Even in Jerusalem, Game 7 awakens strong emotions

Sunrise had passed at some point while down in the dark bar, and this new reality of the Cavaliers as NBA champions set in as the crowd spilled out onto the freshly-swept Jerusalem streets.

By JOSH SOLOMAN
June 21, 2016 00:38
3 minute read.
Mikes place

People watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Mike’s Place in Jerusalem. (photo credit: JOSH SOLOMON)

 
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For nearly four minutes of game play, the near hundred or so fans around the bar seemed to hold their collective breath.

The NBA Finals Game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors was in its final minutes. The game was all tied up at 89, with just over fourand- a-half minutes to play.

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Shot, rim, rattle, rattle, rattle – gasp...gasp...gasp – the crowd’s rhythm followed every flick of the wrist, making for a rather long four minutes in already high-intensity game.

In the center of Jerusalem, at Mike’s Place, 3 a.m. tipoff excitement turned to late-game 5 a.m. stress. And for some, at game’send, 6 a.m. tears.

Sunday night’s crowd was mostly American – the ultra-Orthodox and Yeshiva teens, the summer-abroad students, those on holiday and those who now live here. A few fans for their respective teams seemed to anchor the vocal crowd support.

Some of the ultra-Orthodox teens were from New York and therefore Knicks fans – as well as LeBron James fans – while some summer students rooted for the new-age American hero with the every-man appeal – Steph Curry – and the Warriors.

As the final minutes of the game slugged through to the slipping seconds of a standout game, which will go down as among the more epic in the long history of the Association, fans at the bar struggled to sort out their strong emotions.



Cavs’ fans forged together a “Cavs, Cavs, Cavs” cheer, before changing it to a “go Cavs go,” which would then be followed by the traditional soccer cheer of euphoria. While Warriors fans would just muster up a triumphant roar following another three-pointer.

It’s tough to ask for more than a Game 7 between the two best teams in the league, with two of the most famous and talented players, James and Curry.

What happens, though, when you create a packed bar, with standing room only after filling up before even tip-off, between mostly bandwagon fans of both sides.

This was different than watching the Super Bowl at a bar with a group of people who have no inherent rooting interest.

This is a group of more than 100 hardcore basketball fans staying up all night (or taking a couple-hour nap) to watch a game that lived up to its top billing.

By the time the game reached its final ticks, bandwagon fans became loyal fanatics.

As commercials played, the feeling of relief turned in a palpable anxiety – a nervous murmur about the action filled the packed bar.

“I gotta stand, I gotta stand man,” said one ultra-Orthodox viewer.

Kyrie Irving came out of the timeout and made a 3-pointer, for the first points by either team in nearly four minutes. The bar erupted as you might expect. Then Curry was smothered on the other side of the court, twice, to prevent the Warriors from shooting their way to another championship.

With the game over, James was on the ground crying, the couple Cleveland-natives were too in tears, and the rest of the bandwagon crowd in an American bar in Jerusalem at half-past-five in the morning, were in amazement: screaming; shock; exhaustion.

When James then took his on court interview, the hysteria was quieted by sounds of shhhhh.

These fans were looking to soak in every moment of this historic championship in this kosher sports bar thousands of miles away.

The greatest player in basketball had pulled off the seemingly impossible and finally settled the debate around his ability to win a championship in Cleveland.

Sunrise had passed at some point while down in the dark bar, and this new reality of the Cavaliers as NBA champions set in as the crowd spilled out onto the freshly-swept Jerusalem streets having bared witnesses to the grandest chapter yet in James’s legendary legacy.

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