CC, Yanks take in Magic-Cavs Game 5
Sabathia, A-Rod, Rivera watch Cleveland stay alive
CLEVELAND -- CC Sabathia hasn't forgotten looking into the stands during the 2007 American League Division Series at Progressive Field and seeing his buddy, LeBron James, sporting a Yankees cap.
The former Indians left-hander had a chance to return the slight on Thursday, as Sabathia led a contingent of Yankees players and personnel to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between James' Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic.
"I actually was going to send him a text and maybe buy an Orlando hat, since he wore a Yankees hat to our playoff game," Sabathia said.
The tickets, Sabathia chuckled, were not left to him by James. But having ties to the Tribe helped Sabathia's case in creating another memorable group outing for his teammates -- Sabathia enlisted public relations director Jason Zillo to assist with lining up two seating blocks for the contest.
Along with Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano were in the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. And James did not disappoint, putting up a triple-double (37 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists) in Cleveland's 112-102 win. The Cavs now trail the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
"This city is starving for a champion," Sabathia told TNT's Craig Sager during an interview. "They got the right cast to get it done. They just have to overcome this small little mountain."
The jockeying for prime position began on Wednesday in Arlington, when Sabathia began taking names of interested parties for the contest. As Sabathia discussed plans for the outing with reporters, Joba Chamberlain playfully interjected, "You got an extra ticket for me?"
Sabathia organized field trips during Spring Training to attend Magic games in Orlando, sitting courtside as teammates like A.J. Burnett, Brian Bruney, Chamberlain and Chien-Ming Wang kicked back after their afternoon workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"I saw the Magic in Spring Training, and the Warriors are my team," Sabathia said. "I went to a lot of Cavs games while I was there. I just like the NBA. Whatever city I'm in, if they've got a basketball team, I'm going to show up a lot."
Sabathia said that he is excited to be back in Cleveland, but it remains to be seen how the city's sports fans will feel about it. At some point Thursday, the camera at Quicken Loans Arena could pan to Sabathia, and he doesn't know what kind of reception to expect.
"My wife [Amber] was all over me -- she said I should wear a hat or a mask or something," Sabathia said. "I'm sure there will be some cheers. Maybe some boos. We'll see."
Sabathia is not the only Yankees link to the NBA game. Right-hander Brett Tomko planned to attend, and the Euclid, Ohio, product told reporters that he planned to purchase Cavs merchandise at the game.
Tomko's father, Jerry, gave the Cavaliers their nickname when he trumped more than 11,000 entries in a write-in contest in the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in 1970. Jerry Tomko's winning entry read in part, "The name Cleveland Cavaliers represents a group of daring, fearless men whose life's pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds."
Tomko was born three years later in Cleveland, but was raised in Southern California, so he doesn't quite share his parents' unwavering passion for the city's sports teams.
"Even though I'm a Lakers fan, I'm a closet Cavs fan in the back of my heart," he said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.