Let me start off by saying this. I truly do love the NBA. Basketball is a truly, truly amazing sport and the talents of the players who participate in these games should always be celebrated.
LeBron James is a very special player. He may finish his career as a top 5 player of all time. All that is well and all of that is very good. As an objective basketball observer and chronic basketball watcher, it is something we can all really appreciate.
With that being said, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the bane of my existence and the same goes for every Wizards fan to ever to take a breath on this planet. I have never disliked a team more than I have the Cleveland Cavaliers in any sport.
I also need to preface what follows by saying this: I have nothing against the city of Cleveland. I root for the city's success and wish nothing but good things for the people who inhabit it and come from it including the two on the Bullets Forever staff. With that being said, I refuse to root for the success for any of the sports teams in "The Land" and will continue to root against them likely for what will be the rest of my natural life. By the way, what a corny pet name for a city that gave us Jim Brown, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and....Lake Erie? Er, I was never good at geography.
So, anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming. The Wizards and Cavaliers have been rivals for, really, the last decade or so. Starting from the quirky era of Gilbert Arenas to where the Wizards are today.
The advent of LeBron James in Cleveland began just before Arenas' arrival in Washington. Arenas was a top five player in the league during his prime years before being plagued by injuries, but the Wizards could never advance to a Conference Finals or even the second round. Why? Well, there's a few reasons, but ultimately there was always one obstacle that stood in the way over and over and over again: James' Cavaliers.
And that's really where our story begins. Here are 7 reasons why I, and most importantly, we, hate the Cleveland Cavaliers.
7. They stole Antawn
Antawn Jamison has gone down in history as one of the most beloved Wizards of all time despite only playing in Washington for five and a half seasons. He's 10th overall in Wizards history in points per game at 20.8, second in three point makes and was probably the most consistently available player on those Arenas-led teams.
AND THE WIZARDS TRADED HIM TO THE CAVALIERS. Look, we know how literally everyone but the team's owner feels about Ernie Grunfeld. And you can argue that he's made worse moves than this. But there was none more painful than seeing Jamison suit up in wine and gold. I mean, I may have cried. Maybe.
And even after you get over the pain of losing Jamison because you realize he's there for a ring, LeBron leaves for a four year sabbatical in South Beach and then the Cavs lose 22 straight games the very next year. Antawn didn't sign up for your misery, Cleveland. He just didn't. He. Deserved. Better.
6. Brendan Haywood hits a game winner to close the season
Okay, this game literally did not matter for anyone. Last season, both the Cavaliers and the Wizards were making the playoffs and both had pretty successful runs. But the Wizards were playing the Cavaliers to close the season, and boy, even with no one important on the floor, I wanted the Wizards to win a close game against the Cavaliers.
Call me what you want. Say what you want about me. But the Cavaliers are the bane of my existence and I wanted them to fail. But then this foolishness happens.
Never mind Haywood actually playing for the Cavaliers after basically being the living embodiment of mediocrity for the Wizards, he actually hit a jump shot to beat them. When he played with Washington, he couldn't hit the broadside of a barn outside of 8 feet. But sure, Brendan. End us there. #Trader.
5. Kyrie Irving
For one year, the rivalry cooled off. After the Wizards cleansed themselves of Arenas and washed his gun-toting shenanigans away with any hope of the Wizards becoming the Bullets anytime soon, the Wizards found themselves a new hope in Wall.
Wall didn't have a super efficient first season, but you could tell he'd be a good one. His signature speed, his ability to see the floor better than most veteran point guards and his early defensive potential made Wall a real franchise centerpiece despite early shooting struggles.
Then, the very next year, the Cavaliers lucked into a first round pick and drafted Irving first overall. Irving had a phenomenal first season in 2011-12 with game winners, flashy dribbles and slick finishes at the rim. But, wait a minute, he wasn't better than Wall, right?
Well, he was held in high enough esteem to be considered the EIGHTH BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE by ESPN at one point. Silly, right?
Live look at where we are now:
like, remember when david falk went off about how john wall didn't have the point guard skills kyrie did? man, that was funny.— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) June 6, 2016
4. Kyrie Irving drops 41 on Washington in overtime win
This was, really a pretty meaningless game. But this one gets pretty personal for me. It all stems from a text message that I failed to screenshot and still regret it to this day.
But the Wizards were 2-5. They were struggling. They had playoff aspirations for the season and were getting their first full dose of a healthy Wall and Bradley Beal. The Cavs didn't start the season well, either. They were just 3-7 and were looking for big things from Irving.
To make a long story short, the Wizards dominated most of the game and built a 45-30 lead in the second quarter. But Irving, who was slumping coming into the game, literally could not be stopped. After forcing overtime, Irving scored 9 points for the Cavaliers to essentially win them the game.
