Here are the highlights for me around the Warriors – Cavs series which is turning into an epic battle. I’d like to make a call out to all those in favor of the Warriors, that there is reason to be supporting Cleveland as well – because I see so much in common with both camps – and regardless of who you support – both teams, both cities, are going to turn out to be winners.

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Steve Rhodes via Flickr CC

Let’s break this down.

Those supporting the Golden State Warriors.

Why?

Well …

For the Bay area – this is about sports and what being a sports fan is all about – they love this team not unlike the way they love The Niners, The Sharks, The Giants – it’s a top pro team, it’s basketball – its usual sports fandom – there are die hards all over the Bay Area, and rightly so . It’s about the feeling one gets when your team wins – it’s about dominance and victory – “it’s about time something good happened with this team. It’s been God forsaken 40 years these guys won.” – that kinda thing.

For Oakland, it’s different . It’s emotional and deep – this is about identity; it’s about Oakland saying, “We’re here, we’re real, we’re strong, and we’re gonna show the country we are loud, proud and badass .”  That’s why we’re pissed when sports commentators refer to the Warriors as Golden State, or the Bay Area underdog, or cut to shots of the Golden Gate Bridge–because this IS about Oakland.

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As much as it’s about sports madness., we want to be counted too – before this team goes to San Francisco where winning just won’t be the same – at least to Oakland it won’t. To the bay area, sure it will be the same. I don’t care what you say, Oakland is just crying for that one championship, just one GodDammit – you know what not even 5 championships the Warriors win in San Fran will equal that – that’s how much this will mean to Oakland.

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Oakland genuinely loves the team, especially the Splash brothers – they’re two little scrawny kids who we all literally have a spot in our hearts for that awakens a joy in us – as if we’re on the court right beside them. Let me explain : Steph – the baby-faced assassin – model citizen, impossible to hate? And his daughter Riley…awwww. And when Steph hits that three, we all hit that three – we know he’s struggled, he’s overcome, he made it.

And then there’s Klay – when he hit 37 in the 3rd quarter, man – we all felt victorious. Why? Because how he was about it – Klay’s another silent killer sitting back like a coiled cobra. While his team was all up in fits on the bench going cray . When he was done, he just sat his down, like a boss. “Done. Next game? On the other side, we see Steph as happy as Larry doing his little salsa dance on the sidelines. Cmon everyone knows what I’m talking about – Steph – just can’t hate on him. Everything about him – he’s awesome. Try, just TRY, to hate on these Warriors – no one can.

Cmon Andrew – stop that young Mozgov joker. Cmon Dray – play hard – Dray just needs to get on the floor and people go nuts – he really is the soul of this team – he’s the lunchpail guy. Cmon Barnesy, I don’t know what it is, but when you hit a shot everyone goes crazy – keep doing that – it’s like you’re the little kid everyone loves seeing perform after a heavy dinner at a family gathering. Cmon Iggy – is it just me, but when Iggy dunks, shit goes crazy,  taking me back to him as a rookie in Philly – he still has it. Oakland LOVES these dudes. Livingston, Speights, Barbosa…they all play their role to perfection.  And the fans play theirs to perfection too.  There is a symbiosis with players and fans.  The Oracle roof is ready to blow off, not as the ball goes through the net, but as the ball swings around to the open shooters.  The fans know their guys and see the game.  They’ve given reason for us to stamp, shout, cry but mostly pump our fists.

AND…

then there’s Cleveland: what a story this is turning out to be. Cleveland man…I feel for them. I really do. Oakland – they’re a city on the rise, on the up and up. Oakland is the hot place in the Bay, listed as the most exciting city in the country in 2013. We have technology, we have art, and we’re going to continue being hella Oakland – it’s in a great spot. Trust me, I’m not even claiming to be remotely aware of the struggles that happen here, like gentrification sex trafficking, police brutality, racism, poverty, lack of funds etc. No one can deny that. Luckily, Oakland is hub to activists and community leaders who continue to fight for us on a daily. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel – at least in my opinion. Oakland is gonna be alright.

