The Cleveland Cavaliers, an NBA basketball franchise founded by one-time Cleveland Indians owner Nick Mileti that was known for the "Miracle of Richfield", losing to Michael Jordan over and over again, and wasting a good portion of LeBron James' career, died Wednesday at home in their sleep. They were 37.
The Cavs, as they were affectionately known, died during a loss to the NBA's worst team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Initial reports labeled the cause of death as poor free-throw shooting, awful defense, and an inability to stop Andre Iguodala from scoring more than double his season average of 16.7 points per game. Many other excuses abounded, such as they were tired or it was just one of those things.
Many times during their 37 years the Cavaliers made the playoffs, only to bring heartbreak to their fans. The "Miracle of Richfield" team advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in the 1975-76 season, only to lose to the Boston Celtics in a series of dramatic finishes. Some blamed the loss on a broken foot that kept star center Jim Chones off the court. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Cavs suffered a series of losses to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The most memorable was labeled "The Shot", when Jordan's 20-footer over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoffs gave the Bulls a 100-99 win at the buzzer. Just one season ago, the Cavs had a chance to upset the defending champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but their inability to grab even one rebound among four missed Pistons shots in the final two minutes of Game 6 cost them the series. At the time, Cleveland said it would have many more chances and that they were an up-and-coming team.
But the chances were few. After a promising start to this season, the Cavs were sent on a seven-game West Coast trip earlier this month where they caught lazyitis. After winning two of their first three games on the trip, chartered flights with recliners, first-class hotels, and NBA groupies caught up with the team. They complained of tired legs as they lost games to the Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers, the two worst teams in the Northwest Division. The long flight that covered the 173 miles from Seattle to Portland and the fact that the Cavaliers were forced to play AGAIN on back-to-back nights was blamed for the loss to the Trail Blazers.
Upon returning home at the beginning of the week, again on a first-class flight, the Cavaliers remained tired and lethargic while trailing from start to finish against the Orlando Magic. It was the Magic's only win in its last six games.
Then, at 9:52 p.m. on Wednesday night, the lethargic Cavaliers finally died.
The team is survived by approximately 414,000 angry Clevelanders and six times that many in the Greater Cleveland area, and LeBron James' mother. It will be buried in a ceremony Saturday at Lake View Cemetary, next to the body of former Cleveland Indian Ray Chapman, who died after being struck by a pitch in the head in a 1920 baseball game.