The long wait for a championship is no more, giving Cleveland the shortest title drought in all of professional sports. And with the Indians making a push toward a World Series title, that drought could go back down to zero in the next ten days.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to begin the 2016-17 season tonight, when the team will receive its championship rings an hour before the Cleveland Indians begin another Cleveland championship quest across the street.
The night is going to be memorable, but it also signals the end of an era. For the past four months, any mention of the Cavs had to do with how the team came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals. The “3-1 lead” jokes will continue to come up throughout the year, but a new season means a clean slate for every team in the NBA.
With the Warriors defeating the Cavs in the 2015 Finals, and the hometown heroes taking the crown in 2016, 2017 is setting up to be the ultimate battle between two of the best teams in basketball. Add Kevin Durant to the equation and it seems like destiny for the rivalry to reach new heights next summer.
But the difference this time around is that LeBron and the Cavs are not under the immense pressure seen in the past two seasons. LeBron was being counted on to win a title for Cleveland, and he did just that. Does it matter if the team repeats?
Cleveland is a wonderful place filled with the most hopelessly optimistic fan bases in all of sports. “Next year” is always within reach, becoming a sense of comfort when “this year” is all but lost. But for Cavs fans, so basically most of Northeast Ohio, there is no need to talk about “next year” because “this year” will always be 2016.
But let’s jump ahead to June of next year, when the real season begins. The regular season is important for some teams, but the Cavaliers know they will end up with the first or second overall seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s not being overconfident, it’s just a fact. And as for the first two round of the playoffs, those can be counted as automatic wins. This does not mean fans should not care about the team during this time, but the only thing that would surprise is any sort of failure.
So barring the sport of basketball being banned or LeBron deciding to call it quits, the Cavaliers will be facing the Warriors once again in the NBA Finals. Fans surely want another title, but a loss will be quickly dismissed as fans say, “At least we won it last year.” There will still be the pain of a loss, but the talk of curses and luck will be nonexistent because of the championship banner hanging in The Q.
So now, “next year” has given way to “this year” which may ultimately give way to “last year.” So it goes in the city that waited so long, where the championship will be savored for as long as it takes to bring home another. It does not mean fans should dwell on last year’s success during this season, but the failure to win another championship will not take away from what happened last June.
It will be great if it happens again next June, but fans will be just fine, remembering the days when a feisty Australian, a perpetually shirtless three-point specialist, and a local phenom were all heroes.