Fan Hall of Fame: The Fans of Cleveland

It was a celebration 52 years in the making.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched the NBA championship last week, you could practically feel the emotion emanating from the long-suffering fan base. After 52 years without a pro sports championship, victory finally came — and how sweet it was.

Want proof of what this meant to the city's fans? How about the 1.3 million people who lined the streets for the Cavs' championship parade — that's more than three times the population of the entire city. Many of them arrived the night before and camped out to get a prime spot. They even broke the NBA's online store sales record for championship merchandise.

Just look at these people: the joy, the relief, even the strangeness of finally coming out on top. It's a beautiful thing, no matter where you're from. (OK, if you're a Golden State fan, maybe it's not quite that beautiful.) And it finally happened for a city's fan base that's remained extraordinarily loyal during year after year of letdown.

So this week's induction into the Fan Hall of Fame goes to the entire Cleveland fan base. You've earned it — through your decades of loyalty and your unbridled show of support and excitement in the week since the championship was clinched.

Just what did this win mean for Cleveland's sports fans? This fan summed it up best:

I'm from Cleveland. People from Cleveland know not to get ahead of themselves. We know what it's like to lose. We know what it's like to be mocked. Those things never stop us, though; we're just better equipped to ride the ups and the downs than most other fans. This is Cleveland's first major sports championship since 1964.

June 19, 2016, epitomizes the beauty of sports — their power to unite, distract and inspire. There's always a winner and there's always a home team to crawl back to and love, despite everything. For the first time in my lifetime, Cleveland is both. I needed it. So did an entire city and beyond.

Congrats, Cleveland. Enjoy it.

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