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A Cleveland Cavalier Redux

Cleveland Cavalier
Photo via SportTechie

A 50+ year old basketball franchise, and some 4200 NBA games later, the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers remain strong. It is amazing how loud the fans are at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. The decibel level is off the charts. Hearing aid wearers beware!

Some fifty-two plus years ago, the NBA was coming to Cleveland, and that meant bigtime basketball. The fan base was anxiously waiting, and more than ready to do their share.

Cleveland professional hoop fans had been teased in the 1960’s. The Cincinnati Royals used Cleveland as their home away from home for a few games each year on their NBA schedule. We got to see Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas play, along with Jack Twyman and Adrian Smith. I can’t forget to mention another favorite – Connie Dierking.

The Cleveland Arena

Cleveland Cavalier

Photo via the Plain Dealer

Those Royal games were enough to whet our appetites for our very own NBA franchise. Owner Nick Mileti greeted incoming fans at The Cleveland Arena entrance with a small stemless Cavalier wine glass. It was a memento that read: WORLD PREMIERE OCT. 28, 1970. A small part of NE Ohio hoop history that continues to be cherished by me and other fans today.

The energy of having our own NBA team was palpable, and the old Arena was rocking with 10,000 plus fans. What the Cavalier team lacked in talent, would be made up for in hope, and the support of great fans.

The Initial NBA Drafts

As an NBA expansion team, the Cavs were able to draw from other teams in a special 1970 expansion draft. The more well-known players Don Ohl, Len Chappell, and McCoy McLemore either retired or did not last long.

Bingo Smith was the lone jewel of the Cavalier’s expansion draft. Bingo and John Johnson, aka JJ, the Cavs 1st round pick in the draft, formed a solid rookie twosome for the first 3 years.

Austin Carr was selected #1 overall by the Cavs in the following 1971 draft, with Steve Patterson drafted 2nd. Those two players, along with Jim Brewer from the 1973 draft, helped build our youthful talent level.


Those first 3 years earned the following won/loss records:  15-67, 23-59, and 32-50. That first season was an impressive ineptitude, as the team lost the first 15 games before winning, and then lost the next 12 games. That adds up to a 1-27 start.

A Fan For Life

The losses did not dull my enthusiasm and excitement. I could not wait until our afternoon Cleveland Press was delivered to read Burt Graeff’s game recap of the previous night’s Cavalier game. I memorized his words and the game box score.

I went to as many games as I could afford, especially that first 1970/1971 season, as a high school senior. The losses had no negative impact on my attendance. That was MY team competing against the very best in the NBA. What more could a basketball loving kid ask for?

The Arena on Euclid Avenue offered bright lights and an opportunity to watch the finest basketball players play the game we fans loved. Upon entering, our “hope springs eternal” for a Cavalier victory. Losing streaks were summarily discounted away.

Present Day Cavaliers

The Cavs have a young hoop triumvirate of Mobley, Garland, and Allen. Add to that the acquisition of mega-star Mitchell, a scorer that can simply take over games in the 4th quarter. Plus, a mix of players that can shoot and play in roles that emphasize their best skills.

Expectations are high. Making it into the playoffs is a given. Everyone expects more than just a playoff entry, and the season has started on a very strong start. Continue to build, play hard, and win.

The No Change Constant

The Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse venue, with high tech scoreboards and LED message boards, along with an eardrum shattering sound system, has little in common with old The Arena on Euclid Avenue. Video replays offer instantaneous analysis for the fans. Cell phones provide up to date stats, and social media provides 24-hour basketball commentary.

Players have the best coaching, training, nutrition, and analytic performance breakdowns that science can offer. They earn mega salaries created by much larger mega NBA revenue streams. Star players now recruit other star players via the freedom that free agency affords them.

Fifty-two NBA years later, most everything is different. A three-point line rewards longer shots, and those shots are often taken by some of the tallest players on the floor. Yes, centers play AWAY from the basket, and often don’t play at all.

So different. Venues, players, rules, and many more teams.

EXCEPT, just like in 1970/1971, the fans cheer and scream for the Cleveland Cavaliers to win. A no change constant. Some-way, some-how, just beat the opponent. That fan emotion and excitement hasn’t changed in over 52 years. Not in the slightest.


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