LeBron James' Decision and the 10 Worst Moments In Cleveland History
For years, Cleveland has been the butt of many a-joke.
The city's sports teams have routinely found ways to lose when it seemed the only possible outcome was winning.
Defeat pulled from the jaws of victory.
From the "The Fumble" to "The Drive," from the "The Catch" to "The Shot," Clevelanders time and again were forced to see other teams' success come at the expense of the local teams.
When "local" (Akron is less than an hour from downtown Cleveland) product LeBron James took the NBA by storm in 2003, showing a combination speed, size, quickness and power that could be found in only fairytales and video games, Cleveland fans found something to be hopeful about once more.
This time things would be different.
Through a flurry of mismanagement and failure to find the right pieces to surround LeBron with, the Cavs never reached the peak of the NBA mountain.
Another seemingly golden opportunity come and gone.
So, where does LeBron's departure (ahem, betrayal) from the Cavs rank among the most heartbreaking moments in Cleveland sports?
Honorable Mention: QB Draft Woes
Cleveland Browns faithful, famous for their undying devotion and rabid fanaticism, had their hearts ripped from their chests in the Spring of 1996 when owner Art Modell announced the team would be moving to Baltimore.
After a brief, if not gut-wrenching three year hiatus when Clevelanders were left without NFL football, the Browns returned with renewed optimism.
The team had an owner with deep pockets in Al Lerner and a front-office filled with proven winners headlined by former 49ers President Carmen Policy and GM Dwight Clark.
The blueprint's success was placed on the shoulders of a record setting southern QB from Kentucky, Tim Couch, who the Browns selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 1999.
Less than four years later, the Tim Couch era in Cleveland was over, the stench of one of the NFL's all time biggest busts seared in the nostrils of Dawg Pound regulars.
By 2007, the disappointment of Tim Couch's failures had been brushed aside, if not forgotten, and the team drafted local boy and former Golden Domer Brady Quinn.
After just three seasons, Quinn was dealt to the Broncos for a backup fullback and a 6th round pick.
Over ten years of poor QB play has stunted the franchise's development since its rebirth in immeasurable ways.
10.) 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
It took six seasons for the Cavaliers to finally surround LeBron with the necessary tools to make a serious run at an NBA Finals title.
Ignited by the arrival of point guard Mo Williams from Milwaukee, the Cavaliers set a regular season team record by winning 66 games.
That momentum carried over into the postseason, as the LeBronairres swept the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in back-to-back series.
With the Lakers expected to mop up the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, the Cavs were faced with the disposal of the Orlando Magic and the game's best big man, Dwight Howard.
Not only did Cleveland get beat, but they went down meekly, ultimately losing in six games.
Was that series the tipping point of LeBron's stay in Cleveland? One would have to think so...
9.) 2007 American League Championship Series
After a string of mediocre seasons during the middle 2000s, the Cleveland Indians revamped a once shoddy bullpen and turned in one of the franchise's best ever regular seasons, winning 96 games and taking the AL Central crown.
Facing the forever-daunting New York Yankees in the ADLS, the gritty Tribe made quick work of the Bronx Bombers, winning the best of five series to three to one.
The team's last hurdle before reaching the World Series and matching up against a watered down NL representative was the Boston Red Sox.
The series lasted seven games, the deciding tilt resting on the arms of the Indians' Jake Westbrook and the Red Sox's inconsistent Daisuke Matsuzka.
The game was never close. Westbrook was knocked around early and the Tribe fell 11-2.
The team hasn't been competitive since.
8.) Jose Mesa Chokes in 1997 World Series
The 1997 Cleveland Indians were a team on the road to redemption.
Having lost to the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series, the new look 1997 Indians were re-tooled and built for a long postseason run.
Facing the upstart and vastly undermanned Florida Marlins, the first Wild Card team to reach the World Series, it seemed all the right pieces were in place for the Indians to win their first title since 1948.
Unfortunately for the Tribe, Joe Table, or as he is more commonly known Jose Mesa, was their closer.
With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th, Mesa was brought in to close out the scrappy Marlins. It wasn't to be, as a couple of base hits resulted in the Marlins plating the tying run.
The Indians would eventually lose the game, and the crown, in the bottom of the 11th.
7.) 1954 World Series and "The Catch"
It's hard to find a more iconic image in baseball, or all of sports for that matter, than Willie May's over the shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.
