The parade is set to begin at 10 a.m. central time. Click here to watch on your mobile device.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cheered by a sea of wine-and-gold dressed fans spilling off sidewalks and choking the streets, LeBron James and the Cavaliers are parading as NBA champions.
The title drought in Cleveland is over. The party — and a procession slowed to a crawl by a mass of humanity — are just getting started.
Hundreds of thousands of fans, some arriving Tuesday night to camp out so they could get as close as possible, overwhelmed downtown Cleveland to celebrate with James, Kyrie Irving and their teammates, who made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Finals and end the city’s 52-year championship drought.
This was the parade Cleveland has waited to throw since 1964, when the beloved Browns owned the NFL. There were lean years — and so many close calls — in between before James, born in nearby Akron, made good on his promise to bring home a championship. He delivered it and Cleveland, where sports suffering has been a way of life, and passionate northeast Ohioans, are savoring every moment.
Fans stood on rooftops, portable toilets and hung out of office building windows hoping to get a glimpse of James, who rode in a Rolls Royce convertible with his wife, Savannah, and their three children. James chomped on a cigar and helped his kids toss beads into the crowd, then stood on the car and posed looking upward with his arms stretched wide as he stopped near a large banner featuring himself in the same pose.
The parade’s start was delayed more than 30 minutes because of the swarming crowd, which blocked the streets near Quicken Loans Arena and prevented the open-air vehicles that carried the Cavaliers from getting to the staging area. Police used patrol cars and a mounted horseback unit to clear the congestion on East 9th street so the celebration could continue.
While he waited for the convoy to move, Irving jumped onto the top of a pickup truck and tossed his baseball cap into the crowd. A shirtless J.R. Smith dropped down from the vehicle he was in and slapped hands and shared high-fives with fans along the barricades near “The Q.”
Later, James will address the crowd at a rally on Mall B, a wide-open area flooded with fans.
This was a parade Cleveland had been sitting on the curb waiting to see since the Browns won it all when Lyndon Johnson was president.
And the sight of James, who scorned the city by leaving in 2010, holding the Larry O’Brien trophy as he rides through town is certain to produce cheers and some tears from fans waiting a lifetime to see one of Cleveland’s three teams finish first.
No major city had endured more pain with its sports franchises. The Browns, Indians, Cavs and Barons — yes, there was an NHL team here for a brief time in the 1970s — went a combined 146 seasons between sips of championship champagne.
When the Browns won their last title, beating the Baltimore Colts 27-0 before 80,000 at old Municipal Stadium, there was no major celebration. Cleveland fans simply went home, probably shoveled their driveways and went on with their lives. After all, championships were routine as the Browns, led by coaching great Paul Brown and a roster of future Hall of Famers, won seven titles from 1946 to 1955.
Cleveland’s mantel has been barren of trophies since, and the close calls have gained infamous nicknames: Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move and The Decision are a part of the city’s troubled sports lexicon. The Browns lost three AFC titles to Denver from 1986-1989; the Indians were beaten in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series in extra innings; and the Cavs got swept in the 2007 Finals before losing to the Warriors in six games a year ago. Art Modell packed up the beloved Browns in 1995 and moved them to Baltimore.
Cleveland was so desperate for a parade that the previous one held for a sports team came in 1995 after the Indians made it to the World Series for the first time since 1954. They lost to Atlanta.
A parade for second place, so sad.
However, James, star guard Kyrie Irving and their teammates, who survived a coaching change midway through the season and finally fulfilled expectations in the postseason, have taken Cleveland back to the top.
There’s a new nickname — The End.