Johnny Manziel, LeBron James, and Terry Francona.
One of these doesn't quite fit with the others. But all three are now helping to put Cleveland at the center of the sports universe as an outpost of heightened interest in the NBA, NFL, and MLB.
Cleveland is hot right now. "The Mistake By The Lake" has morphed into a super nova. Even the Republicans appeared to be on the cutting edge (for once) when they decided to have their 2016 convention in Cleveland earlier this week. By that time, Cleveland might even have its first major sports championship since 1964.
It's not only Cleveland that has become trendy. The NBA has stolen the summer from baseball and the NFL.Toppling the NFL in anything is impressive these days. And the World Cup? Well, now all anyone will be interested in during Sunday's final between Argentina and Germany, after Gisele walks out with the trophy, will be random shots of LeBron in the stands watching the game.
Kevin Love could be the next to hop onto the Cleveland bandwagon. Earlier this offseason, Love was in the air throughout Greater Boston. But Danny Ainge eventually came to the realization that the Celtics were never going to have enough viable parts to offer Minnesota to get Love in a trade.
He did the next best thing. He made a three-team deal with the Nets and Cavaliers that allowed Cleveland to clear a Brink's truck worth of cap space. In return, the Celtics got Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, and a first-round draft pick for a bag of balls and a Lucky doll.
The Celtics now have 23,491 draft picks for the next two seasons. Or something like that.
Ainge was always a pest when he played. He apparently was still able to get under Pat Riley's Botoxed skin two years ago, after he said it was "embarrassing" that LeBron James would complain about the refs. Riley struck back by ripping Ainge. "Danny Ainge needs to shut the f--- up and manage his own team," Riley said. "He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him."
Ainge said Thursday that he didn't hold any grudges against Riley. Friday, he got the last laugh anyway.
The Celtics were consigned to Tankapalooza 2 once they fell out of the Love sweepstakes. So from a Boston standpoint, the season was going to about as unwatchable as last year's. LeBron going back home to Cleveland has injected some much-needed interest into the NBA, especially the regular season. Good for them and us.
Before you start scrambling to check the 2014-15 Celtics schedule to see when the Cavaliers are coming to town, relax. The NBA won't be releasing its schedule until July 26.
With one simple decision, done with class via his Sports Illustrated essay, LeBron has transformed his image and won back/over millions of fans. "My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now," he wrote. That's the stuff of movies, not real life. LeBron has become the role model casual fans expect every sports superstar to become.
Funny, all this talk about "forgiveness." Save for the awkwardness of the "The Decision," LeBron did nothing wrong in going to Miami in the first place. He has nothing to apologize for except giving the fraudulent sports fans of Miami reason to celebrate a winner. He helped the Heat build a "Big Three" and the team won two championships. That's one more title than Boston won when it assembled the first Big Three of the 21st century.
There's much joy in watching the Heat and its astro-turf fanbase squirm. Pat Riley's team collapsed because of one tweet. Back in July 2010, the Heat fired every member of its ticket staff once the team had sold out the entire season. About 30 people got the boot. Now, they'll need 300 Don Drapers just to create interest in the now-moribund franchise.
Where "The Decision" was all wrong. The "Decision 2.0" was all right. All right for James, the Cavaliers, the economically and emotionally depressed region of Northeastern Ohio, and the NBA.
Ainge delivered the biggest assist of his career in helping it to happen. It's foolish to think he acted here with spite being his motivating factor. Ainge's deal with the Cavaliers was the best move he could make at the time given what the Celtics had to offer and what their long-term goals are. It helped to open the door for James to return to Cleveland. It provided a compelling storyline that transcends sports. And it certainly helped to ruin Riley's sand-castle empire in South Beach. Those are all wonderful side-effects.
But Ainge, to his credit, was thinking Green first. Remember, Ainge's Celtics are the last Eastern Conference team to defeat LeBron in the playoffs. Perhaps, in a couple of years, they can do it again.
But this is just a start. For LeBron, he admits there's a way to go before the Cavaliers will contend for championship. For Ainge and the Celtics, they've got one more year to, frankly, suck, before the faithful will start calling for heads belonging to Ainge and Brad Stevens. The Celtics' next move is anyone's guess. If you have something figured out, let Ainge know. He'll appreciate it.
Get your popcorn, finally we have a basketball season that will be worth watching.
Cleveland rocks. And so, once again, does the NBA.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.
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