Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The NBA Finals is a Homecoming for ESPN's Jay Crawford

Chris McKendry and Jay Crawford broadcasting from East Fourth Street in November.
Photo by Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images
On Oct. 26, 1997, Jay Crawford joined dozens of media members outside the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium. The Tribe had just lost the seventh game of the World Series to the Florida Marlins and what happened next was brutal to watch. ”They went in and ripped down all the plastic that had been put up and brought out all the cases of Champagne,” says ESPN’s Crawford, who was covering the series for WBNS-TV in Columbus. “Then they brought out all of the Cleveland championship T-shirts and caps, which are probably being worn by kids in third world countries right now.”  

Once again, a title is in the balance … along with the possibility of yet another soul-crushing defeat. The Sandusky native and Bowling Green State University graduate will join Chris McKendry on today’s noon-2:30 p.m edition of SportsCenter, live from East Fourth Street. With Game 6 tonight, the self-proclaimed Cavs fan gives us a much-needed pep talk. 

The LeBron James story has eyeballs on it from all over the country. This is the culmination of what would be a great coming home story. It’s as dominant a performance by one player as I’ve ever seen in basketball. His triple-doubles alone really set him apart from anyone else. Even when he’s not shooting well, he can still impose his will in so many ways. I really believe he’s the best all-around player ever.

This would have been a much different series with Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin [Love]. Take away two of the best three players from Golden State or any other team, and let me know how that works out. I think the Cavs actually have a better defense right now — the problem is there aren’t a lot of scoring options available other than LeBron. Never before in the history of the NBA Finals has a team missing two of its top three scorers won a game, no less two games.

For me, there’s no better place to do a show than Cleveland. There’s so much energy from the fans. I know what they’ve been through. It’s always been us against the world. This [team] is a great representation of our city right now. They wear the personality of the place these fans call home. The people here know what a hard day’s work is about.

This could be the latest chapter in a book of sports tragedies. I would say this would be right there with the 1997 Indians. Who am I picking in Game 6? I’m going Cavs. It’s not in my DNA to pick against them. I think they can draw some energy from the crowd. And if it goes to seven games, anything can happen.    — as told to Barry Goodrich

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