Cleveland Cavaliers fans swarmed downtown on Wednesday to celebrate the city’s first major sports championship in 52 years.
The city of Cleveland expected 800,000 people to come see the parade, but the historic event—probably the city’s most historic event ever—had an estimated 1.3 million people venture to see the NBA’s newly crowned champions.
People crammed in anywhere they could. It was hot and sticky, and difficult to move even just a bit.
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But for Cleveland fans who have waited five decades for this moment, it was worth the effort.
“Waiting forever for it, watching the 1997 Indians lose,” said Clevelander Noah Gargasz, who works at a nearby grocery store. “It [the parade and celebration] means everything.”
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Though hordes of people packed the streets in the June heat, there was little or no hostility among the fans, who were mostly kind and cheerful to each other, anxiously waiting for the team to come down the street.
The moments leading up to the start of the parade seemed like LeBron James’s 2014 Nike ad “Together” came to life. The ad features Clevelanders venturing to one spot and putting their hand in with James to symbolize the unity of the city.
Make no mistake; this dream-like event will be etched into Cleveland lore.
And it was truly representative of the entire city, as the Cavs weren’t the only ones being celebreatd. The Lake Erie Monsters—who recently won the AHL Championship—hoisted the Calder Cup. Along with the Monsters, The LeBron James Family Foundation, Cavs cheerleaders, and even Cleveland-born rapper Machine Gun Kelly rode floats.
As the players finally came down the packed street, the fans’ anxiousness subsided. J.R. Smith was the first player on the parade route, and yes, he was still shirtless. Fans shouted “J.R.” repeatedly, and one fan yelled, “Baby, I love you!” to the Cavs guard.
Kyrie Irving was next, continuing the shirtless trend for the parade. Irving was his usual enthusiastic self, getting the crowd pumped and raising his arms as the fans roared.
James was on a float with his family. At one point, he held up his arm mimicking the poster that displays the famous chalk toss he performs before home games.
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The parade is over, and despite the claustrophobia-inducing environment, fans will always remember how the entire city came out to see their NBA Champs.