Will Cleveland Fans Actually Throw a Parade in Tristan Thompson's Honor?

Scott Sargent@WFNYScottFeatured Columnist IAugust 10, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, facing, confronts Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, second from bottom left, during overtime of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 31, 2018. The Warriors won 124-114. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Ordinarily speaking, sports-specific parades are saved for championship celebrations. When it comes to the city of Cleveland, however, things are rarely ordinary.

While more than a million fans filled Cleveland's streets June 22, 2016, to celebrate the Cavaliers' championship, the most recent parade took place in early January this year in mock celebration of the Browns' 0-16 season.

If all goes according to plan, several thousand fans will once again congregate, this time near Quicken Loans Arena, to laud the longest-tenured member of the Wine and Gold's allegedly punching the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green in the face—an incident The Athletic's Marcus Thompson II detailed.

Few athletes have been as polarizing as Tristan Thompson among the Cleveland fanbase. To some, he's an overpaid big man with a limited offensive arsenal in the fast-paced, three-point-shooting NBA. To others, he's a rare defensive commodity who can guard the wing or the paint in pick-and-roll situations and who served as the third-most important player in the Cavaliers' 2016 championship run.

Then there is the Khloe Kardashian angle. Perception carries the backdrop of paparazzi, fancy drinks and fur coats. Not helping matters: That Thompson, previously Cleveland's iron man, missed 29 games last season and produced the worst PER since his rookie campaign of 2011-12.

Reality, however, shows Kardashian, the mother of Thompson's child, speaks favorably of Cleveland and can frequently be seen satisfying countless requests for selfies and other photographs with fans throughout the bowels of The Q. It also shows that, despite the big man's down season, head coach Tyronn Lue still turned to Thompson in the playoffs as one of the four holdovers from the team's championship run.

If there's one thing Cavaliers fans can agree on with Thompson, however, it's the disdain for Green, which stems from the duo's altercation at the end of an emotional NBA Finals Game 1. Late in the contest, Green enticed Thompson to swing at him, leading to an ejection for the Cavs forward. Green later said of the incident he would meet Thompson "in the streets," an offer that was allegedly taken up following this year's ESPYs, according to Bossip.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Now, that disdain may spill out of the basketball arena. What started as a gag has grown legs, and as with anything that involves Green, legs can flail any which direction. Now, several thousand Clevelanders may find themselves spending a Saturday afternoon marching around The Q in a parade.

"It initially started as something to give my friends and family something to laugh at," said Connor McKenney, the event's organizer. "It quickly caught some attention or went viral, and now we're going to try to make it happen."

McKenney is an energetic 21-year-old Kent State University student who, like many other Cavs fans, has a framed "Won For All" edition of the Plain Dealer on top of his dresser and a Cavs pennant on his wall. He said the idea of the parade was the result of the Browns' "Perfect Season" parade, which resulted from the team's winless 2017 season. 

After that ignominious campaign, Cleveland fan and Twitter personality Chris McNeil orchestrated an event that eventually saw thousands of Browns fans march (with parade floats) around FirstEnergy Stadium in the frigid January temperatures. They toted signs and belted out chants, garnering national attention while voicing their displeasure with what is arguably the NFL's poorest-run franchise.

"I attended the 'Perfect Season' parade," McKenney said. "I love the idea and had a good time. I threw it out on Twitter that I would organize it. I mean, why not?

"You know, Tristan has been here a long time. He may not be a 20-and-10 guy, but he's been a contributor for years. I thought it'd be cool to show him how we appreciate his efforts. Cleveland really respects people who stand up for the city against Draymond."

Much like there are multiple layers of nuance to the alleged incident involving Thompson and Green, there are multiple layers to hosting an event that involves the blocking of city streets and providing security for those in attendance. According to McNeil, working with the city of Cleveland to obtain the permit for the parade was the easy part. When it turned out security would cost upward of $9,000 for the Browns parade, McNeil created a GoFundMe page to foot some of the costs.

McNeil had an initial fundraising goal of $2,000, and ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard urged listeners of his nationally syndicated show to donate. Within minutes, the event surpassed the goal, raising over $17,000, with the surplus going to the Greater Cleveland Foodbank.

The question at this point: Will this thing really happen? According to McNeil, there are no hard feelings regarding McKenney's means of celebration. His advice, however, was succinct.

A scene from the Browns parade in January.
A scene from the Browns parade in January.Tony Dejak/Associated Press

"I guess parades are in vogue these days," said McNeil. "As soon as I saw the news, I reached out to him. I told him, 'If you're going to commit to this thing, once you reach a certain point, there's no turning back. You have to deliver.' I'll be interested to see how it goes."

The date: October 13, 2018, which is an homage to Thompson's jersey No. 13. The time: 3:10 p.m. ET, which is a nod to the 3-1 lead the 73-win Warriors blew in the NBA Finals. The goal: To unite fans and celebrate their mutual love for Cleveland and their hate for Golden State. How it will all happen, however, is still up in the air.

While it's being booked as a parade, the celebration could take shape as an outdoor rally or festival, or even a party at a local establishment that wishes to join in on the event. Like McNeil, McKenney hopes to raise funds to cover the bulk of the costs. If he can catch a tailwind like his predecessor, the surplus funds will once again go to a local nonprofit partner. McKenney recently joked attendees could bring canned goods, but he hopes to set up something a little more formalized.

According to the event's Facebook listing, 5,700 fans have stated they will attend, with another 19,000 interested. While the event immediately picked up plenty of coverage and seemingly has considerable interest in the way of attendance, feelings surrounding the parade are far from unanimous.

"I get the fans' emotions, and certainly Draymond has a way of getting people all riled up," said Emmy Award-winning television anchor John Telich to Bleacher Report. "However, a parade for a punch? You want your parades as a result of signature plays—the block or the shot in 2016—not because of an alleged punch thrown in a nightclub."

"I think it's a lot of sour grapes," said another prominent local media member under the condition of anonymity. "OK, you hate Draymond, but you can't beat him, so you fight him? And what do I get out of this as a fan? I didn't see it. I have no clue if it's even accurate. And now we are bad and we still have an average basketball player. We got our revenge already. We got it in 2016 when he was eventually suspended and we won a title."

"There's not a player in the NBA I dislike more than Draymond Green," said one longtime season-ticket holder. "He's no doubt a good player, but his constant jawing and other antics are so old and unnecessary. I love that Tristan popped him in the face, if that is what actually happened. I'll surely be cheering a little louder for him each time I'm at The Q. I won't be going to the parade because of it, however. I think that's equally as silly as Draymond is."

Nevertheless, McKenney has already been in talks with the city to set up the event's preliminary stages. As recently as August 1, he tweeted that the parade is still on. He has subsequent discussions planned, but as summer break begins to wrap up, the Hartville, Ohio, native realizes he will quickly have to determine the event's ultimate direction. What form the celebration will take is anyone's guess, but the end game is crystal-clear.

"The goal is to have a good time and to poke some fun," he said.

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