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Former Cavs guard World B. Free hopes to acknowledge applause from fans when he visits The Q on Nov. 30.

World premiere event at The Q
Former Cav Free plans to return to Cleveland

Monday, November 21, 2005

Branson Wright
Plain Dealer Reporter


Philadelphia - World B. Free spent some of his most memorable times in the NBA while playing for the Cavaliers from the middle of the 1982-83 season to the end of the 1985-86 season.

Free, however, has not been honored or been back to Cleveland to watch a game for at least 15 years.

Until now.

Free is scheduled to attend the Cavs' game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 30 at The Q. It is a homecoming that Free has looked forward to for years.

"I've always wanted to get back to Cleveland, but things happened, and I stayed away," Free said. "When I come out there and get into the middle of floor, and as I wave my hands up, I want the fans to stand up just like I'm going to stand up for them. If they appreciated me, they'll stand up and cheer just like I appreciated them."

Free joined a struggling franchise, and his effort and outstanding scoring ability helped the Cavs make the playoffs during his third season. The Cavs' popularity rose during Free's tenure. The Cavs drew 20,900 to each of their two home playoff games at the Coliseum in 1985.

"When I was traded to Cleveland for Ron Brewer, guys said that it was all over and that I was going to the bottomless pit," Free said. "When I got a ride to the airport, I thought there would be a whole lot of reporters at the airport, and there was only one reporter."

Free's flamboyant playing style was as colorful as the brightly colored suits he now wears as community relations director for the Philadelphia 76ers. Free was an instant scoring machine. He averaged 20.3 points per game over 13 seasons in the NBA. His best season was in 1979-80, when he was an All-Star for the San Diego Clippers and averaged 30.2 points per game.

Free legally changed his name from Lloyd to World because his game was described as "All-World" when he played on the asphalt courts growing up in Brooklyn. That's where he developed his style as one of the best one-on-one players in NBA history. He could jump, shoot with range and draw fouls. Free led the league in free throws attempted in 1978-79 with 865.

Despite his success with the Cavs, Free remains disappointed that his No. 21 jersey isn't hanging in the rafters. He hopes his return will spark more conversation about that possibility.

"My number should be retired because I helped revamp a franchise that was dead," Free said. "If you can do something like that, you deserve your number to be up there. All the emotion and sweat that went along at that time would've made someone else quit.

"But with God's help, I just stayed focused, and we had a lot of good guys come through, and once we got that combination together, it was a great thing."

Holiday greetings:

LeBron James and The James Family Foundation will hold a Thanksgiving holiday giveaway from 1 to 3 p.m. today at the Antioch Baptist Church at 8869 Cedar Ave. in Cleveland and from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Henry's Acme at 1525 Plaza Boulevard in Akron.

Sunday morning quarterback:

Just like so many Ohio State fans during Saturday's game against Michigan, James was also on the edge of his seat.

"I was worried a little bit," James said. "Of course, I didn't want to see Michigan beat Ohio State.

"They gave Troy [Smith] and that offense enough time to go down the field and score. That offense has done that so many times before. The [victory] was great. I loved it."
 

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Re: World premiere event at The Q

He really deserves a standing ovation for basically saving the Cavaliers of the stepien era. I really don't think we'd have a team had it not been for him.
 

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Re: World premiere event at The Q

I'm too young to remember him, but I love his name. From what my dad has told me his was awesome and I hope that the crowd recognizes what he did for this team and city.
 

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Free on Cavaliers' rafters radar


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CAVALIERS INSIDER
Free on Cavaliers’ rafters radar

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Burt Graeff
Plain Dealer reporter


Longtime followers of the flamboyant former Cavaliers guard World B. Free have argued for nearly two decades that his number - 21 - should be retired to hang in the rafters at The Q.

It might happen.

"There have been discussions," said team spokesman Tad Carper.

Free, who averaged 23 points a game in parts of four seasons with the Cavaliers (1982-86), will be honored in halftime ceremonies at Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. "It will be the first step in re-establishing our relationship with him," Carper said.

"He did play a significant role in the history of this franchise."

