Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Game 7, LeBron and a kid I know named Ben

Honestly feel like crying tears of joy right now

Editor's note: Two of us comprise LadySwish and we always write as a "we." Deviating today for this personal post written by the female half of this blog.

Sports has given me many gifts. I've loved writing about it since middle school; I started watching it as a tot growing up in Redskin territory. It's no surprise that my kids followed suit. Older son Harry is a sports and recreation management major at James Madison, a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan like his dad and tsk, tsk, he prefers the Colts to any NFL team. He's a heckuva athlete himself; younger brother Ben is, too.

But Ben has spent much of his 15 years beating to his own tune, the rare teen who wants no part in being cool to fit in with some group. He has a comfort level in his own skin that you don't find in most of his peers. In fact, I've always said his manner of carrying himself is the true definition of what cool really is. Like Harry, he adopted the Colts but is bored by baseball and doesn't have much patience for college football. While the pair grew up at Lady Monarch basketball games, much to my chagrin, they don't follow women's basketball anymore with the same passion as I do, though they have an education about the game that none of their friends comes close to matching.

And then there's the NBA. They both like it; Ben loves it. He is immersed in it in a way that a gambling man identifies with a racing form. He's a rules expert, knows the roster moves and their implications and frequently rolls his eyes at what he considers often inane commentary from the booth.

Ben idolizes LeBron. Not sure when it started. Not sure why. But the fathead in his room speaks to his oversized admiration for No. 23.

As a D.C. native, I didn't grow up watching the NBA -- the Bullets, which the Wizards were called way back when, produced no rooting interest in my household. From afar, I'd dismiss the league as a bunch of overpaid guys who traveled on multiple possessions. It was a season that came and went year after year little scrutiny from me.

But Ben watched religiously, and after a while, I joined him on the couch for Miami Heat games. I didn't know much about the other teams, but watching Wade and Bosh and Chalmers and LeBron became a familiar routine. I was alongside him when Ray Allen drained that improbable 3 in Game 6, and I would sit still for the video over and over when he'd insist on one more playback.

For Christmas a few years ago, I bought Heat/Wizards tix and took him to his first game. I spent weeks worried that some freak injury would sideline LeBron, but nothing of the sort happened and while we weren't as close as I would have liked, Ben spied LeBron in person.

Then, of course, came The Decision and LeBron headed home to Cleveland.

A stubborn kid, Ben wouldn't admit that it was pretty crushing at the time. He identified with that Miami team and wasn't invested initially with the idea of LeBron heading home to win one for the Cavaliers. I wasn't either. I liked LeBron in a Heat jersey and couldn't warm up to this Cavaliers bunch.

But over the last two years, just as I educated myself for the sake of my son about the Heat, I began to soak up all that is Cleveland. Ben never exactly called himself a Cleveland fan, noting instead he was a LeBron fan, but the constant adulation about Curry grew old on him as did ESPN's Curry crawl. When the playoffs came, he like the rest of the nation seemed to accept the road to a Golden State coronation.

Two games in, a Golden State sweep seemed possible, maybe likely. Down 3-1, even a magnificent game by King James seemed too late. Even after Game 6, Ben couldn't bring himself to get too pumped and nor could I for him. The odds of the Warriors losing again at home in this series seemed as unlikely as, well, a traveling call in the NBA.

We didn't watch Game 7 together. One of the things you accept as a parent is as your children grow, your company is replaced by that of their peers, and that's the way it's supposed to be. So while he was a few miles away with his bro and friends, I found myself following the game with the same fervor I once reserved for Joe Gibbs' Redskins.

I wanted the Cavs to score every trip down the floor. I want the Warriors to miss every trip down the floor. I kept telling myself Draymond Green would come down to earth. Every Curry 3 made me cringe. Kyrie's final 3 lifted me in the same way as an Art Monk touchdown used to. The LeBron block -- no words.

When Curry missed his final shot, I realized the Cavs were going to deliver the storybook ending for my kid. I pictured Ben, who unlike his brother, rarely asks for much, and I could feel the exuberance pumping through every vein in him. I sent him a text: "I am SO happy for you," and I didn't need a reply. A few minutes later when he walked in the door, he had a look of unbridled joy that nothing is going to erase any time soon.

Monday when I came home from work, he was curled up in a chair watching Game 7 minus the anxiety of the night before, and still beaming, too, I might add.

Sports has given me many gifts. This is one of its greatest. The championship is great for the city of Cleveland, but I wanted it for Ben. You have no idea when you become a parent where your kids will take you -- oh, the places you'll go. You figure out what love is -- wanting something for someone else actually more than you could have ever wanted it for yourself.

Enjoy this, B. LeBron might be carrying the trophy, but this one's for you.

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