The 2016 NBA Champion, Cleveland Cavaliers are a tight bunch of a guys.
With a trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, their level of cohesiveness was once on display when they got stuck on an Amtrak train from Philaelphia with YES Network play-by-play broadcaster, Ian Eagle.
“It was Thanksgiving Week of that season when they ultimately won the title,” recounted Eagle while on Heavy Live With Scoop B.
“There was a confluence of events that led to that moment; I ended up taking the train back from a Baltimore Ravens game. Normally I would drive or find some mode of transportation. I’m not a huge train guy but, that was the most convenient way to get back. I got on the train, there was literally nobody on the train when I got on; I put my bag down in an area thinking I would have two seats to myself and then the conductor came by and said, ‘Hey look, if you don’t mind could you take an individual seat because we’re expecting a large party on…’ I said, “Yeah. No problem.” So I moved over to a single seat, we stopped in Delaware…nothing. I’m still sitting there and there’s maybe a smattering of seven people on the train. When I get to Philly I’m watching something on my device and I look up, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are getting on the train one by one. They’re getting on and it’s Richard Jefferson, it’s Chris Andersen, it’s Kevin Love… [laughs] all of ‘em just getting on – LeBron and I’m like ‘What is going on here?’ So I’m just sitting there. Richard is sitting in the front of the train, so I didn’t want to bother him or anything or get up. I’d just assume I’d wait ‘til I get to my stop and I would exit that way and tap him on the shoulder and we’d be good to go. Well, I’m five minutes from my stop and these guys are having a good time; they’ve taken over the car at this point; J.R. Smith. Again, you can go through the roster. And Kyrie is sitting across from me and is hangin’ and having drinks and laughing and telling stories, and the train five minutes before my stop has a complete screeching halt like I’ve never felt before. And I had actually stood up to get my bag out because they tell you that your stop is the next Metroplex… all I know is something happened and everybody reacts. So, I sit back down. Five minutes go by and everybody’s kind of looking at one another — What happened here and then Richard; RJ starts making his way towards the back of the train and I grab his leg he’s walking by and he’s startled. He looks down and is like, “Whoa! Birdman! What are you doing here?” and he sits down on my armrest for 45 minutes and we talk. That’s how long we’re sitting there. And we’re talking about all sorts of things beyond basketball, the things that he maybe wants to do when his career is over after basketball; we get into some deep stuff. I’d hadn’t seen RJ in a couple of years. So, I ask RJ; I say “Hey man, what do you think’s going on here?” “Oh yeah, we hit somebody.’ I’m like, “What?” He said, ‘Yeah yeah, we hit someone.’ I’m like, “What is he talking about?” then he gets up and says, ‘I’ll be back…’ and he gets up and walks to the front and I go back and I’m watching now on my device.”
While on the train, Eagle connected with Kyrie Irving, now a member of the Nets. According to Eagle, Irving, a West Orange, New Jersey native expressed his respect and admiration of the play-by-play broacaster after watching him as a kid during the New Jersey Nets era of basketball. “Kyrie now stops one seat in front of me and there’s a guy sitting there reading the newspaper and Kyrie says: ‘Excuse me. Hey, I just wanna tell you I think you’re the best broadcaster in the NBA,’” reconts Eagle.
“And this guy’s like, ‘What? Excuse me?’ And I realize that Kyrie thinks that is me and I said, ‘Hey Kyrie! I’m Ian Eagle over here…’ and he looks over and he looks back at me and he goes, ‘Ooohhh that’s embarrassing! Ooohhh!’ and comes over to me and we bro-hug and he sits again, right next to me on the armrest.”
For those keeping score at home: Ian Eagle has been a Nets play-by-play broacaster for over 25 years. His tenure began with former Seton Hall University basketball coach-turned broadcaster, Bill Raftery. The two formed the dynamic duo of Nets play-by-play and color commentary on the now-defunct SportsChannel.
They’d later move to Fox Sports Network New York before moving over to YES Network.
“Brandon we talked for 45 minutes,” recounts Ian Eagle.
“We’re talking old school Nets. He’s asking me questions about Jason Kidd and Vince Carter and Kerry Kittles and Kendall Gill… like, he’s getting into the weeds of this! And we have a great conversation – so that’s an hour and a half now that’s gone by and low and behold, we DID hit somebody. Somebody jumped in front of the train. It was Thanksgiving Weekend. I ended up asking one of the conductors; Amtrak guy and he said, ‘Yeah. You’d be surprised that this happens more often than you would think during the holidays.’ And it was bizarre. The whole thing was crazy. They ended up sending a second train to get the Cavaliers off our train; things started getting a little rowdy and they put a little bridge in between the two trains so that they could walk on. I tried to walk on with ‘em, I’m like okay let’s go man [laughs] and the Amtrak guy was having none of it and the Cavaliers security guys were having none of it… LeBron walks by me now to exit and bangs me in the chest, ‘What’s up man?’ Two hours. We’re sitting there two hours! I was five minutes from my stop!”
In retrospect, the encounter between Eagle an Irving was foreshadowing as Irving signed with the Nets last summer as a free agent along with Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan.
Eagle has nothing but high praise for Irving and he believes the Duke product is right at home at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. “Kyrie, he is a really likeable guy,” he tells Heavy Live With Scoop B.
“And it’s pretty amazing to me how the narratives take over and I get it. The world that we live in now – when you’re looking for clicks, when you’re looking to create stories… things happen. They take on a life of their own. I can only judge things based on my experience. He’s really a thoughtful dude. He’s a deep guy. This is a not an on the surface person. And when you talk to him, he connects. He engages with you and some people can’t handle that; that doesn’t work for them. They’re not used to having THAT kind of laser focus put on them. I’ve been very impressed with him in my personal dealings and I know we’re gonna get into it deeper here…I just think that him and Kevin Durant have something special and they’re paying attention to everything that’s being said. They’re aware the only way to change it is to go out and win. That’s what it comes down to. People can talk and we know in the NBA, people love to talk. The NBA has this other world that takes place that has nothing to do with the games, nothing to do with the score. It has nothing to do with the stats. It has everything to do with the storylines and the NBA’s benefitted from that. There’s that very fine line as we know in the NBA; sometimes there’s more hype in everything leading up to it than the actual events. And there’s been a lot of conversation in regards to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. I just think the two of these guys are fully prepared and they want to do something really special in Brooklyn.”