Free, who played for six teams in 13 NBA seasons, is viewed by some as a player who was instrumental in helping keep the NBA Cleveland. Others regarded him as a shameless gunner whose sole concern was the number of points he put up.

Six Cavaliers numbers are retired - Bingo Smith (7), Austin Carr (34), Nate Thurmond (42), Larry Nance (22), Brad Daugherty (43) and Mark Price (25).

Making progress:

Injured power forward/center Anderson Varejao has been participating in many of the team's non-contact drills.

Varejao, 23, brought considerable energy off the bench last season, when he averaged 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 16 minutes a game. He is recovering from September arthroscopic surgery to repair a dislocated right shoulder.

He is targeted to return in early February.
 

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Beacon Journal | 11/29/2005 | Free meant world to Cavs. Retire No. 21


Free meant world to Cavs. Retire No. 21

By Terry Pluto

It used to seem like World B. Free lofted in those rainbow 3-pointers from that sheep pasture next to the old Richfield Coliseum.

Now, all of it is a pasture and trees, the Coliseum like the memories of those who played there becoming hazier every year. But close your eyes and you can still hear former public-address announcer Howie Chizek echo, "WORLD... B... FREE... FOR... THREE!!!''

Which is why the Cavs deserve applause for bringing back World B. Free to be honored before Wednesday night's game at Quicken Loans Arena with the Los Angeles Clippers.

If you remember when Free was about the only reason to cheer at Cavs games in the early 1980s, give him a standing ovation. Then urge the Cavs to retire his No. 21.

Cavs broadcaster Joe Tait and I have been pushing for the Cavs to retire Free's number for more than decade. For years, former General Manager Wayne Embry and -- to a lesser extent -- owner Gordon Gund opposed the idea.

Embry was a basketball purist and never would consider Free a worthy role model for the franchise. It was Embry's decision not to bring back Free for the 1985-86 season, despite Free averaging 23 points the season before. Embry had just been hired, and he didn't appreciate what Free meant to a franchise coming out of the dark ages of Ted Stepien.

"Wayne Embry had a certain idea of World from his Philadelphia days,'' said Harry Weltman, the general manager who brought Free to the Cavs. "In the beginning, coming to Cleveland was like going to Folsom Prison for an NBA player. We had a terrible team, zero fan interest. World made people care about us.''

Tait and I remember Free as the Cavs most popular player, setting an unofficial franchise record for signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans. We remember him playing hard every night, and if he shot the ball a little too much, who could blame him?

Whom was he supposed to pass the ball to? Richard Washington? Geoff Huston?

When Free joined the Cavs, they had been 15-67 the year before. He thought they won only 11 games, and kept insisting he'd win 11 himself. And he could.

Free's tenure was from 1982-85, and he averaged 23 points, shot 45 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and dished off nearly four assists per game.

In 1984-85, Weltman put together a crazy quilt of old and new players to be coached by a 33-year-old rookie named George Karl. They started 2-19, then finished 34-27 to make the playoffs with a 36-46 record.

Free carried that team, which including a promising kid named Roy Hinson, stocky point guard John Bagley, gritty forward Phil Hubbard and veterans Johnny Davis, Lonnie Shelton, Ben Poquette and Edgar Jones.

The beginning of a dynasty, this was not. A fun group that overachieved, indeed they were -- especially in the playoffs, when they lost to Boston in a very tightly played series.

Free averaged 26 points in those games.

In his final season with the Cavs, a 32-year-old Free averaged 23.4 points, shooting 46 percent overall, 42 percent on 3-pointers.

Weltman traded Ron Brewer for Free during the 1982-83 season.

"I called Ted (Stepien) and told him that I had this trade all set,'' Weltman said. "At first, Ted didn't know how World was. Then he said, `Is that the bald guy?' I told Ted to just let me make the deal.''

Free was bald. He was listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. He was shorter and weighed more. But he could shoot. He had some tremendous battles with a young Michael Jordan, both of them scoring in the 30s -- neither able to stop the other.

"When World got it going, he could win games by himself,'' Weltman said. "He was such a mentally tough guy to play as well as he did for us during that era. No one wanted to come here. But he loved Cleveland. His number belongs hanging from the rafters.''
 