At this point, I'm in a drunken stupor among my college friends and drowning my misery away in laughter. All of a sudden, I get a text. It's from my girlfriend, a converted Wizards fan by yours truly. What does it say?
"Why is Kyrie Irving so good at basketball? We should have him."
WHAT. ARE. YOU. THINKING.
I lost my mind. I told her to do better. But then I realized I failed her. And that's when I started the conversion process. It worked, and things are okay now. But the alcohol will never take that pain away.
3. Soulja Boy being affiliated with the Wizards
DeShawn Stevenson, noted "LeBron Stopper," called LeBron James overrated. After the comment, LeBron decided not to respond to it by responding to it anyway. James responded by saying it would be like Jay Z responding to Soulja Boy, which, by all accounts, is true.
But it didn't stop there. James' comments prompted Soulja Boy, one of the worst rappers of all time (don't @ me), to attend a Wizards game. In the playoffs. Mid-sweep. It doesn't get any worse.
BUT WAIT. IT DID GET WORSE.
James basically responded by having Jay Z, who he compared himself to, write a diss record aimed at Stevenson and Soulja Boy, which promptly ended their beef, Soulja Boy's relationship with the Wizards and my hopes of ever having the Wizards viewed as a respectable franchise. Thanks, DeShawn. Thanks, Cavs.
2. CRAB. DRIBBLES.
WHAT IS EVEN A CRAB DRIBBLE. Okay, I know what it is. And that wasn't it. It can't be that.
(The following is a running timeline of my thoughts as I watch the "crab dribble" video over and over again.)
10:40 p.m.: As I sit here, right now, I'm still watching this play and I have no clue how it wasn't called. It was the most obvious travel of all time. James clearly gets stopped by Antonio Daniels, picks his dribble up, and literally walks to the rim and my heart just explodes.
11:03 p.m.: Why is Mike Tirico acting as if James didn't travel here? That's a blatant travel. It's obvious he traveled, right? He definitely traveled.
11:15 p.m.: At this point I'm patiently waiting for my pizza to warm up in the microwave as I practice my crab dribble with an air basketball. The real thing, I mean. Not the travel. He traveled.
11:21 p.m.: Okay, at this point, I'm as bad as Dallas Cowboys fans with Dez Bryant's "catch" versus the Green Bay Packers a few years back. But no, I'm different, right? Because he FREAKING TRAVELED.
1. The free throws
Alright, it's 2006. This playoff series is awesome. This is literally the birth of my basketball fandom with the Washington Wizards. LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas, two of my favorite players at the time, are going at it. And many Wizards fans were in the same spot. (Despite the crab dribble in game 3).
The Wizards were down 3-2 in the series with a game 7 all but assured. With only a few seconds left and Gilbert Arenas at the line, we've got this right. Right. RIGHT!? WAIT, WHAT!? WHAT'S GOING ON.
GILBERT MISSED THE FIRST FREE THROW. Okay, it's cool. We've got another one. This is Agent Zero. He doesn't even look at game winners. He's got this.
But, wait, who's music is that?!? It's LEBRAWN. WHAT'S HE....HE'S WALKING UP TO GIL. GIL, WATCH OUT!
NO. WHY? HOW?
"If you miss both of these free throws, the game is over."
Those were the words Arenas said James muttered to him at the foul line. Those are words that still haunt every Wizards fan to this day. Those are words that ultimately were the truth and the undoing of the Wizards in their final moment of true competitiveness in the Arenas era.
Who knows what could have been? What we missed out on? What could have happened? Let's say the Wizards move on to the next round. How far do they go from there? Are they any different?
This has nothing to do with Arenas' injuries, but I can only wonder if the universe played a part in this. This was essentially James' coming out party. It was his first playoff series and he dominated. He dropped 41 on Washington and put a knife through their neck. He ended the Wizards' season and their run. The Cavs continued to knock the Wizards down year after year after year.
These free throws, those words, they will never leave me. They will always haunt me and they will always leave questions that I will never have answered. I've never felt more tormented in my life.
There you have it. Yes, it's pitiful. Yes, it's ugly. Yes, it's something that we should probably be ashamed of. But it is what it is.
The torturous, tumultuous and abusive history between the Wizards and Cavaliers has been imprinted on me and it will be for the rest of my days. And if you're a Wizards fan who paid any attention to those mid-2000's teams, you know the pain, too.
It all fell to shambles quickly after that, and the morbid truth of it all is that it feels like it was right. The Wizards served as a stepping stone to the Cavaliers, who have yet to win anything of significance, and LeBron James. So if the Cavs were to serve as a benchmark for Washington, the Wizards are failures and they still are failures.
But, so long as the Cavs don't bring home the Larry O'Brien, everything will be alright. So this June we're all Steph Curry fans.