As Larry Nance Jr. returns to Cleveland as a Blazer, Northeastern Ohio businesses reach out to personally thank him

Last season while with the Cavaliers, Nance decided to use his platform and influence as a professional athlete for good and help those locally impacted by the pandemic.

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On Wednesday evening, Larry Nance Jr. will make his debut at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this season but it won't be as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Instead, it will be as a member of the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, where Nance was traded to as part of the three-team deal that saw Cleveland acquiring big man Lauri Markkanen from the Chicago Bulls.

"It definitely is going to feel a little bit weird being back on the visiting side of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, said Nance. "But, at the same time, I'm happy to see the team, the Cavs playing well and the young guys playing well. But if there's a game I hope they lose, I hope it's against us."

Nance, who is now helping Portland on their quest for an NBA Championship, has left a positive and long-lasting legacy both on and off the court during his time with the Cavaliers. On the hardwood, Nance showcased his ability as a jack of all trades and master of none, creating winning plays on a night-to-night basis for Cleveland. Off the floor, meanwhile, is where Nance made an even greater impact.

Last season while with the Cavaliers, Nance decided to use his platform and influence as a professional athlete for good and help those impacted by the pandemic. In December of last year, Nance tweeted out a call to action, asking local businesses in Northeastern Ohio to send in t-shirts, hats or any other apparel he could wear to a game. Nance would then post a photo of himself in it (alongside information about the business) on social media and then auctioned off that night’s game-worn jersey, with 100% of the proceeds going to whichever business was selected. On top of that, all clothing he receives would be donated to local homeless shelters.

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"Northeastern Ohio is home for me, born and raised," said Nance. "That's where I'm going to retire. So, that community means the world. There are so many great people around there. During the pandemic, I know so many people and places got hit hard, and I was fortunate enough to be in a position to help them out. So we put something together, and I think we did a lot of good. And it's something that hopefully I can keep on giving back."

The Cavaliers played 72 games last year in a shortened season due to COVID-19. In all 72 games, Nance supported a different local business both financially and by bringing them attention online. It also helped that the Cavaliers organization, along with current and former teammates, got behind Nance and his cause as well. The businesses Nance supported during a relentless pandemic will never forget what he did to support them. Seriously. I reached out to nearly every single one Nance supported and almost instantaneously, the majority got back to me wanting to thank him personally.

"I think Larry did a really amazing thing not only wearing his local heart on his sleeve but in using his fame to bring attention to small businesses during a difficult time," said Lauren Phillips, owner of Roasted Coffee Shop in Olmstead Falls. "Thank you for recognizing the struggles we were facing. Thank you for putting us in the spotlight on such a large public platform. And thank you for not only caring but choosing to act on that. We appreciate all you have done for our city and each and every business you helped."

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"Larry is our hometown hero," said Brittany Wiley, owner of Magna Wine Boutique in Cuyahoga Falls. "Larry and his wife started off with the simple idea of highlighting local businesses on game day to bring awareness to the business and also support them financially with jersey auction proceeds. Larry set the standards for local celebrities looking to give back as he used his platform to do great things in the community."

"When a well-known athlete uses their platform to help others, the reward can be exponential," said Jennifer Ensign, Owner of Escape in 60, Cleveland's Premier Escape Room Complex. "In the case of Escape in 60, we saw a substantial increase in brand awareness and a welcomed bump in reservations and sales. We also gained social media followers and were able to network with other small businesses involved with the initiative to great advantage."

Last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers Larry Nance Jr. took it upon himself to support local businesses impacted by the pandemic.

It's hard to fully quantify the thousands upon thousands of dollars Nance was able to raise for businesses in the greater Northeastern Ohio community. But, it helped in so many ways for businesses to survive through the worst of the pandemic. Some, like 9er's Diner & Pub in Brunswick, used the money raised by Nance to help cover operating costs and payroll. Others, like Holistic Halo Salt Spa in North Royalton, used the money to upgrade amenities at their location and also were able to provide support to staff through company outings. Even something as simple as providing personal protective equipment was possible for businesses like The Treehouse Pub in Tremont thanks to Nance's contributions.

"It's imperative that celebrities such as Larry are using their platform to raise awareness for small businesses because without this aid many of us wouldn't still be open," said Jackie Walsh, founder and owner of Hope Yoga in Fairview Park. "Regardless of the assistance offered by state and local governments, many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. I am very grateful that Larry stepped up to the plate and used his voice in a highly positive and impactful way and I wish more people would do the same.

"The fact that Larry also used his own money to match whatever donations came in just says even more about his character and how much he believes in supporting small businesses!"

Some, like Heather Doeberling, co-owner of Boss ChickNBeer in Bera or Kathy Blackman, owner of The Group Shop, were both able to use the money Nance provided to continue paying it forward to the rest of the community.

"We used to feature five to ten local breweries and because of Larry, we were able to expand our offerings to fifteen to twenty local businesses," said Doeberling. "We locally source all of our beer and with Larry’s help, we were able to purchase even more from small breweries and help everyone succeed. We were happy to be able to use the money to spread the brand names of even more Cleveland businesses who were struggling just like us."

"We used some of the money to create Grog Shop/Cavs shirts and sold hundreds of them as a result of the Cavs helping promote, said Blackman. "We then donated nearly 3,000 to the Cleveland Heights High School Athletics Programming."

Although no longer a Cavalier, Larry Nance Jr. still loves his hometown team and will support, and root for, them from afar.

When told that so many wanted to thank him, Nance shared that he couldn't help but smile while hearing the question.

"It means the world to me that I'm still regarded highly within the community," said Nance. "Like I said, that's where I'm from. That's where I'm going to retire. So bonds and relationships like that are paramount to me, and especially the people of the Cleveland and Northern Ohio communities, just incredible.

"Thank you for embracing me. Thank you for having me. When my career's over, I'll see you soon."

Soon may not be a while for Nance as he still has plenty of quality basketball and hopefully championships ahead of him with the Trail Blazers. Maybe one day he'll retire as a Cavalier but, until then his legacy is set in stone thanks to the incredible strides he made in the community off the floor.

"That's kind of what the Nance family has been about, said Nance. "My dad did it when he played. I tried to do it when I played and just because I'm not playing for the Cavs now doesn't mean that I will stop supporting that community.

"Home is home, so that will never change. And like I said, when it's time to call it a career, I'll be right back eating Swensons and driving up and down 77 every day. So, it feels great to leave a legacy at this point. But I'm still not done."

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