Despite loss, LeBron James makes triumphant return to Cleveland

 

The commute into town was welcomed by LeBron James’ outstretched arms on the newest Nike advertisement unfurled upon the Sherwin-Williams headquarters on the corner of W. Prospect

Above: The commute into town was welcomed by LeBron James’ outstretched arms on the newest Nike advertisement unfurled upon the Sherwin-Williams headquarters on the corner of W. Prospect. Electronic image by Michael Mann.

By MICHAEL MANN | Metro Monthly Contributing Writer

An ESPN set to the right, a TNT stage to the left, and an arena flaunting its newest wine-and-gold banners. Traffic deadlocked, sidewalks crowded, an entire nation trying to be any part of the night that LeBron James returned to the city of Cleveland.

Oct.  30 marked the opening night for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the first regular season where James himself would once again adorn the wine and gold that he spent seven years representing.

James’ first stint in Cleveland featured the story of an Akron phenomenon bringing hope to a city without a National Basketball Association championship. He led the Cavaliers to playoff wins, record win totals, national notoriety, and the ultimate heartbreak during the summer of 2010.

After parting ways and becoming a member of the Miami Heat, where James won two NBA titles and lost in the Finals twice, he brought his talents back to the shores of Lake Erie after inking a deal with the Cavs on July 12, 2014.

The cool October evening and brisk winds did not prevent the community from filling the streets in anticipation. A day full of celebration led up to the 8 p.m. match-up against the New York Knicks in Quicken Loans Arena.

This was a velocity that the city of Cleveland may not have seen since James’ last year for the Cavs. For Cleveland, the presence of LeBron is more than just a relevant basketball team; it’s a jump-start to the economy.

Fans drank, ate, and bought all the merchandise they could to commemorate what LeBron said himself in an ESPN interview to be “probably one of the biggest sporting events up there ever.”

The commute into town was welcomed by James’ outstretched arms on the newest Nike advertisement unfurled upon the Sherwin-Williams headquarters on the corner of West Prospect Avenue. A walk to the arena was greeted by LeBron’s silhouette on a billboard saying “Re-Est. 2014” and highlighted by concerts before the game. Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar performed for the already electrified crowd as they awaited tip-off.

Patrons eating at the Hard Rock Café at Tower City were approached by friendly servers asking if they had ever been there before. Many responded that it had been a while or made a similar comment.

For most this was the first time since James’ departure in 2010 that they had been interested in Cleveland, let alone basketball.

For the city of Cleveland, LeBron is more than basketball. He represents the heartbeat of a region in Ohio that has faltered along with the United States steel industry. What once thrived as an economic need for the nation has been repurposed as a mecca of sports for some and a place of interest for others.

As the gates to The Q opened, the energy that flowed throughout the city all day poured into the arena.

Fans were met at their seats with T-shirts, posters, and light sticks as giveaways. And tucked into every other cup holder was a mysterious silver packet, which in time proved to be full of confetti to partake, as LeBron would revive his infamous pregame chalk toss.

The evening also marked the first night that the largest scoreboard in the NBA and new flooring would be visible to the public. The two renovations added to the game-day experience more than ever before, the curved screens almost spanning both the length and width of the court.

Fans trickled in as time before the game wound down, most wearing the jerseys they dug deep in their closets to find – the ones with the 23 on the back.

The arena went dark as Usher sang The National Anthem, followed by the starting lineups of each team.  The lights came back on to announce the Knicks starting squad, then dimmed again in order to show the first-ever projected starting lineups.

The animations were projected on to the court with transitions and flames, followed by an opening video debuting LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and company.

As number 23 was announced as the starting small forward for the Cavaliers, 20,562 fans joined together to express their loudest welcomes.

Two hours later, the Cavaliers found themselves on the short end of a 90-95 loss to the New York Knicks in their first regular season contest. This was the first test of team chemistry, spirits, and for the fan base.

Oct. 30, 2014 marked the beginning of a journey of 82 games and hopefully beyond for LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s a journey that means more than just basketball to Northeast Ohio.

2014 Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

Full house at Quicken Loans Arena on Oct. 30. Electronic image by Michael Mann.

Full house at the Q. Electronic image by Michael Mann.

Cleveland welcomes back LeBron James. Electronic image by Michel Mann.

Cleveland welcomes back LeBron James. Image by Michel Mann.

Join 3,592 other followers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: