Sure, God may hate Cleveland and its sports heritage, but not so much that he denied it the gift of LeBron James. James, however, is no longer the gift that keeps on giving for the city at least on the basketball court for the Cavs, as he’s decided to start the next chapter of his basketball career closer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame than to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With LeBron James gone, there is a gaping hole in Cleveland that is quite impossible to be covered by one man alone. James put the Cavs back on the basketball map after years of total irrelevancy by the franchise. When he was drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, the team saw a bright future and lived through it, reaching the pinnacle in 2016, when somehow a team with J.R. Smith on the starting lineup found a way to claw their way back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals and win the entire thing against the greatest regular season team of all time.
LeBron James tried to lead his team into winning more, but he and the Cavs simply couldn’t get over the hump that was the Golden State Warriors in his final two years in Cleveland.
When I made Lebron James I was in the zone.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) March 4, 2014
Still, James’ legacy in Cleveland is secured and his status as a beloved icon in Ohio sports lore completely restored. Outside of Jim Brown, there isn’t someone alive who comes close to James’ perceived eminence as a Cleveland pro athlete.
The Cavaliers may have an idea where they are going in their first season in the post-LeBron James era, but they will only discover how life really would be like for them minus the Chosen One when the new NBA season kicks off this October.
It’s not easy to accept for Cleveland sports fans that LeBron is gone, which also means that their best bet to have a downtown title parade over the past several years – the Cavaliers – are unlikely to deliver a trophy to the city this season, though, they’ve been down this road before. Plus, Cleveland still has the Indians, who are among the favorites to win the World Series this year.
If I didn't love LeBron James I wouldn't have named the King James Bible after him.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) August 4, 2018
The Tribe, however, doesn’t have a player whose presence alone defines the city and transcends the boundary of their sport the same way LeBron did during his time with the Cavaliers.
James is never going to be replaced, but two youngsters are seemingly eager to be Cleveland’s next face of the city’s pro sports scene: Collin Sexton of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns.
Landry had already started to work on his star in Cleveland long before he even made his first snap in this regular season. The Browns were the focus of this year’s edition of HBO’s Hard Knocks and in the series’ pilot episode, Landry made a passionate monologue in front of his fellow wide receivers, urging them to take practice seriously and in the process showed the kind of leader he can be in Cleveland.
Landry was traded by the Miami Dolphins to Cleveland back in March. The Dolphins are not exactly an ideal team to be with if one is chasing for a Super Bowl title when Landry left South Beach, but neither are the Browns. Landry, however, seems to embody the spirit of “Believeleland,” as he opted to sign a five-year, $75.5 million deal with the Browns last April instead of choosing to test the free agent market next year and find a way out of Cleveland the soonest possible time.
Despite the franchise’s lengthy history of failures and repeated doom, Landry thinks that the Browns are soon going to breakthrough, and if they are, he’s among the biggest reasons why.
That optimism combined with Landry’s feverish determination to change people’s perception of the Browns from being the NFL’s perennial whipping boys into a serious contender soon is partly what makes him comparable to LeBron.
Like LeBron, Landry arrives in a Cleveland team with barely any success to show over the past several years and decades prior. “It’s just mindset. Mindset plays a part in everything: in football, life, everything,” Landry tells Clay Skipper GQ when asked of the challenges he faces in Cleveland in a recent interview. “You change the mindset, you change the culture. Simple,” adds the wide receiver out of LSU.
Landry also revealed what his grand goals are for Cleveland, which he will exhaust everything under his own power to accomplish regardless of how delusional people would think of him.
As a team, winning the Super Bowl. I hate how people say, like, “You shouldn’t talk like that” or “You shouldn’t say that.” Fuck that. You should. I don’t train as hard as I train to make the playoffs or just win one game. Now, mind you, I’m gonna focus on every game. I’m not seeing to the Super Bowl. But my goal is to win the Super Bowl. Every year. What’s wrong with saying, “I want to win the Super Bowl”?
The Browns are a long way from achieving that dream. They haven’t even won a game since 2016 as of this writing. They opened the season with a draw with the Pittsburgh Steelers, thus ending their losing streak but prolonging their win drought for at least one more week.
Against the Steelers, Landry caught seven passes amid unfavorable wind conditions at home and finished the contest with 106 receiving yards. He didn’t score a touchdown, but he’s definitely starting to grow on Cleveland fans.
Sexton Is Collin
Kevin Love is still a Cavalier and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future after signing a lucrative extension deal in the summer, but depending on how you look at him, the big man is either counting the remaining days of his prime or is already past it.
This brings us to Cavs rookie Collin Sexton, who possesses the most potential to become the next cornerstone of the franchise.
Selected eighth overall in this year’s NBA Draft, Sexton was partly expected to help lure LeBron back for at least another dance in Cleveland. The former Alabama Crimson Tide guard did his own part in wooing LeBron, though, that obviously didn’t work.
Collin Sexton knows a thing or two about carrying most of the burden of his team. In Tuscaloosa, he had to do it all for Avery Johnson’s squad. Otherwise, the Crimson Tide likely wouldn’t even get a sniff of March Madness. Early in the 2017-18 NCAA season, Alabama nearly brought down 14th-ranked Minnesota during that championship game of the Barclays Center Classic despite having only Sexton and two other players on the floor for roughly the final 11 minutes of the contest.
Sexton erupted for 40 points on 12-for-22 shooting from the field with four 3-pointers, six rebounds, and five assists in 36 minutes against the Golden Gophers, and while those weren’t enough to prevent an 89-84 loss, it bookmarked the beginning of the guard’s rise as a serious lottery pick prospect.
Sexton would again command national attention late in SEC conference play when he scored on a buzzer-beating floater to give Alabama a 71-70 win over the Texas A&M Aggies while also bolstering his team’s March Madness resume.
In the ensuing SEC Tournament, Sexton led his team to wins over the Aggies (again) in the second round and No. 16 Auburn Tigers in the quarterfinals, before falling prey to the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals.
Still, that stretch for Alabama proved to be enough for the selection committee to accept them into the national tournament and that would not have been anywhere close to being a possibility without Sexton’s exploits.
College ball is vastly different from the pros, but from what Sexton has shown so far, Cleveland can expect to have a competitive and do-it-all specimen who wouldn’t break when the tough gets going and someone who evidently enjoys moments when the stakes and pressure are high.
They call him Young Bull, so Cleveland, prepare for a wild rodeo ride.