BONITA SPRINGS — On Monday, Tim O’Malley had a little extra smile on his face as he greeted his regulars sitting at the bar of Johnny Malloy’s Sports Pub, the Ohio-themed sports bar in Bonita Springs that he has owned for the last eight years.
There was a little extra pep in his step as he delivered hot wings from the kitchen while Smash Mouth’s cover of the Monkees’ classic “I’m A Believer” blared from the jukebox.
The Ohio native who grew up 15 minutes from downtown Cleveland had waited his entire life for Monday. Thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 93-89 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, O’Malley can say he is a fan of a championship team from Cleveland.
It was the first major sports title for the city of Cleveland since 1964.
“I had to pinch myself this morning because I can’t really believe that it’s here,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. It is a great day to be from Cleveland.”
O’Malley has plans to return to Cleveland this summer to stock up on championship swag he can display in his bar.
“I’m definitely going to show off now,” he said. “It’s our turn.”
O’Malley even broke out his replica LeBron James jersey that was spared from a fiery fate after James made his decision to take his talents from Cleveland to South Beach in 2010. Instead, the jersey sat in the back of his closet for the past seven years, another reminder of Cleveland’s futility when it came to sports.
“I’m 47 so I grew up through ‘The Drive’ and ‘The Fumble’ and ‘Red Right 88’ and, my biggest disappointment, when the Indians lost the World Series to the Marlins,” said O’Malley, referring to the Browns coming up short in the playoffs three separate times. “I lived through it all.”
That made the title win — after being down 3-1 in the series — all the more satisfying for O’Malley and what he calls “a very loyal contingent” of Cleveland fans in Southwest Florida.
According to O’Malley, Johnny Malloy’s was “slammed” by Cavaliers fans for the final game on Sunday to watch James’ MVP performance of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
“My beer vendor was amazed by how much beer we sold (Sunday) night,” O’Malley joked.
It wasn’t the only place in Southwest Florida that was supporting the Cavs. The Naples Browns Backers fan club held their official watch party at Bokamper’s Bar and Grill in North Naples on Sunday.
“The whole bar was yelling ‘Go Cavs,'” club president John Meehan said. “There were a few Warriors voices, but mostly it was fans cheering for Cleveland. It was great to be there with all the other Cleveland fans when it happened. To see the look in their eyes, everyone was hugging and crying.”
By the time Kyrie Irving made the go-ahead basket with 53 seconds left in the game, the whole bar was at a fever pitch.
“The game was so close, it was nail-biting,” Meehan said. “As a Cleveland fan, you kind of expect the worst. But we pulled it off. I still can’t believe it.”
About J. Scott Butherus
Multimedia journalist J. Scott Butherus is an award-winning sports writer and videographer and slightly above-mediocre photographer who covers spring training for the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, the Fort Myers Miracle, outdoors and fishing, PrepZone, and Florida Gulf Coast University. In his spare time, he wrestles sharks and is a career .827 hitter for the company softball team.