By Ed BalintNot since the days of Jim Brown has such a sports megastar burst onto the scene of Cleveland sports. As King James enters his sixth season with the Cavaliers, fans fret he will leave his hometown team in two seasons — when he can opt out of his contract — to play under the bright lights in New York. As crazy as it might sound, Europe is another possible destination, for $50 million a year, according to media reports.
After decades of heartbreak, misery and bad luck, the departure of LeBron would land another haymaker to the midsection of Northeast Ohio sports fans. Let’s hope the gold medalist and Akron native realizes there’s no place like home. So make the trek to Quicken Loans Arena for what could be the basketball phenom’s second to last season donning a wine-and-gold uniform. The first home game is Oct. 30 against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Why LeBron James should stay in Cleveland
1. TICK OFF THE NATIONAL MEDIA
Finish your career with the Cavs and enrage the national media (who think Cleveland is undeserving of such a premiere athlete).
2. THE CLEVELAND LEBRONS?
When LeBron Jr. turns pro, the elder James can buy the Cavaliers franchise, draft his son and turn the team into a true family business.
3. TO STAY YOURSELF
LeBron can continue to wear a Yankees cap in public, tormenting Ohio sports fans for years. What fun.
4. ALL THE BLAH, BLAH, BLAHS
Spare the rest of us countless hours of depressing and futile local sports talk radio.
5. THE ENDORSEMENTS
Forget about Nike wanting James to play in a bigger market.Why risk losing the Cub Cadet endorsement deal? New York City and lawn mowers just don’t go together.
6. FOR THE SAKE OF FANS
With the disappointing start of the Browns this season, LeBron is the last, best hope to win a pro sports championship in Cleveland. (Maybe he could even play wide receiver).
7. THE SOFTBALL OHIO MEDIA
Compared to the New York media vultures, Ohio sports writers are marshmallow PEEPS (the pink ones).
8. IT MIGHT GET WORSE
The New York Knicks are so bad that Cleveland could beat them — without LeBron.
9. AVOID BEING A BOOZER
Who wants to be mentioned in the same breath as infamous Cleveland sports turncoat Carlos Boozer?
10. THE TRAFFIC
Compared to the maddening traffic of New York City, the commute from Summit County to Cleveland is a leisurely drive.
In the B.L. era (Before LeBron), tickets to Cavaliers games were not in demand. How times have changed. Last season, the Cavs sold out 33 of their 41 regular season games, ranking third in the league for attendance at 20,465 per game (Quicken Loans Arena holds 20,562). Prices range from $10 per ticket to more than $100. For information, call (800) 809-CAVS or purchase tickets on line at www.nba.com/cavaliers.
Options include season tickets, single-game tickets, group tickets and plans for select games. Another option is McFamily Night which includes four Cavaliers tickets and four McDonald’s meals for $72 ($18 per person) or $120 ($30 per person). McFamily Night packages can be purchased by calling (800) 820-CAVS, at www.cavs.com and at Ticketmaster locations. If you can’t decide which game to attend, pick one with a freebie. Promotions include a Veterans Day Cavaliers T-shirt on Nov. 11; team poster on Nov. 22; LeBron James Bobblehead on Dec. 3; Mo Williams mini-basketball on Dec. 9; and Ben Wallace wig with vintage headband on Dec. 12. For those who would rather not splurge on tickets, don’t worry. The Cavs are scheduled to make a franchise-record 34 national television appearances this season — the league maximum and a feat that was unthinkable before LeBron hit the stage.
WATCH IN STYLE
To watch the Cavs in style, check out executive suites, starting at $4,000 per game. The package includes 18 tickets, and the suites have three cable televisions, a private restroom, wet bar and other amenities; party suites start at $7,500 per game and include more of the same. Premium seating is another option, including the exclusive VIP Club.
Get ready for sensory overload. Every timeout and every break in play is greeted with music, video, Moondog the mascot and contests galore. Other attractions include the Cavaliers Girls dance team, the Cavs Kids, Cavs Crew and the Scream Team break-dancing squad. T-shirts are catapulted into the stands. Miniature basketballs are tossed to fans. Free pizzas are awarded to the section cheering loudest. And lottery tickets parachute down to lucky fans.
Cavs garb used to be cheesy. Now it’s chic, courtesy of LeBron. From California to Kentucky, kids proudly wear No. 23 jerseys. And there’s no better place to find Cavs apparel than the team shop, located at the northeast entrance of the arena. There’s plenty to pick from in the 2,600-square foot merchandise Mecca — shirts, jerseys, jackets, baby and children’s clothing, men’s and women’s clothing, hoodies, figurines, pennants, ties, hats. Items feature Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Shop online at www.cavaliersteamshop.com
ROAD TO THE Q
Most folks heading to the game from the Canton area will take Interstate 77 north, exiting at E. Ninth Street. Follow signs to either E. Ninth Street north or Ontario Street north to arena parking — the Gateway North Garage and Gateway East Garage, which cost around $15 but are both convenient. Parking lots are also available, ranging from $10 to $20.
Food choices run the gamut at Quicken Loans Arena: Burgers, hot dogs, wings, deli subs, soup, Italian sausage sandwiches, popcorn, cotton candy, nachos, soft pretzels, draft beer, soft drinks,
Cracker Jacks. A full-service Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant is inside. Fine dining is available at Bridges Restaurant. There’s also Cold Stone Creamery, DiGiorno Pizza, Dippin’ Dots Ice Cream, Panini’s, ZOUP and Candy Lady. Expect to pay $5 to $6 for a burger or sub, $4 for a decent-sized soda.
KIDS AND THE CAVS
Young children should love Moondog. Kids can craft custom signs to hold up during the game. And youngsters can get their faces painted and decorated in team colors. For babies and toddlers, strollers are allowed in the arena. Fold-up strollers should be stored under your seat. Nonfolding strollers should be checked at Guest Services on the main concourse in front of section 100. Baby changing stations are available in public restrooms at the arena.