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Flickr user Evan Blaser via CC

Cleveland…it’s Cleveland man – declared the poorest city in the nation in 2004, home to some of the most corrupt law enforcement who police Black children, Tamir Rice one example of many- and still tough on luck, a city that hasn’t enjoyed any sports success in decades.  The Browns are probably the most disappointing franchise in the NFL as fans are forced to watch terrible decision after terrible decision from the front office.  The Indians haven’t won a pennant since 1948. Cleveland  has had some rough times.

Enter Lebron.

Dude shook shit up, he gave the city hope, Cleveland started finding it’s breath again – Lebron infused a city  like no one ever has in the history of sports – he emotionally lifted up the city and state of Ohio. Born in Akron, OH, he was the son of the city of Cleveland; the state of Ohio.  HOWEVER, this was more than sports for Cleveland – this was hope, this was emotion, this was a smile during a tough day while collecting unemployment, a reason to look forward to something …. And then… it had its heart pulled out when Lebron decided to take his talents elsewhere

Cavaliers had a rough time after this. The team, quite frankly, sucked. It was depressing. Lebron  sold out on his city. I wouldn’t call him public enemy # 1 – I refuse to believe people actually hated their son ( emotionally impossible ) – but they were just, disappointed, bitterly disappointed and let down. That’s not cool they thought – but they didn’t hate him. And if it wasn’t enough for Cleveland to lose Lebron, he went on to appear in the NBA Finals’ 4 years in a row with the Heat.  For Cleveland it had had to feel like raising child, being there for all of the good and all the bad, seeing the bright future ahead, and watching him begin to realize it, only for him move on to another family, forget about his home, and then take off into mega-stardom.

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Image screenshot via theybf.com

But then Lebron is a free agent again.  After losing in the Finals, then winning 2 championships, the Heat got blasted in the Finals versus the Spurs.  All kinds of questions arise about the Heat being done, and whether Lebron would stay.  And all sorts of teams enter the race to get the world’s best player.  This is James Bond leaving MI6 and saying “Hey, if you want the world’s best secret agent, you know, give me a call.”  But truly home is where the heart is, and he wanted to come back and bring to life the visions of glory he and the city and state once shared.  “I’m coming home”.

We gonna bring it on in, it’s time now! It’s all city we gotta do it for them, dog. We gotta do it for Cleveland, they’re waiting on us. What we do tonight will define what we’re about. Let’s get it going. Every single night, every single practice, every single game, we’ve gotta give it all we got. Because they’re gonna ride with us. Everything that we do on this floor is because of this city. We owe them. We’re gonna grind for this city. They’re gonna support us, man, but we gotta give it all back to them. If we get it done, the toughness we have on the court, it’s going to come from this city. Everybody. The whole city of Cleveland. That’s what it’s all about. It’s time to bring them something special. Let’s go, bring it on in, everybody, let’s go. Let’s go.

 

Now back with the Cavs, he joins a new roster – with hopes of greatness from this team. And they started 19-20. That wasn’t good…and then Lebron took the team over.  In the second half of the season, no team was better, as the Cavs posted a 34-9 record.  The playoffs were a foregone conclusion.  No one was standing in their way…until Kevin Love separated his shoulder in the first round against the Celtics and then Kyrie injured his knee in the next series against the Bulls, only to further worsen this situation in Game 1 against the Warriors. There you go folks – it’s all on Lebron’s back. It’s all on Lebron.  Even Jordan had Pippen.  Shaq and Kobe.  Magic and Kareem. Bird and McHale.  Duncan and Parker.  No one has done it on their own.  And here we are, watching a guy play inefficient basketball (shooting 40% through the first 2 games) and carrying his team over the finish line.
And really, if Lebron carries this team on his broad shoulders to 3 more wins in this series, it’s not a loss for the city of Oakland and its Warriors.  It’s the NBA’s undisputed King, and at that point probably the league’s greatest all-time player, saying that his city – his state – deserves this.  That he made a promise to deliver, and he keeps his promises.  If that happens, every NBA team should offer a handshake.  It would be a feat like none other.

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