Following the King to victory

Himansh Bhatnagar /IC

Himansh Bhatnagar /IC

Sam Williams, Sports Editor

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What does it take to become a champion? Ask Chris Parker, a Cleveland-area writer who followed the championship run of the Cleveland Cavaliers and was there for every hardship, challenge and victory along the way.

Parker visited the University of Toledo Barnes and Noble bookstore last Thursday, March 23, to promote his new book, “King James Brings the Land a Crown,” a chronicle of the Cleveland Cavaliers and their journey to the 2015-2016 National Basketball Association Championship game.

Parker has been a writer for more than 20 years, covering stories for Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, AVClub and NPR. Most of these stories have featured music and entertainment, but the experience gave him the eye to spot an important story the moment LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland in “The Letter.”

“I looked at this as the greatest prodigal son story ever,” Parker said. “The classic biblical story of the son who goes away to make his fortune and then comes back home a changed person, appreciating the place where he has left, and that’s kind of what the letter was like.”

Parker wrote for the entire basketball season as a beat reporter for the Cleveland Cavaliers, meaning he was along for the ride every step of the way. Parker had written a piece for every game of the regular season and the playoffs but wanted to give the book a fresh perspective.

“I didn’t recycle material,” he said. “I rewrote everything, but I was able to read my old columns, which were very in-depth themselves, and be able to remember and revisit that for myself, and then to be able to recreate it. It was very important for me to try and recreate the feeling of the season.”

The book starts with the Cavaliers’ loss in the previous year’s finals to the Golden State Warriors and chronicles every detail a hardcore NBA fan would want to know about the championship run.

“By telling it as in-depth as I did, I wanted to create those little moments because all through the season there are these little moments where one guy or another is helping the team out, especially in the playoffs,” Parker said.

Parker tells the story from a different perspective than a fan at home or a fan at the game, recounting moments that happened in the locker room or a player’s emotions after a game. Parker recounts some memorable locker room experiences in the book.

“I think that, being in there in the locker room, you get a different sense,” Parker said. “I won’t forget looking into James Jones’ eyes when they went down 3-1 because they blew Game Four. And he was saying, ‘We’re going to come back.’”

These emotional moments are often unseen by sports fans who simply watch the game, so having Parker incorporate those experiences into his writing gives the fans a deeper understanding of the players and the raw emotion behind the game.

The Cavaliers’ title was the first Cleveland title won in 52 years, ending a dizzying streak that resonated with the whole of Ohio.

“It was a spiritual thing almost, for the entire area,” Parker said “I know that [LeBron James] was capable of doing it. I just felt that he was going to do this thing that he promised.”

Although the book focuses on sports, Parker’s background as a music writer bleeds into the seams, showing the deep connection sports has with popular culture as a whole.

“I think younger people are more in tune with sports as part of the bigger pop culture, maybe because hip-hop and sports and politics and pop culture are all kind of seamless now,” Parker said. “People who maybe weren’t already into music aren’t as clued into that as people who are in the youth culture.”

Parker recounts the Cavaliers’ title as one of the most memorable experiences of his career but not the most memorable. That title would go to the time Parker spent time with David Bowie and the late pop star nodded in approval at Parker.

“As far as anything else, David Bowie gave me his approbation,” Parker said.

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Following the King to victory