In the Locker Room with Chris Parker

Sam Harris

This week, the Review sat down with Chris Parker, a freelance beat writer who covers the Cleveland Cavaliers and recently authored a new book, King James Brings The Land a Crown, about the Cavs’ historic 2016 championship run. In the past two seasons, Parker has traveled to all of the Cavs’ postseason games to write in-depth analyses for Cleveland Scene. Parker will be at the Oberlin Bookstore on April 27 from 1–3 p.m. for a book signing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What was your goal and what was your process [in] writing your book?

I hadn’t written a book before, so part of this was becoming an author, and I didn’t think there was a better story than the prodigal return of LeBron James. I had written for the Cleveland Scene before and contacted them for help getting credentialed. I covered all the home games, and then when the playoffs came I went to the road games as well. I did this in 2015, thinking that that was the year of the return and that they would win, but of course that did not happen. I did it again — and all of this was out of my pocket, and I didn’t get paid anything. Each game I would write a 2,500 to 3,000-word pretty in-depth post-game analysis. Some of that detail helped me create this chronological story of the Cavaliers season, which became King James Brings The Land a Crown.

This year the Cavs are off to a good start in the postseason, but as they continue, what do you think will be their biggest obstacle?

That’s a good question. During the season, one of their biggest troubles was transition defense, but it becomes less of an issue in the postseason because people play harder and there aren’t as many transition opportunities by large. So the real struggle, and a struggle they’ve had all season, is going to be stopping penetration. Can they do a good enough job keeping guys in front of them not to expose the back end of their defense? … I think that for the most part the defense is only going to improve a little. It’s kind of who they are. The thing that we have to hope for and look for as Cavs fans is how good the offense gets.

Going back to the last two seasons, what was it like covering the NBA Finals and how did the city change after they won?

Its extraordinary to see and hear LeBron James every day, because he is incredibly articulate about the game. … I think we have seen a change in who he is from when he left to when he came back. He has very much matured. I think over the last two years, he matured further and has grown in the way he deals with the press and his teammates, so that was kind of cool to see [from the] inside. Covering most of the playoffs was incredibly fun and rewarding. The Golden State [Warriors] series both years were so incredible. The first year, when they lost the first game and Kyrie [Irving] slips out of there — they had it and blew it in overtime, and everyone was kind of surprised. They didn’t think the Cavs could hang with the Warriors. And then the next two games, when they put the Warriors on their heels and Delly [Matthew Dellavedova] played himself into the hospital, it was extraordinary. It laid the foundation for what happened last year for the community. That rally, nobody expected that — [they] weren’t expected to win. … It gave us that first idea that this past year, when we got down 3–1, [we thought], “Don’t lose faith in this team. Don’t lose faith in the king.” … So many years you build up this callous [feeling] of, “Oh, we’re going to get hurt, we’re going to get hurt.” But it’s also kind of a calloused optimism. You know at some point the sun has to break through. And the fact that we had to work so hard for it made it that much more glorious.

Is LeBron James the greatest of all time?

Absolutely, absolutely. He makes other guys better around him in a way that I haven’t seen since Magic Johnson, and honestly I am hoping that they can make the Cavaliers team kind of like that “Showtime” legacy that the Lakers created.

Interview by Sam Harris