Picture an airplane hangar with its doors open, a large American flag hanging from the rafters and a hulking C-17 cargo plane parked right outside. Add to that picture a basketball court inside the hangar and an NBA team running up and down.
That was the scene Sunday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as the Cleveland Cavaliers brought their Wine and Gold Scrimmage to the Miami Valley.
The Cavaliers flew out of Cleveland on Sunday morning, landed at the base and jumped on a bus to tour the facility and then have lunch with airmen.
“This is the ultimate team, the Armed Forces is the ultimate team,” Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “Just to see how they do things and how they come together as one unit was big for us to see today.”
The Cavs front office initiated the idea of a scrimmage on the base several months ago. They shipped their game floor down from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to stage the workout in front of 1,300 airmen and base employees
“This is the coolest thing we’ve ever done,” Cleveland General Manager Koby Altman said. “Our guys are getting way more out of it that the Air Force base but we’re going to try and re-pay them with a scrimmage.”
The players seemed to enjoy the unique experience. When they arrived at the hanger most of them walked onto the court and took photos of the most unusual “arena” they’d ever played in.
“The size of this place is impressive,” Cavs forward Kevin Love said. “Just being able to see everything first hand … it’s just very, very impressive the things that we saw today.”
The defending Eastern Conference champions return several familiar faces from a year ago with one notable exception. LeBron James left via free agency for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the Cavs need to go out and cultivate some new fans.
“We’re in a new chapter, a new challenge,” Altman said. “What’s interesting and the synergy between us and the Air Force is we want to be fast, we want to be efficient, we want to be smart, we want to be cutting edge and that’s everything this base has.”
The event offered a number of things you don’t see at an NBA event. Fans got to mingle with the players while they were being taped up before the game. Lue rebounded for kids that he encouraged to come out of the crowd and onto the court to take some shots.
“I told my Mom, that’s the head coach,” Staff Sgt. Nicole Patterson said after she came out and drained a three-point shot. “That’s pretty cool that he was out here with everybody.”
Although nothing was promised, both sides admitted the relationship between the Cavaliers and WPAFB is something they would like to continue in the future.
“This is a day where everybody wins,” Col. Thomas Sherman said. “This is a day where Wright-Patterson wins, this is a day where the community wins and this is a day that the Cavs win.”