Cavaliers-Magic: How the King Saved a City's Soul

Dan WeinerCorrespondent IMay 23, 2009

CLEVELAND - MAY 22:  LeBron James #23 and Sasha Pavlovic #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after James made the game winning three pointer against the Orlando Magic in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 22, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Drive.  The Fumble.  The Shot. 

Two-word phrases to you and me, pictures of heartbreak for a generation of Clevelanders.

There hasn't been much to cheer for in the Cleveland sports world since the Browns last brought the city a title in 1964.  There is a new two-word phrase that might have changed the sports landscape in Cleveland forever.

The King.

It was a buzzer-beater in game two of the Eastern Conference finals.  It could end up meaning so much more to an oft maligned sports city. 

There's still plenty of work to be done.  Home court advantage still belongs to Orlando.  The Lakers and Nuggets are plenty capable of taking down the Cavaliers.  It doesn't matter for now, not tonight.

The Browns were the last Cleveland team to win a title.  It came in the pre-Super Bowl era of the NFL.  In 1983 they were poised to make the Super Bowl.

They had the best record in the AFC and only the Broncos stood between the Browns and the big game. With 5:32 left in the game with a seven point deficit, Denver muffed a kick off and started from their own two yard line. 

John Elway led the Broncos down the field on what became known as simply "The Drive" in Cleveland lore.   The Broncos tied it and the Browns were finished.  The Broncos won the game in overtime. 

The following year Cleveland and Denver again met in the AFC title game and this time it was an Ernest Byner fumble that kept Cleveland from tying the game.

The Drive and The Fumble were the two jumping off points for a downward spiral that ended in the ultimate act of betrayal in 1995 when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore.  The Ravens won a Super Bowl title in 2001.

The Indians haven't hoisted a championship in over 60 years.  You have to go back to 1948 for the last time the Indians won a World Series.  They had an amazing offense in 1995, but the Atlanta Braves shut them down in six games. 

They made it back to the series in 1997 against Florida, but Edgar Renteria's walk-off base hit in Game Seven gave the newborn Marlins their first title.

The Cavaliers have never won a title and prior to 2009 really only had one team that would be considered great.  The 88-89 team had guys like Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Craig Ehlo.  They faced off with the Bulls, whom the Cavs beat all six times during the regular season. 

In the decisive fifth game, Ehlo hit a lay-up with three seconds left to give the Cavs the lead.  I think you know where this is going.  You probably have seen the clip of Michael Jordan hitting the shot a hundred times.  He hits the shot, jumps in the air, pumps his fist and rips Cleveland's heart out again.

This year's Cavalier team is better.  They compiled a league best 66-16 record.  They lost just twice at home during the regular season.  They blew a big lead in game one and Orlando stole home court. 

After coming back from another big deficit, The Magic's Hedo Turkoglu sank Cleveland and put them in a 2-0 hole going on the road for three games in Orlando with just one second left in Game 2.

One second could have changed the course of history.

Now, Cleveland has new life.  They're back from the dead.  The king has risen.  Now Cleveland is back in the series. 

What if he'd missed?  Would Cleveland had lost the series?  Would LeBron began the long divorce process with the city of Cleveland?  Would we be getting ready to see him on billboards in the Big Apple with a Knicks jersey on?

Who knows?  It could all still happen.  However, for one night it looks like one second may have altered the course of Cleveland sports history forever.  The King has spoken, and his loyal subjects bow at his feet.  It's good to be the King.


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