The NBA Finals begin Thursday, and the Cavaliers will again look to end Cleveland’s championship drought.
It’s been nearly 52 years since Cleveland won a title in any of North America’s four major pro sports. That was on Dec. 27, 1964, when the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts to win the NFL championship.
Entering the NBA Finals, there have been 146 major-pro sports seasons completed in Cleveland since it last won a league championship, the longest active drought by any U.S. city.
For reference, the following teams were included for each of the above cities:
• Cleveland: Browns (NFL), Indians (MLB), Cavaliers (NBA), Barons (NHL)
• San Diego: Chargers (NFL), Padres (MLB), Rockets and Clippers (NBA)
• Buffalo: Bills (NFL), Braves (NBA), Sabres (NHL)
The Cleveland teams have completed the following seasons since the last title: Indians 51, Browns 48, Cavaliers 45 and Barons two.
By the numbers
A by-the-numbers look at Cleveland’s professional sports anguish:
• 45 – The Cavaliers have played 45 seasons without winning an NBA title (this excludes the current 2015-16 season). Only the Phoenix Suns (48) and the Los Angeles Clippers (46) have completed more NBA seasons without winning a championship.
• 4 – The Browns are one of four teams never to have reached the Super Bowl, and two of them -- the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans -- joined the NFL in the last 25 years (the Detroit Lions are the other). The Browns haven’t won a playoff game since Jan. 1, 1995 (a 1994 wild-card playoff game against the New England Patriots).
• 67 – The Indians have completed 67 seasons since last winning the World Series in 1948 (they lost the World Series in 1954, 1995 and 1997). That is the longest active drought in the American League and the second-longest in the majors to the Chicago Cubs’ 107 years.
Memorable heartbreaking losses
Cleveland sports fans have experienced a lot of heartbreak in the last half century, but a few moments really stand out.
• Jan. 11, 1987: The Drive – Broncos defeat Browns in AFC Championship Game:
The Browns led 20-13 with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter before John Elway led the Broncos 98 yards to tie the score with 31 seconds to play. After the Browns went three-and-out to begin overtime, Denver won 23-20 on a field goal.
• Jan. 17, 1988: The Fumble – Broncos defeat Browns in AFC Championship Game:
With his team trailing 38-31 with 1:12 to play, Browns running back Earnest Byner took a handoff and appeared to be heading for the end zone before he was stripped at the 3-yard line. The Broncos recovered, and after they took an intentional safety, Denver held on to win 38-33.
• May 7, 1989: The Shot – Bulls defeat Cavaliers in Game 5 of Eastern Conference first round:
The Cavaliers led the Bulls 100-99 after Craig Ehlo scored on a driving layup with three seconds to play. After a timeout, Michael Jordan took the inbound pass and hit a soaring jumper over Ehlo at the buzzer to win the game and the series.
• Oct. 26, 1997: Marlins defeat Indians in Game 7 of World Series:
The Indians led the Marlins 2-1 entering the ninth inning, but closer Jose Mesa blew the save opportunity, giving up a sacrifice fly by Craig Counsell. The teams remained deadlocked until the 11th inning, when Counsell -- who reached on an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez -- scored the winning run on a single by Edgar Renteria.
Wait, there’s more
Here are some other notable soul-crushing moments in Cleveland’s sports history.
• Sept. 29, 1954: “The Catch” – With two men on and Game 1 of the World Series tied, 2-2, in the eighth inning, Giants center fielder Willie Mays memorably tracked down a Vic Wertz drive to deep center field with his back to the infield. New York won the game in extra innings and swept the series in four games. The Indians won a franchise-record 111 games during the regular season.
• Jan, 4, 1981: “Red Right 88” – Browns lost to the Raiders 14-12 in the AFC divisional playoffs after throwing an interception on the 13-yard line with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.
• May 17, 1993 –Jordan clinched a sweep of the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a game-winning jumper at the buzzer over Gerald Wilkins.
• Oct. 28, 1995 – The Indians were ousted in Game 6 of the World Series by the Atlanta Braves after they were an MLB-best 100-44 during the regular season. That was baseball’s best record since 1954 at the time.
• Oct. 11, 1999 – The Indians lost in Game 5 of the division series, blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Red Sox.
• Oct. 11, 2007 – A 3-1 series lead in the AL Championship Series is wasted as the Indians lost to the Red Sox in seven games.
• May 30, 2009 – The Cavaliers are eliminated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals by the Orlando Magic after winning a franchise-record 66 games during the regular season. LeBron James won his first Most Valuable Player award that season.
• July 8, 2010: “The Decision” – James broke hearts in northeast Ohio when he announced that he would leave the Cavaliers after seven seasons and join the Miami Heat.
• Oct. 2, 2013: - The Indians were shut out at home by the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL wild-card game after Cleveland won 92 games in Terry Francona’s first season as manager. The Indians were the first team shut out in the a wild-card game.