Hundreds of thousands of fans packed downtown Cleveland on Wednesday to celebrate alongside LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers with a parade honoring the team after the city’s first major professional sports title in 52 years.
The parade began outside Quicken Loans Arena before ending at the downtown Mall as fans spilled into streets along the 1.3-mile route.
The Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, beating the defending champion Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 on Sunday night and ending the championship drought in Cleveland.
Fans, wearing Cavaliers T-shirts and carrying signs, were screaming, cheering and crying. One poster read: “LeBron For Prez.”
The parade featured the players, 60 floats and the Ohio State University marching band, with James and Kyrie Irving riding in Rolls-Royce sedans.
The parade began with a truck spraying confetti into the crowd and was followed by Ohio State coaches Urban Meyer and Thad Matta and the Buckeyes’ marching band.
James, who delivered on a vow to his home state two years ago to bring the city a championship, also will be honored with a rally in his hometown of Akron on Thursday. He was unanimous Finals MVP after averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists during the series.
James, who can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer, said he wants to stay with the Cavaliers.
“I love it here in Cleveland. I have no intentions of leaving,” James told ESPN during the parade. “There are some technicalities to take care of I’ll leave up to my agent. That’s right from the horse’s mouth.”
James completed the second year of his return to Cleveland after leaving the Miami Heat. He will likely turn down the $24 million option to try to get a long-term, more lucrative deal in Cleveland.
The Cavs’ first NBA title is the first by a Cleveland major sports team since the Jim Brown-led Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. The Hall of Fame running back rode in a float during the parade.
Also representing the Browns of the past were former quarterback Bernie Kosar and running back Earnest Byner, whose infamous 1988 AFC Championship Game fumble in Denver was a part of keeping the Browns from making their first Super Bowl.
The Cavs returned home with the Larry O’Brien Trophy and received a hero’s welcome when they stepped off the plane in Cleveland on Monday afternoon. More than 20,000 fans greeted the team.