CLEVELAND (AP) -Cavaliers legend Austin Carr got teary-eyed the night the franchise won the right to draft LeBron James.
``A lot of people tease me about that,'' Carr said. ``I just felt when we got LeBron our fortunes were about to turn.''
He couldn't have been more right.
In four seasons, James went from the local high school sensation to the NBA star who transformed a 17-win team into Eastern Conference champions, taking the Cavaliers to their first finals.
For Carr and other former Cavaliers, this unprecedented postseason run is the next best thing to doing it themselves, and it's an accomplishment that can't be lessened by San Antonio's 3-0 lead entering Game 4 on Thursday night.
``Things are not going as well as we would have anticipated,'' said Campy Russell, who led the Cavaliers in scoring three straight years in the late '70s. ``But I think everybody has enjoyed the ride. At this point, we have to at least win a game and not let those guys celebrate on our home court.''
Russell, the team's director of alumni relations, says former Cavaliers such as Jim Chones, Dwight Davis, Clarence ``Foots'' Walker and Bobby ``Bingo'' Smith were to attend Game 4.
They all suffered through some tough times with the franchise putting together just three winning seasons in its first 17 years.
Carr, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1971, joined the franchise in its second year and has waited a lifetime for the Cavaliers to reach the finals.
``It's meant a lot because this is my life,'' Carr said. ``I've been competing against the other NBA cities for a long time. To have an opportunity to get back on the top and hopefully stay there for a while is a good feeling.''
Carr and Russell were part of the ``Miracle of Richfield'' season in 1975-76, when the Cavaliers won 49 games, a division title and defeated the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
``During the 'Miracle' year, a half hour before the game they were going 'Let's go Cavs,''' Carr said of the Richfield Coliseum crowd. ``We were like the first girlfriend. It was something new to the whole basketball community.''
Then Chones, the team's leading scorer, broke his foot in practice before the conference finals against Boston.
The Cavaliers lost to the Celtics and didn't win another playoff series until 1992, a run that ended with a loss to Chicago in the conference finals.
That was three years after Michael Jordan made ``The Shot,'' which knocked the Cavaliers out of the playoffs in the first round in 1989.
``That was the one thing that broke our backs,'' said Craig Ehlo, who defended Jordan on the infamous play. ``I still get asked about it when I go back to Cleveland.''
Ehlo, who lives in Spokane, Wash., has been watching the playoffs with his family, enjoying every minute, and is happiest for the fans back in Cleveland.
``It just brought that town a lot of fun and joy,'' Ehlo said.
Carr, director of business and community development for the Cavaliers, has been a little closer to the action.
``It sort of feels like I'm a part of it even though I don't play anymore,'' Carr said. ``Before every game I've got a jittery stomach.''
The Cavaliers have looked like the newcomers they are in the finals, running up against a more experienced Spurs team.
But Cavaliers veterans say that hasn't cheapened the season.
``I don't think any of the accomplishments have been diminished at all,'' Russell said. ``You're in the finals. You are a young team. With guys that are determined with a young coach.''
For an organization that entered the season with more retired jerseys (6) than championship banners - just one, a Central Division title from the ``Miracle'' season - adding one at the start of next season will generate a lot of pride.
``That is something that will be definitely cherished,'' Carr said. ``There will be another banner and what I like about the new banner - it's a step forward from what we did to what they did.''
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