then returned home in 2014 vowing to end a major sport title drought that had haunted Cleveland since 1964, delivered on his promise on Sunday when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in the decisive seventh game of the NBA Finals.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” James said. “I dreamed about it, envisioned it and to see it come true is just plain beautiful.”
James dropped to his knees and cried on the court, wept as he kissed the trophy and again as he spoke about years of Cleveland sport frustration since Jim Brown led the Cleveland Browns to a 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts for the 1964 NFL crown.
“Those emotions came out of me, just understanding what our city has been through over the last 50-plus years since Jim Brown,” James said. “Then also people just counting me out. Throughout my 13-year career, I’ve done nothing but be true to the game, put my heart, my blood, sweat, tears into the game, and people still want to doubt what I’m capable of doing.
“So that was a little icing on the cake for myself to just let me know that everything I’ve done, it results in this. Hard work pays off and that’s what happened tonight.”
Thousands gathered on the streets of Cleveland to watch the game on big screens and a roaring celebration began when the final buzzer sounded, ending 52 years of sporting frustration.
“I came back for a reason. I came back to bring a championship to our city,” James said. “Right now it’s just excitement. It’s not even relief. To continue to be an inspiration to our city, it means everything.
“I’m ready to get back to Cleveland. I can’t wait to get off that plane and hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal. So I can’t wait to give the emotion back to them.”
Cleveland’s biggest party
And Wednesday’s celebration parade?
“Oh, my goodness,” James said. “It’s going to be the biggest party that Cleveland has ever seen.”
There has been pain in the past 18,802 days for Cleveland. James led the Cavs to the finals in 2007 and 2015 only to lose. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, losing in 1995 and 1997. Meanwhile the Browns, play-offs losers thanks to an Earnest Byner fumble and an epic John Elway touchdown drive, moved to Baltimore and were replaced by an expansion team struggling to be a winner.
“Just knowing what our city has been through and our fans, they ride or die, no matter what has been going on they continue to support us,” James said. “And for us to be able to end this, end this drought, our fans deserve it. And it was for them.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, a mid-season replacement for the fired David Blatt, missed James crying for his own tears.
“I didn’t see it. I was on the bench crying myself. Just a lot of emotions,” Lue said. “LeBron, he deserves it. He’s a hard worker. He’s been the face of the NBA for 13 years. To come back to Cleveland, to bring them a championship, just shows you who he is.
“He’s a giver. He’s always looking to take care of people. If anyone deserves it, LeBron James definitely deserves it.”
Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson said he was amazed at what he has seen teammate James do.
“He didn’t have to come back,” Jefferson said. “He could have stayed in Miami or gone other places. He said, ‘I’m going to come back home because I promised them that I would be able to do something.’ And he carried us the whole way. The dude was amazing.”