LeBron to Odell Beckham Jr.: “You’re going to love it!”
Odell Beckham Jr.,
When LeBron James arrived in Cleveland in 2003 as the first pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers it was a transcendent moment for the City of Cleveland and it meant a once doormat franchise was now thrust into the national sports landscape.
LeBron has since decided to leave his native land, but this week the City of Cleveland welcomed another transformational sports figure who has lifted the hapless Cleveland Browns into the conversation as a legit Super Bowl contender.
Cleveland welcome your new super star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.! He has officially arrived in Cleveland as the Browns introduced their highly touted trade acquisition from the New York Giants to the city on April 1.
Like LeBron, Beckham is an electrifying talent who is capable of winning games, but he also elevates the Browns status to an audience beyond Cleveland and into a national atmosphere.
The Browns are the fifth favored team to win the Super Bowl in 2020 at odds of 15-1, but they are right behind the defending champion Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.
Let that sink in for a minute…This is a franchise that was 1-31 going into last season before Baker Mayfield arrived on the scene with a bolt of infused hope.
The hot shot rookie quarterback led the Browns to a 7-8-1 record and nearly made the playoffs.
It’s the beginning of the baseball season, and the close of the basketball season and the Browns are the talk of the football universe for all of the right reasons.
Enter Beckman, to pair with his best friend and high school and college teammate Jarvis Landry, coupled with an opportunistic defense anchored by Myles Garrett and you can see what all the fun is about.
Initially for Beckham, the trade was a shock to the system. But once he processed how his life had changed, and once he looked at joining his best friend in the NFL Jarvis Landry and Mayfield and an improving Browns team, Beckham came to embrace it.
"As it all settled in I'm very excited about this and I think it's going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life," Beckham said.
He later said the moment "is going to be more iconic than we all realize right now."
"We'll look back in 10 years and be like, 'Man, I remember,' -- what's today, April 1, 2019 -- 'the start of something great.' You know," Beckham said. "And I'm just happy to be a part of that."
"We never thought that we would be here," Beckham said.
Landry seemed especially shocked. He had been talking about Beckham joining the Browns since he was acquired via trade a year ago, but only carried it as a hope and never as something that actually might happen.
When it did...
"I mean, I just cried," Landry said. "I called him (Beckham). I talked to (general manager) John (Dorsey). I cried with John. I cried with (coach) Freddie (Kitchens)."
Landry's friendship with Beckham goes back to when the two were juniors in high school in Louisiana and met at a football camp. They became close, attended LSU together after Beckham pondered the University of Miami and now are teammates in Cleveland.
"It's almost like we spoke this into existence," Beckham said, adding that Landry "made me who I am today."
Landry's message to Beckham about the Browns was straightforward, and came a year after he had gone through the emotions of being traded from Miami.
"What I told O is the love and the appreciation of everybody that works in this building, from top to bottom, is something that made me feel so comfortable; you know the way it feels like family here," Landry said. "And I told him that he would appreciate that. He would appreciate that he could come here and honestly just be himself and people would love him for that."
Beckham will not be with the Browns through the entire offseason program, and Kitchens said he is fine with that. Beckham said he likes to work out in Los Angeles, but that he would make an effort to be with his teammates as often as possible to help build camaraderie. He also said it was important to be present for the first day, something his teammates appreciated.
Beckham is well aware, though, of the excitement his acquisition has generated.
"This is ... I can't even put it into words," Beckham said before he held up the Browns jersey with the No. 13 on it. "This is just a lot and it's going to be a lot for the city of Cleveland. This is a football town. I've heard it's a football town. I'm looking forward to finding out."
He also sought the advice of one other well-known Cleveland athlete after the trade: LeBron James, who won a championship with the Cavaliers and now plays for the Lakers.
"He just said, 'You're going to love it,'" Beckham said. "He was like, 'Yeah, you're going to love it.' That's the key word. That's like my idol, that's the person I look up to the most. That's my guy. To see what he did to bring a championship here, I just want to be able to do that same thing."
ESPN.contributed to this story