Hail To The District writer Dash Kannan provides his thoughts on the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the 2015-2016 NBA Championship, from the viewpoint of a Washington, D.C. sports fan.
He did it.
He actually did it.
I couldn’t be more miserable as a result.
I have no affinity to Cleveland, and to be completely honest, I don’t really hold anything against the city. Sure, its nickname is “The Mistake By the Lake,” but for most of my life, it was irrelevant to me. I’ve never been to Cleveland, I don’t know anyone there, and I don’t ever recall even driving past it. There’s nothing there for me to care about.
But what I did care about was the greatest player of our generation winning a championship for a city that hasn’t won anything in 52 years.
James’ win – and make no mistake, this was as much HIS victory over the critics as it was Cleveland’s end to a championship drought – means so much in not just the sports world, but also for America on the whole.
James’ win represents a triumph for the small guy: for the city that everyone believed God hated, for the underprivileged who grew up in the projects, for the frustrated and (sadly) significant portion of the African-American population who come from the single-parent homes the present an inordinate number of struggles not only for the child, but also for the parent.
This NBA Finals was a smaller microcosm of the larger issues encompassing America – James on one hand, versus Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the other, who are both progeny of former NBA players and from a far better financial and familial situation.
Sure, LeBron James might’ve been blessed by the basketball gods with generational athletic ability and basketball skills, but the deck was still stacked against him as he burst on to the scene at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
James’ win feels like a microcosm of the American Dream.
And I still hated seeing it.
Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. – Montgomery County to be exact – I have been a DC sports fan my whole life. People who know me are well aware of the place the Redskins and the Wizards hold in my heart (my knowledge of and interest in hockey and baseball are limited, but I still root for the Capitals and Nationals, too).
I know that in DC, or any other metropolis for that matter, everyone is much happier when its teams win. Hell, even people in Detroit cracked a smile when the Pistons won a championship in the 2000’s, even amidst the worst economic crisis in the history of this nation. In a world where there are more shootings than days in a year, especially in urban America, sports serve as a distraction to the bigger picture – to the problems not only in our individual lives, but also what we face together as a nation, as a world.
As a Wizards fan, I watched James destroy the hopes of my Gilbert Arenas-Antawn Jamison-Caron Butler (or Larry Hughes) Wizards over and over again. I watched him goad “Agent Zero” – a 80% free throw shooter and one of the most clutch players of the last 30 years – into missing two free throws in Game 6 of the second round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs, sending the Wizards packing. I watched him gain the support of Jay-Z, while Deshawn Stevenson, the Wizards’ starting shooting guard aligned himself up with Soulja Boy (SOULJA BOY? SERIOUSLY?!). I watched him crab-dribble/travel/jump 50 steps to the hoop while having nothing called on him to beat the Wizards three straight times in the playoffs.
I saw him choke in the 2010 NBA playoffs, never winning a championship ‘til he left Cleveland to go join a super team with future Hall of Famers Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in order to finally get over the hump. I saw him come back to Cleveland, lose with a greatly undermanned team to the Warriors, and then have his head coach fired. I saw him replace David Blatt with Tyronn Lue, eventually phase Kevin Love completely out of the NBA Finals, and go down 3-1 to the greatest regular season team in NBA history.
And then I saw him win a championship for Cleveland.
And I hated it.
This isn’t just out of spite for LeBron – ok, fine, some of it is – but more importantly to me: this now ensures DC as the most pitiful sports town in the country. With no major championships since the Redskins won in 1991 (sorry, the DC United doesn’t count), and zero appearances in any conference finals since the Washington Capitals made it to the Stanley Cup in 1998 (only to get swept by the Detroit Red Wings), DC lays claim to the most depressed sports city in the US. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Unlike many millennials today – who now find it “cool” to root for the Wizards – I’ve been watching this team since 1997. I know that, unless a transcendent player like LeBron James (i.e. Kevin Durant) joins this squad, there is absolutely no chance of them winning a championship. While many are ready to dismiss the Redskins’ chances – I think this team is better than a lot of people realize – no one can say they are a favorite to win, either.
The city’s best hopes lie with the Capitals and the Nationals, but the Caps are bona fide chokers – wasting the career of one of the best players in league history in Alexander Ovechkin – and the Nationals have already done their fair share of choking in the five year span that they’ve been competitive.
There are those people who are alleged DC sports fans who rooted for LeBron in the NBA Finals. These people don’t realize that there were Cleveland sports fans who did not see a championship for their entire lifetime – for more than a half-century. Without realizing the consequences, these misguided DC-living LeBron apologists thought they were a witness to greatness.
Instead, they – and we, and I, and you – were witnesses to Washington, D.C. becoming the new Cleveland.