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Cavs.com Talks with World B. Free





November 30, 2005
Cavs.com Talks with World B. Free



The word you hear most when people describe World B. Free is “gunner.” And anyone who’s seen World play – in Cleveland or Philly or Oakland or San Diego – will tell you that World never met a 25-footer he didn’t like. Brent Musburger once said that he would shoot the ball before the National Anthem was over.

But when you learned your hoops on the streets of Brooklyn and your name is World B. Free, you’re not the guy coming off the bench to grab offensive rebounds.

On Wednesday night, the artist formerly known as Lloyd Free returns to Cleveland to be honored by the Cavaliers for his contributions to the club in what could best be described as the franchise’s “lean years.”

World B. Free is the only Cavalier in team history to lead the squad in scoring for four straight seasons, averaging 23 points per game over the span of his ultra-productive career. But even Free’s gaudy numbers don’t fully explain what he meant to a franchise that was 15-67 the season before he arrived and made an improbable run to the playoffs two years later.

The Cavaliers will welcome back World on Wednesday night in what should be a special moment at The Q.

Cavs.com caught up with World B. Free before he departed for his former home to ask him a few questions about what he’s been up to since he left and his thoughts on returning.




cavs.com: First of all, what are you doing with yourself nowadays?
World B. Free:
Basically, I’m doing public relations work with the 76ers. My title is Ambassador of Sixers Basketball and what that entails is going into the communities and going out to schools. Things like that.
I do about 120 appearances a year, just going out there. I love meeting the young people and they listen to me and I listen to them about things that are going on in this world. I learn a lot from them and they learn from me. I’m just having a lot of fun. I do a lot of basketball clinics during the summer.
I’m a very active man out here in the community. I’m going on my tenth year.

cavs.com: Let's get it out of the way: Why have you stayed away all these years and what’s bringing you back to The Q on Wednesday night?
Free:
Well the reason I stayed away for all these years – I’m going to go ahead and get it out – was the general manager that you guys had there – Wayne Embry. I didn’t get along with him and he didn’t get along with me. (But really it’s because he didn’t get along with me, because I’m a very easy guy to get along with.)
But when I was a free agent, getting ready to re-sign with the Cavs, he became the general manager and the Cavs drafted Ron Harper. And Embry basically told me he didn’t want me on the team anymore. I said I could help develop Ron Harper into a great ballplayer. But he wanted no part of it. Ever since then, I just said to myself that after the years of sweating and bleeding Cavs blood that this man is going to come in here and just tell me that I can’t be part of it.

I wanted to be part of the organization once I finished. The Cavs were my longest tenure with any team and I did some damage as a Cav and I really worked hard to bring that franchise back to respectability. I told everyone before I got there that before I leave Cleveland, there’s going to be some sell-outs back up in this bad boy. And there was.

cavs.com: So what brought you back?
Free:
It was hard for me, really, to come back because I felt that void and I just had a bad taste in my mouth.

But Campy Russell had given me a call. And I had played against Campy and I had a tremendous respect for him and I found out that the organization was changing and going in a really different direction. When I spoke with him I said, ‘Camp, you pulled a rabbit out of the hat this time, baby!”

I loved and I lost. And now I feel loved again.

cavs.com: What was the state of the Cavaliers' franchise when you got to Cleveland?
Free:
It was dead. You couldn’t say anything else but that it was dead. I mean, what transpired at that time, when we finally made it happen and made the playoffs in Richfield, basketball probably would have been no more in Cleveland.

cavs.com: What did you think when you found out you had been traded to the Cavs?
Free:
All my friends were saying, “Uh oh, World. It’s all over. They’re shipping you to Cleveland.” And I said, ‘Yeah, well let me tell you something. I’m getting ready to make Cleveland a positive instead of a negative.

And every time I stepped on that floor, with God’s help to give me the strength to do what I had to do, I just went for it and went for it real strong. And I said to myself, ‘Hey, I’m not going to let nobody stop me.’ Because this is a basketball town, here. They love basketball here. When I started in the pros in ’75, I saw that they loved basketball in Cleveland.

