There was a big moment – a great moment, one that those who saw it want to wrap with their hearts and hug for a long, long time – in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ home game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
It had nothing to do with the Cavs’ 124-117 victory, helping them keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
It had nothing to do with the fact they won their first game after their head coach, Tyronn Lue, stepped away for a leave of absence while he tries to correct some health issues.
It had nothing to do with the return of All-Star forward Kevin Love after missing six weeks with a broken left hand.
It had nothing to do with LeBron James leading the way with 40 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds, giving him his 16th triple-double of the season and the 71st of his career.
Actually, it had nothing to do with basketball at all.
But it did have something to do with James.
Indeed, the best moment of the night came when, during a break in the game, James walked over to the sideline and hugged former Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who was sitting at courtside. Thomas announced his retirement last Wednesday and earlier in the day on Monday had met with the Cleveland media to discuss his decision.
So James, the greatest basketball player of his era and arguably also the greatest of all-time, made it a point to pay homage to Thomas, the best left tackle of his era and one of the greatest of all-time, by giving him a warm man-hug that lasted several seconds, much to the delight of the sellout crowd. That Cleveland’s two best players of this era, and two of the best of any era, are just 26 days apart in age only added to the really cool moment.
In growing up in Akron and still living in the area, James knows about the Browns. And about Thomas. He appreciates greatness, no matter the position, or sport. He has a tremendous sense of history and those who have gone before him.
It is why, at a home game earlier this season, that James did something similar when he walked to the sideline, stood in front of Jim Brown, who was seated at courtside, and saluted the former Browns running back as if he were a regal world leader, not just the greatest football player of all-time. Brown nodded his appreciation.
That, too, was a moment that will stand the test of time in the memories of those who witnessed it.
It doesn’t get any better than that, especially in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.
Thomas is done playing. We will dearly miss him and his A-plus blocking.
Brown has been done playing for 53 years. We’ve missed him and his A-plus running ever since.
LeBron shows no signs of being done playing anytime soon. We missed him and his A-plus play the first time he left, for Miami, for four years. He might leave again this summer.
But I certainly hope he doesn’t.
Part of it, of course, is what he brings to the Cavaliers as a player. I admit that. I want to see them win, and their only chance to do that to the level we all want is if he plays.
But there’s also another reason.
It’s that I want to see more of those hug-worthy moments of his that have nothing to do with basketball.