In the city of Cleveland we are loyal to our sports heroes, especially those that play for the Cleveland Browns. We have been blessed to watch such greats as Otto Graham, Lou Groza, and Bernie Kosar, but one player stands above all the rest: Jim Brown.
Brown is arguably the greatest player to ever grace the NFL gridiron, so when the latest beloved Cleveland sports hero, LeBron James, paid homage to Brown before Game 3 of the NBA Finals it was a special moment – one couldn’t help but get chills watching maybe the two greatest athletes ever share a moment of respect and solidarity. And it stands as a symbolic moment where Brown gave his approval for James to now carry the torch and lead the city of Cleveland into the next generation.
“It was an honor for this young man to pay tribute to an old soldier. It was very special to me.” – Jim Brown on LeBron James
“It was an honor for this young man to pay tribute to an old soldier. It was very special to me,” Brown said after the game, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group. “We all want to be acknowledged by our peers and by good people and respect is a great word. I look at it as a gesture of respect at a moment when LeBron is the man.
“It was one of my favorite sports moments of all time. He didn’t have to be thinking about me, so for him to even have the brilliance to show that kind of respect, it doesn’t happen too many times in my life. It was a wonderful feeling.”
For Brown to anoint James as the man “at the moment” speaks volumes coming from an NFL great of Brown’s stature.
But that moment was bigger than even Brown could imagine.
Jun 9, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors forward David Lee (10) during the second quarter of game three of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
As the city of Cleveland rests on the brink of potentially breaking a 51-year-old championship drought, the significance of the exchange between Brown and James was a way of Brown giving his approval. With the exchange, Brown rolled out a red carpet for James to walk down and end the championship drought of a city that has come ever so close time and time before, but has yet to be able to remove the albatross from around its neck.
What better athlete, icon and hometown hero to carry the torch of the great city of Cleveland than LeBron James? Sure, James has had some shortcomings along the way, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the man, father and athlete he is today. King James has earned his right to carry the hope of a city on his back.
Brown knows this and embraces it.
“The city is alive now. The people have hope and they’re having fun. And they have a team.” – Jim Brown on LeBron James and the Cavs
“I identify with him as a great teammate, a player that’s trying to do the best things all around, a great citizen of Ohio,” Brown said.”He’s an unselfish type of individual that has all the right talent. It’s a wonderful thing to see and experience, and then for him to make that gesture, it was just a wonderful thing.”
Though Brown doesn’t want to christen this as “a moment,” it’s hard not to argue the magnitude of the two largest sports icons in Cleveland’s sports lore sharing this together on the national stage.
Though Brown doesn’t want to say it, in the eyes of most fans around the city it was bigger than he could ever imagine. For the first time in a long time, Brown felt it was OK to talk of another athlete who represents the city that Brown carried to its last title. Brown offered such a high level of praise for one reason and one reason alone … he believes James is worthy.
Brown sees an athlete, man, father and champion. Brown sees a man who has the ability to put a championship-starved city on his back and lead them. He sees a player who gives his all each and every night, and is able to lead his teammates to battle each and every game. In James, Brown sees … a bit of himself.
As James and the Cavaliers prepare for tonight’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals with the series tied at two games apiece, Brown and the city collectively hold their breath as James looks to lead the Cavs to two more wins and deliver the elusive championship the town has craved since 1964.
“The city is alive now,” Brown said. “The people have hope and they’re having fun. And they have a team.”
The heart of the city is again beating loudly, and Brown’s subtle anointment of James only further solidifies the greatness that he and the Cavaliers can achieve in bringing a championship back to Northeast Ohio.
The greatest Cleveland athlete of all time has given his approval for the greatest athlete of today’s generation, James, to take the city by storm. It’s now upon King James and his Cavaliers to make good on Brown’s faith and deliver to “The Land” the title crown they deserve.