But when I got here, there were like 15 people in the stands and I knew every one of them by first and last name.

cavs.com: Do you follow the Cavaliers at all?
Free:
I always follow the Cavs. I followed them even after I left. I liked the teams they had with Price and Daugherty and Hot Rod and all those guys and I saw them developing into something very positive. And now with LeBron, shoot, the sky’s the limit!

cavs.com: Is there a player in the NBA now who you would compare your game to?
Free:
Well, who I believe that I would compare my game to is Allen Iverson, although I’m a better shooter. The way I look at him is he’s a guy who can get his shot off when he wants to. (I also jumped a lot higher than he does.) But the way he can create and draw fouls is something that I did a lot.

cavs.com: How did playing on the streets of New York prepare you for the NBA?
Free:
What it did for me was to give me a chance to play against all the great players who were up in New York and let me know exactly where I was as a basketball player. It was great having the opportunity to be up there and play against the best all the time.

And as I got to the pros, I realized that there were guys on the streets that were a lot better than the guys in the pros that just had bad ways and couldn’t make it because of drugs or maybe they just didn’t want to play basketball. But these guys had great basketball talents and great basketball skills. So I basically had a great time learning from a lot of the guys up in New York City.

That was like the pros before the pros.

cavs.com: Did that experience inspire you to do so much work in the community?
Free:
That’s something that I always did even before I became a pro.

I remember being from Brownsville and it was rated one of the worst places to come from at the time. And I remember the New York Knicks came out to the playground. It was Mike Riorden and Dave Stallworth and I had never seen a pro before in my life. I went to ask these guys for autographs but they said they don’t do autographs too much. And I said that if I ever made it to let kids know that autographs are just fine and to give kids a positive image when you show up.

cavs.com: What was your proudest moment in Cleveland?
Free:
My proudest moment as a Cavalier was when we had clinched the playoffs – when we beat New Jersey – me and George Karl gave each other a big hug and there was a sign that came across the scoreboard that said “WE MADE IT!” That was my favorite moment in Cleveland. That was the most touching thing I’ve ever seen.

cavs.com: Is there anything you regret about your playing career?
Free:
Just one thing. And it’s something that I did once: I would have loved to come back to Cleveland and made that place rock.

cavs.com: How would you like to be remembered by Cavalier fans?
Free:
I’d like to be remembered as a guy who never quit and as a guy who put basketball back on the map in Cleveland. That’s how I’d like to be remembered.
 

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Beacon Journal | 11/30/2005 | Fans get chance to be Free with praise


Fans get chance to be Free with praise

Halftime ceremony to honor former Cavaliers star at tonight’s game

By Brian Windhorst
Beacon Journal sportswriter


PHILADELPHIA - The outlandish hues of World B. Free's fashion match his fanaticism.

The moxie it takes to wear a fluorescent orange suit and greet fans as they enter the Wachovia Center for 76ers games comes from the same well that Free used as perhaps the most flamboyant player in Cavaliers history. His four prolific seasons in the 1980s are just as embedded in the team's history as the Miracle at Richfield and the drafting of LeBron James.

Free's style and flair, especially scoring, breathed life into the flat-lining franchise when he was acquired in 1982 and created memories still held dear by lifelong fans to this day. They just haven't always been embraced.

Hard feelings created in 1986 when the team decided not to re-sign Free left a sour taste on both sides that has just recently mended with the change of ownership and management.

After being absent from the 35th anniversary celebration last season, Free is returning to Cleveland to be honored at halftime tonight, when the Cavs host the L.A. Clippers. It will be the first time in 15 years Free will attend a Cavs game in Cleveland, and his suit can be counted on to be as memorable as the ceremony.

“I've always wanted to get back but things happened and I stayed away,'' said Free, who has done community relations work for the 76ers for the past 12 years. “Cleveland is a basketball town. When I first got there, you bounce a ball and hear it echo throughout the whole arena. Doing what we did in Richfield, I helped the team stay there.''

Free averaged 23 points in the four years he played with the Cavs and helped them to reach the playoffs in 1985. He was part of the foundation on which the great teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s were constructed. The main draw during down years and a fan favorite, Free is quick to take credit he doesn't feel was ever properly given.

