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Cavaliers' Historic Win Was Just What This Fan Needed

The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James celebrates with teammates after winning Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday.
Marcio Jose Sanchez
The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James celebrates with teammates after winning Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday.

June 19, 2016, is a day I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Father's Day. The last class of my daughter's first swim lessons. The day history changed forever, especially for those of us from Cleveland.

I'll remember that day because it came right after I dropped my iPhone in a toilet at a regional park before my daughter's first miniature train ride. As I waited for some sign of digital life, I thought that if my phone worked again, it would be a miracle — a good omen for the Cavs game that night. (It worked!) I'll remember talking with my dad on a morning FaceTime session from Seven Hills, Ohio, looking better than he has in a week — frail, but smiling. I'll think about how we hosted dinner that night for old friends and neighbors we hadn't seen in almost two years.

I'll remember that it was exactly a week after I was frantically sending messages and making calls to help arrange NPR's coverage in Orlando, where 49 people had been massacred. And that it was exactly two weeks after I learned that my colleague David Gilkey and NPR interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna had been killed in Afghanistan while I was sitting in an Ikea parking lot in College Park, Md.

My husband and I signed our just-tall-enough toddler into the Ikea play area and then I sat down on a bench and wept.

I'll remember this day coming on the heels of some of the crappiest two weeks I, and so many others, had had in a while and how throughout, I looked forward to having the outlet of cheering on my home team.

I looked forward to seeing that familiar Cleveland skyline on national television, the Terminal Tower glowing, and listening to Cavaliers fans keeping The Quicken Loans arena absolutely electrified. I'll feel my husband holding my hand while we watched the last few minutes of every finals game with him saying some version of "it could happen, sweetie." I would think the same but I didn't say it out loud.

I'm from Cleveland. People from Cleveland know not to get ahead of themselves. We know what it's like to lose. We know what it's like to be mocked. Those things never stop us, though; we're just better equipped to ride the ups and the downs than most other fans. This is Cleveland's first major sports championship since 1964.

June 19, 2016, epitomizes the beauty of sports — their power to unite, distract and inspire. There's always a winner and there's always a home team to crawl back to and love, despite everything. For the first time in my lifetime, Cleveland is both. I needed it. So did an entire city and beyond.

Renita Jablonski is a senior editor of All Things Considered.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Renita Jablonski