It only makes sense that one of baseball's most famous plays came at the expense of the Cleveland Indians.
The then New York Giants swept the AL Champion Cleveland Indians in four games, with Mays catch the lynchpin of an extra innings victory in Game One.
When the fates are against you...
6.) Red Right 88
The Kardiac Kids, as the 1980 Cleveland Browns were famously known, were one of the NFL's scrappiest and most exciting teams.
With an undersized yet gutsy QB in Brian Sipe, and one of the league's most talented skill players in TE Ozzie Newsome, the Dawg Pound was giddy about the Browns' odds heading into the playoffs.
In the Divisional round, against the much hated Oakland Raiders, the Brownies found themselves down 14-12 with just over a minute to play and the ball on the opposing 13 yard line.
Almost the perfect situation to fall on the ball and kick the game winning field goal, right?
Not for a team from Cleveland.
Sipe called a timeout to confer with head coach Sam Rutigliano about what play to run. Rutigliano called a pass play, Red Right 88 and famously said that if his first option wasn't open, that Sipe "should throw the ball into Lake Erie."
Caught up in the moment, Sipe forced the ball into the back of the end zone looking for Newsome. The ball was picked off, ending the Browns season and sending the Raiders on their way to an eventual Super Bowl win over the Eagles.
5.) Earnest Byner and "The Fumble"
One of the NFL's all time classic games, and one of the most gut-wrenching losses in Browns history, occurred in the AFC Championship game on January 17th, 1988.
After going down quickly to the John Elway led Denver Broncos 21-3, Bernie Kosar and the Browns high powered offense battled back, eventually tying the score at 31 a piece early in the 4th quarter.
After Elway pieced together a classically Elway-esque drive that resulted in a Broncos touchdown, Kosar march the Browns all the way down to the Broncos 8 yard line.
Just over a minute and eight yards stood between the Browns and a second life in overtime.
It wasn't to be.
Usually sure-handed running back Earnest Byner took a hand off from Kosar and cut to his left into a clear running lane.
But just as he crossed the two yard line, a lunging arm knocked the ball loose where it was pounced on by a Bronco.
The play ended the Browns season and sent the Broncos to their second Super Bowl.
4.) Craig Ehlo and "The Shot"
Much like Willie Mays' catch, "The Shot" was emblematic of an entire generation of sports fans and the angst of Clevelanders everywhere.
The Cavs were heavy favorites entering the series against the Bulls, having swept the regular season series six games to none, including the regular season finale.
After a hard fought series that failed the show either team's edge, game five came down to the final seconds.
The outcome, known as "The Shot" spring-boarded the Michael Jordan dynasty into the 1990s and sent the Cavaliers on their way to more than a decade of futility.
3.) "The Drive"
The year before "The Fumble," Browns fans were witness to "The Drive." (It's amazing how many plays and games against Cleveland teams have titles. Surely, a telling sign.)
Late in the fourth quarter, down a touchdown, John Elway methodically and cooly led the Broncos 98 yards to the game-tying score.
They would go on to win in overtime, 23-20.
"The Drive" is synonymous with clutch play in the NFL and was a key turning point in John Elway's career. The pain of "The Drive" was compounded the following year when the Browns lost to the Broncos in "The Fumble" game.
2.) Art Modell Moves the Browns to Baltimore
The Cleveland Browns for years were one of the NFL's storybook teams.
A franchise littered with larger-than-life names of the past: Otto Graham, Paul Brown, Marion Montley and of course, Jim Brown.
It seemed unfathomable that owner Art Modell would actually move the franchise, but in 1996 that's exactly what happened when the team packed up and moved to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens.
For a city that had faced decade of economic decline, the move couldn't have come at a worse time.
It was among the most bleak times in Cleveland history, a microcosm of the daily struggle of life for the blue-collar midwesterner.
For many, football was one of their few weekly joys. And just like that, it was gone.
1.) LeBron Breaks Cleveland's Heart
"This Fall, I'll be taking my talents to South Beach..."
The effect of LeBron's move to Miami will reverberate in Cleveland for at least a decade.
This isn't about one play, one game, or one season. The loss of LeBron James will shake the very foundation of Cleveland sports.
Will Cleveland ever recover? In other sports, probably. In basketball, I'm not so sure.