Tonight's festivities will not include the retiring of his No. 21, which he and many fans have wanted for years. But it is a first step.

“I look at the names up there and I say to myself it would be an honor to be in the rafters with them,'' Free said. “I helped revamp a franchise that was dead, completely dead. If you can do something like that you deserve to be up there. I'm a household name in the places where I've played.''

Free has never been short on ego -- “I was Allen Iverson before Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan as far as scoring is concerned,'' he said -- and getting him to return wasn't easy. It took a lot of work by former player Campy Russell, who handles the team's relationships with its alumni, to make the hard feelings melt away.

There shouldn't be a hint of them when Free is introduced tonight.

“After all these years, I still love Cleveland,'' Free said. “The fans knew what I did and you can't erase that from their minds. When I come out there to the middle of that floor and I put my hand up, I want those people to stand up and cheer because they appreciated me the way I appreciated them.''

Dribbles

Guard Damon Jones was sent home from practice Tuesday with a cold. The team is hopeful with treatment and rest he'll be able to play tonight.... Guard Eric Snow is launching his annual toy drive and will collect new, unwrapped toys for Northeast Ohio children at Quicken Loans Arena from today until Dec. 15.
 

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Save the sky for the stars, not World


CAVS: WHEN JERSEYS SHOULD BE RETIRED
Save the sky for the stars, not World

Saturday, December 03, 2005

LeBron James draws your eyes to the rafters. Someday his jer sey will hang there without him inside it rising to meet an alley-oop.

James hasn't taken the Cavaliers to a single playoff game, let alone an NBA championship, but what he's shown in such a short time already upgrades the organization's standards for retired numbers. Or at least it should.

Adding World B. Free's jersey to the ridiculously crowded air space at The Q would have been a huge reach before James. It would look even sillier with such a tremendous all-around talent on display down below.

Honored Wednesday night at halftime of the Cavaliers' win over the L.A. Clippers, Free was a flamboyant talent and a civic rallying point during his relatively brief time with the Cavaliers.

Unstoppable offensive talent? That was him, too.
Infectious personality? Check. Great entertainer. Ditto. Gunner. Oh yeah.

Call him the best player to ever arrive to a Cavaliers' news conference in a helicopter. Pass the praise but hold the "savior."

To hear people talk about him, you'd think every game he played was a Black Friday sale at the turnstiles. The average attendance in seasons with him in uniform was 6,606.

His impact on the organization is the only criterion for even raising the discussion of retiring another number to go along with those of Bingo Smith, Austin Carr, Nate Thurmond, Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance.

Excellence is represented in some of those names, but sentimentality trumps it in too many cases.

Free would be another case of that. His single dimension as a player doesn't recommend him.

Some organizations have won a lot of titles and retired a corresponding number of jerseys. The Yankees and Celtics are examples. Some - the Cubs come to mind - have won few and retired few.

The Green Bay Packers have the right idea. When they retired the late Reggie White's jersey this year it was only the fifth time in the organization's long and gloried history. Brett Favre, who could become Green Bay's 21st Hall of Famer, figures to be retired jersey No. 6.

Honoring is one means of recognition. Immortalizing should be entirely another, especially for a franchise that has won a single division title.
So name a half-court halftime shot in Free's honor. That was his range and where his itch to shoot usually began.

Put imprints of his hands and feet on the sidewalk outside. He was more entertainer than Hall of Fame talent.

Name a hot dog concession for him. Give him his very own mustard.

But let the rafters wait for something truly special for once.

"I felt like I helped revamp a franchise that was dead, completely dead," Free said during his visit. "If you can do something like that, you belong up there."

The rafters should be preserved for someone who carries himself or his team to great heights. Not for a player who keeps a sorry franchise from scraping absolute rock bottom. It should be about achievement, not survival.

The Cavaliers weren't patient enough. They should have found a way to remember their special players while saving the top of the arena for individual and team greatness.

Speaking of James . . . he has helped revamped the franchise goals to where talk of winning it all someday isn't a Letterman comedy bit. It's not imminent, but at least it doesn't call for a laugh track.

In the interim, he has redefined the meaning of hang time.
 
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