If you thought the 2012 NBA Finals was a struggle between the Thunder and the Heat, you don't understand sports politics.
Off the court, a proxy series is playing out between basketball fans in Cleveland and Seattle, who for better or worse find themselves cheering for losses more so than wins.
Yes, the sweet bitterness of a jilted lover still runs deep in two metros spurned in separate ways by the drama that comes with professional sports.
“I am sure that outside of Oklahoma the biggest fan club for the Thunder is in northeast Ohio,” said Mark Hazen, a building inspector who lives near Cleveland. “Everybody I know is rooting for the Thunder because they're playing LeBron.”
While the Cavaliers remain the local fave, the No. 2 spot on most Ohioans' list rotates as quickly as Miami's schedule. Last year, when the Heat played Dallas Mavericks for the championship, they called themselves the ‘Mavaliers.' This time around they're just satisfied with “LeBron haters.”
For those not familiar with the story: James, who won his third MVP this season, was a hometown boy when he was drafted by the Cavaliers and promised to bring them a title. He almost did so, but after a consecutive streak of playoff appearances he left in superstar fashion for Miami in 2010.
“It is not so much that LBJ left town but how he did it, by embarrassing us on national TV in the most narcissistic promotional event the NBA has ever seen,” said Jon Harris, a finance manager for a Cleveland real estate company. “He can go win his MVP awards, but we hope he never wins a title in Miami.”
Anti-LeBron fervor has spawned several new logos, which have quickly hit the local T-shirt market. One features the letters OKCLE, with the letters sharing Thunder and Cavalier colors and the slogan “Won't steal your Thunder. Only borrowing it” underneath.
“There's always people who make comments like, ‘Get over it,' but from our standpoint we're having fun with it,” said the shirt's designer, George Vlosich of GV Art & Design. “We're rooting for you guys.”