Joe Tait Rumors
Tait was recently diagnosed with cancer. “I came down with blood poisoning,” he said. “As the doctor told me, I was about three days away from being ‘The late Joe Tait.’ I was really sick for about a month.” Tait said an MRI showed, “I had some tumors floating around.” A biopsy indicated they were malignant. “They are still doing some more tests to determine exactly where the cancer is located,” he said. “But the doctors feel pretty good that I have several good years left. They believe they can keep it under control.”
But he never hated LeBron James. “I don’t blame him for all that,” said Joe. “It’s just the professional sports mentality permeating all the way down into the high schools. Some of the summer teams are just cesspools.” Joe loves small-time high school sports, which is why he’d broadcast a few high school games each winter — usually from small towns with teams where most kids won’t play after high school. It reminds him of the high school games he called as a young broadcaster at small stations in the Midwest.
But starting in 2001-02 — James’ junior season — pro scouts were drooling over a 16-year-old from Akron. Like any sane adult, Joe knew this was not a healthy situation for any young player. As Joe said, “So much of it was embarrassing.” And as he stressed when talking about James — he doesn’t blame LeBron. “Somewhere, there was a report that LeBron never talked to me,” Joe said. “That’s just not true. I never had a problem with him. He’d say hello to me, I’d say hi to him. We never carried on any long conversations, but we were always cordial and professional.”
Joe was 66 years old when an 18-year-old LeBron James was the Cavs’ No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft. They didn’t have much in common. In Joe’s final decade with the team, he didn’t have much connection with the players. They were generations apart in age and interests. You could say that an NBA lifer such as Joe could have been helpful to a young LeBron James . . . or any other young player . . . but most young millionaires don’t think they need much advice. Joe realized James was unlike any Cavs player — ever. Not one was as physically gifted. Not one was marketed so aggressively. Certainly, no Cavalier ever had more media attention, commercial endorsements and demands on his time. “I asked simply that LeBron do one postgame interview a year with me,” said Joe. “So many of our games were on national TV, and they always wanted him. He usually did his one interview a year. One time, I remember him coming over to the press table, sitting down in front of me. I said, ‘Well, look who is here!’ LeBron said, ‘I told you that I’d come.’ “
He collaborated with local author and sportswriter Terry Pluto on “Joe Tait: It’s Been a Real Ball.” Published by Gray & Company, the 264-page book retails for $15.95 and recaps Tait’s storied Hall of Fame broadcasting career. Both Tait and Pluto were signing copies of their book in the Cavs team shop on Wednesday. “We wrote it in third person,” Pluto said. “I was able to use Joe like he was Forrest Gump with all these things that happened in Cleveland sports. He was there for Beer Night. He was there for the Miracle of Richfield. He was there for the team starting and for Ted Stepien.”
Kemp, who could not be reached for this story, wasn’t the only player to return out of shape. Vancouver’s Bryant Reeves gained 40 pounds. Dennis Scott, Patrick Ewing and Oliver Miller all put on pounds. But it was Kemp who became the puffy face of the NBA lockout. “The franchise had a desire to have a superstar,” retired Cavs broadcaster Joe Tait said of Kemp, who signed a renegotiated deal worth $100 million after joining the Cavs. “But if your star begins to look more like Jupiter than Mercury, then you have a problem.”