Kevin Love returned to the lineup for the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James had his third triple-double in four games, but the night, much like the day in Cleveland, belonged to Joe Thomas.
Thomas, the Browns’ offensive line iron man, officially announced his retirement Monday with class and with tears, then headed to Quicken Loans Arena for the Cavs’ game against the Bucks. He was honored during the first timeout with a legend-to-legend bear hug (think: big, strong bears) from James and a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Helleva [sic] career Joe Thomas,” James tweeted last week when Thomas first made his intentions known. “Next stop Canton for you brother!!”
It was an amazing run. Lost in the trolling of the Browns and their football futility was the way in which the left tackle for 11 seasons rose above all the mockery. He excelled again and again and again, never taking a play off until, last Oct. 22, his consecutive snaps streak ended at 10,363 with a season-ending torn triceps.
Thomas held a news conference Monday and almost managed to finish it without breaking down. The tipping point was talking about Browns fans who have had little to celebrate over the years.
“You guys were the ones that took me in as one of your own,” he said. “The grit, passion, toughness and determination that you display on a daily basis is an inspiration for myself and for all of my teammates and all of the people that wear ‘Cleveland’ across their chest. You guys taught me what it means to be a Clevelander. Playing in front of the greatest fans in the NFL is easily the greatest honor that I have had in my 11-year career.
“I hope I was able to make you guys proud in the way that I was always proud when I told people boldly that I am a Cleveland Brown. The excitement I had for my team and my city never wavered, no matter what the circumstances. It is with all of this, that I must say goodbye.”
His voice cracked on that last word.
“Doing good; I am almost there,” he said. “Goodbye not because I am retiring but because I am merely changing jobs — from being your left tackle to being the No. 1 fan of the Cleveland Browns. Thank you.”
Thomas isn’t likely to disappear; he may turn up on TV.
“I’ve got several options that are on the table,” Thomas said on “The ThomaHawk Show.” “I’ve auditioned for a few colors jobs on TV. I’m going to audition for one coming up. I’ve had a number of broadcast people reach out to me to gauge my interest. … [And] the Browns have talked to me about doing something with them.”
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