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NBA: Cleveland toasts end of long wait

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CLEVELAND (AFP) – Downtown Cleveland was a sea of wine and gold Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of jubilant fans gave a hero’s welcome to NBA superstar LeBron James and his Cavaliers teammates.

The team brought home the city’s first major sports title in more than 50 years – since the Browns took the National Football League title in 1964 – ending the longest such drought for any American city.

Confetti in the team’s colors rained down as the parade snaked through the city, with the NBA championship trophy in a black pickup truck and team members traveling in separate vehicles.

The Cavaliers, led by series MVP James, pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, winning Game 7 on Sunday 93-89 to complete an improbable rally from a 3-1 deficit to take the title.

Many fans wore team jerseys – 23 for James or 2 for Kyrie Irving were the most popular – and waved team flags, some of them dancing with joy.

James – who turned in a performance for the ages in the Finals, sealing his place in the pantheon of the sport’s greats – stood atop the convertible in which he was traveling, extending his arms to the crowd.

“King’’ James also documented the festivities with his smartphone, while Irving hopped off his pickup truck, high-fiving fans and gesturing to the crowd.

In a moment filled with symbolism at Wednesday’s post-parade rally, James accepted the MVP trophy from Jim Brown, a legendary running back who helped the Browns win in 1964.

“What’s going on right now is still unreal,’’ James said.

“I heard a lot of ‘Thank You, LeBron,’’’ James said. “You guys should be thanking all the guys up here to be honest,’’ he said, pointing to his teammates.

James averaged NBA Finals highs of 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists and led the way with more than two steals and blocked shots a game as well – not to mention his pinpoint passing and defensive swagger.

In an interview during the parade, James told ESPN he had no plans to leave Cleveland next season.