Larry Nance Jr.’s loyalty could define his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
An athlete’s legacy is defined in a multitude of ways. Some are remembered for bringing a franchise many championships, while others can boast about their personal accolades once their career concludes.
For a select few, a tenure predicated on loyalty is all they want to leave behind.
Larry Nance Jr. can capture the hearts of Cavalier fans and become idolized by Cleveland forever.
Now obviously, that isn’t going to happen overnight.
Heck, this article could render meaningless in three or four years based off the hypotheticals. But stick with me here.
Nance Jr. has been a player of focus for Cleveland this offseason, as both sides have been discussing a long-term deal to lock the 25-year old forward up for the foreseeable future.
After putting up 8.9 points and 7.0 rebounds (with an on-court plus-minus of +.5.8) in just 24 games for the Wine and Gold last year, it was obvious the spark that he provided when on the floor.
Of course, those numbers aren’t worthy of All-NBA status or anywhere near that realm. Still, it’s something to be excited about in terms of the production Nance Jr. can provide in the coming years.
Possibly making those statistics a little nicer to look at is the true passion the Ohio-born forward pours out on the court for the Cleveland franchise, all while wearing a number 22 jersey.
This past February, the Cavaliers unretired Larry Nance Sr.’s number so that his son could wear it to pay homage to his father. Nance Jr. had previously worn a number 24 jersey for a few games before the organization decided to make the honorable switch.
When the swap happened, it was clear that the city of Cleveland was ready to embrace Nance Jr. as the next fan-favorite.
Nance Jr. can be that fan-favorite that Cavs fans have been craving since Matthew Dellavedova departed for Milwaukee in the summer of 2016. However, he can also be remembered for more than being heralded by the masses due to his never-say-die mentality.
If you’re breaking down the two sides of any organization’s iconic players, most fall under one of two categories: glory or loyalty. Cleveland doesn’t differ from that, actually serving as one of the stronger models.
LeBron James is the best player in the Cavaliers history, no doubt about it.
He’s also had his fair share of upsetting moments with the fanbase, departing for greener pastures twice now in his career. When it comes to LeBron’s legacy in Cleveland, he’ll be remembered for the glory he brought through his personal accolades and the 2016 NBA Championship he delivered.
Then there’s a guy like Anderson Varejao. Varejao spent twelve of his fourteen NBA seasons with Cleveland and left it all on the floor every time he suited up for the organization. Fans gushed over him even more so when LeBron left in 2010 because of his breakout years that followed.
What exactly qualified as a standout season for the Brazilian big-man? 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds per game.
That’s why this author believes Nance Jr. is an intriguing player when it comes to how his career will be perceived after he’s done playing.
On the playing side, he’s shown a steady improvement in most areas of his game throughout his first three seasons.
With the Cavs needing guys to step up in the first year post-LeBron, Nance Jr. can be counted on as a reliable source of energy and timely baskets. His rebounding ability shouldn’t be slighted, either.
Nance Jr. also has the edge on every other likable player that Northeast Ohio has hosted.
While guys like Varejao, Dellavedova, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas featured cool nicknames and were loved because of their heart and spark, Nance Jr. has a family tie.
As soon as he walked in, fans could link him to the jersey number hanging in the rafters at The Q. That’s an advantage that you don’t really plan on having in the loyalty aspect.
Long story short, don’t get caught up on the narrative that Larry Nance Jr. is just a loyal guy who loves Cleveland. Instead, get hip to the fact that he could be one of the next cornerstone pieces for a Cavaliers organization seeking a revival once again.
There’s just something about the way things are lining up that makes one wonder if something special is in store for number 22.
*All stats gathered from www.basketball-reference.com