Joe Burrow became the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night. It’s a move that everyone saw coming, as the now-former LSU quarterback put forth an historic 2019 campaign en route to the Heisman Trophy and a national championship. Now, Burrow is headed home, as the Ohio native was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals.
But while Burrow’s NFL team is tucked away in the southeast corner of Ohio, his NBA team plays in the northeast portion of the state. Burrow is a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, as evidenced by this tweet, which served as a victory lap after he called how the 2016 NBA Finals would play out.
What did I tell y'all man. So happy dawg https://t.co/rc39OF5X0A
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) June 20, 2016
This isn’t a particularly huge surprise. Burrow was a kid when the Cavaliers first drafted LeBron James and he got the chance to watch the best player in franchise history lead the club to unparalleled heights. As a 19-year-old at Ohio State, Burrow watched as the Cavs won their first championship in franchise history.
Of course, a quick skim of Burrow’s Twitter account indicates that he loves the Cleveland players who you would imagine — he loves James and was hurt when Kyrie Irving requested a trade, which led to him getting flipped to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, which made Burrow tear up (he swore it was allergies). But those do not seem to be the Cavaliers players who have captured Burrow’s heart the strongest. Instead, that goes to reserve guard Matthew Dellavedova.
Burrow, in an interview with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report, spoke a bit about his game on the basketball court. At one point, he was asked who his NBA comp is, and without hesitation, he picked Dellavedova.
Presumptive 1st overall pick Joe Burrow was a big basketball star in high school. I asked him how many points he could score in an NBA Game.
He said 12 to 15.
In an NBA GAME! pic.twitter.com/6VsEOjj77Q
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) April 21, 2020
Now, it is possible that this was a joke — Burrow said he’d stand in the corner and shoot threes en route to 12-15 points a game, while a teammate like LeBron or Chris Paul goes to work, which is a bit more productive than Dellavedova has been during his NBA career — but a dive into his Twitter account indicates that Burrow really, really loves the journeyman guard. An example:
In fact, after James joined the Los Angeles Lakers, Burrow believed the solution was to bring Dellavedova — a member of the Milwaukee Bucks at the time — home. This, of course, came to fruition that December.
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooo… we are bringin back Delly right?
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) July 2, 2018
Advocating for Dellavedova, who left the team following their title in 2016, to return to Cleveland was nothing new for Burrow.
Burrow’s first apparent sign of love for Dellavedova came during Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals. While it is unclear exactly when in the game he tweeted this — my assumptions is it came right after Iman Shumpert missed a wild shot that would have won the game for Cleveland (they lost to the Warriors in overtime) — Burrow wanted Delly to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
Delly hits that shot
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) June 5, 2015
His next tweets came after Game 2 of those Finals. Dellavedova was inserted into the starting lineup after Kyrie Irving suffered a series-ending knee injury, and he responded by scoring nine points, pulling in five rebounds, forcing three steals, and being a general pest en route to a Cavaliers win. He also put Cleveland ahead at the end of the game by hitting a pair of free throws, something that led to Burrow dreaming about the guard that evening.
What I tell everybody bout Delly
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) June 8, 2015
Had a dream that Delly saved the world from an alien invasion… By hittin two free throws
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) June 8, 2015
Game 3 ended up being the best postseason performance of Dellavedova’s tenure with the Cavs. He went for 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, and got the hometown fans chanting his name as Cleveland went up in the series, 2-1.
And the crowd chants Delly…😏 might as well chant MVP too
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) June 10, 2015
In fact, Burrow saw some apparent similarities between himself and his favorite player after the game.
For Game 4, which Cleveland would go on to lose, Burrow was upset with how ABC’s Mark Jackson referred to Dellavedova at some point in the first quarter.
Mark Jackson gonna disrespect Delly like that?
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) June 12, 2015
In the name of journalism, I went back and tried to find this quote. The game’s listed start time was 9 p.m. EST and Burrow tweeted that 20 minutes later. While I could not identify exactly what he meant, at the 3:01 mark of the first quarter, Dellavedova tries to back down Steph Curry, fails, tries to do the Dirk Nowitzki elbow fadeaway (2015 was wild, man), and fires up an airball. J.R. Smith gets the rebound and lays it in to beat the shot clock, but Jackson was unhappy.
“Mike, I understand trying to get a second foul on Steph Curry,” Jackson says to Mike Breen. “But that’s not gonna win you jewelry, that’s not gonna get you a championship.”
However, further research indicates that the Cavaliers’ starting lineup was announced around 9:11 p.m., leading me to believe that this came earlier in the game. The team’s official Twitter account praised a scoop shot that Dellavedova hit at the 8:42 mark of the first quarter around 9:18 p.m., so we can reasonably assume the perceived disrespectful moment was related to this. After it went in, Jeff Van Gundy said that Delly “looked like Mark Jackson,” to which Jackson replied by saying “don’t do that” twice.
Anyway, back to this. The Cavaliers lost this game, and would go on to lose the Finals, so Burrow laid low for a bit. He spent a few months without posts about the former guard, right up until he expressed some sadness over his Delly shirt being dirty.
Delly shirt is dirty😔😔😔
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) October 12, 2015
Thanks to Kyle Irving of Sporting News, we learned that this is the Delly shirt. It’s a good shirt!
The shirt popped back up on the day Irving requested a trade.
It's a great day to break out my Delly shirt
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) July 21, 2017
Fans always love stars, but sometimes, the strongest love they feel is directed towards the scrappy role players who fill in gaps and make life easier for the best players on a team. That even applies to the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. The two follow one another on Twitter, and it is my sincere hope that they become best friends as soon as possible.