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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

LeBron James and the Cavaliers need to win it for Cleveland

Some may find it hard to root for LeBron James, but the city of Cleveland certainly deserves a championship.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Go Cleveland. Go Cavaliers. Go LeBron.

It’s the only way to go.

The NBA Finals start Thursday, and unless you are a fan of the Golden State Warriors, or perhaps a fan of Steph Curry’s adorable 2-year-old daughter, you simply must root for the Cavs.

Sorry, I know many of you will find it hard to cheer for LeBron James. He’s a little full of himself, he has been a Celtics rival for many years, and he inspires a lot of irrational hatred for a guy who never really has done anything offensive other than stage an ill-conceived media event with Jim Gray.

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This NBA Finals is not about Le-Bron. It’s not about the Splash Brothers or Andre Iguodala or Al Attles or the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s not about Steve Kerr, David Blatt, Kyrie Irving, or winning it all without Kevin Love.

This is about Cleveland and the longest championship drought in American professional sports.

It’s been 51 years, folks. Fifty-one years. More than a half-century.

Here in Boston, we’ve never known what this is like. Back in the olden days, the Hub went through a 16-year championship drought between the 1941 Bruins and the 1957 Celtics. More recently, we went from 1986 (Celtics) to 2001 (Patriots), and you all know what happened after the Patriots got that first one in New Orleans.

We’ve had nine Duck Boat parades in this century. We had all four teams win championships within a period of six years and four months. No city ever will do that again.

Meanwhile, Cleveland waits . . . for more than a half-century. All it wants is one.

The last time Cleveland was Titletown was in 1964 when brainy quarterback Frank Ryan and all-world running back Jim Brown led the Browns to victory in the NFL Championship game against the Baltimore Colts. The first Super Bowl was not played until 1967. The Browns have never been in the Super Bowl — unless you count the Ravens, who moved to Baltimore from Cleveland.

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Since Cleveland no longer has an NHL team, this is about the Browns, the Indians, and the Cavaliers.

Folks in Cleveland love their football. The telecast of the first night of the 2015 NFL Draft got its highest rating in Cleveland. Fans are starved for a good team, or just a measly playoff game. They get nothing. They get Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer, Colt McCoy, Brady Quinn, and Tim (I should be watching from my) Couch.

The Browns had some good days in 1979 and 1980. That season they were close to winning a playoff game at home when Brian Sipe was intercepted by Oakland’s Mike Davis.

That was only the beginning of the Browns’ torture. They dropped back-to-back AFC Championship games to the Broncos in the 1986 and 1987 seasons. The first one was lost on a field goal in overtime after John Elway drove the Broncos 98 yards in the closing seconds to tie it. The second one was lost when Browns running back Earnest Byner fumbled near the goal line on the way to the potential tying touchdown. Instantly, Byner was Cleveland’s Bill Buckner. But unlike Buckner, Byner never found redemption because the Browns never got back to the championship circle.

The Indians are forever the Indians and they haven’t won a World Series since 1948 when they beat the Boston Braves. In 1997, the Tribe took a one-run lead into the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, but reliever Jose Mesa blew that lead and the Series eventually was won by a 5-year-old franchise, the Florida Marlins. There was something quite unfair about that. Greater Miami does not have any long-suffering baseball fans. Cleveland has millions of fans (they once sold out 455 consecutive games at Jacobs Field) who’ve been waiting for the Tribe to deliver a World Series win. On it goes. Today’s Indians have the great Terry Francona, but not much payroll, not enough talent, and an often-empty ballpark.

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So it is left to the basketball team to win Cleveland’s championship. The Cavaliers made it to the Finals in 2007 but were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. The Cavs are heavy underdogs again. It’s the best team vs. the best player.

LeBron couldn’t do it alone in 2007, but I’m hoping he can this time. He needs to do it in the name of $3 PBRs at Flannery’s on East 4th and Prospect, in the name of Rocky Colavito, in the name of Cleveland native Jesse Owens. The Cavs need to win one for Cleveland in the name of Papa Tito Francona, who couldn’t get it done as an outfielder with the Indians in the 1960s; in the name of Bill Fitch, who couldn’t get it done as coach of the Cavaliers; in the name of Bill Belichick, who couldn’t get it done as coach of the Browns. Win just one for Byner, Mesa, and Craig Ehlo — who was guarding Michael Jordan when Jordan’s iconic jumper knocked a good Cavaliers team out of the playoffs in 1989. Win one for Jim Chones, who broke his foot when the Cavs were set to win in 1976. Win one for the late Bill Veeck, who owned the 1948 Tribe team that won the World Series. Win one for Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Omar Vizquel, Romeo Crennel, and Bingo Smith.

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Cleveland needs this. Go Cavs.


Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.