From one Cleveland sports legend to another, LeBron James is making sure Joe Thomas goes out the right way.
Hours after Thomas, who announced his retirement last week, held an emotional news conference Monday afternoon, James embraced the Browns' beloved left tackle during the Cavaliers' game against the Milwaukee Bucks. As Thomas received a thunderous ovation, James found him and smothered him with a bear hug courtside.
"What he gave to that franchise, all the losing, and for him to be just consistent every single Sunday knowing that, listen, if there's one guy who's gonna be uniform, it's going to be in Joe Thomas," James told reporters postgame. "Not only in uniform, but every single snap."
Thomas, who called it a career after 11 seasons and 10 Pro Bowls, was formally honored during a gathering that included family members, coaches, teammates and team employees from multiple departments. Thomas played 10,363 consecutive snaps before suffering a season-ending triceps injury against the Titans in October. On his podcast, the ThomaHawk Show, Thomas said his mind was "good" but body couldn't handle another year of playing.
When Thomas announced his retirement last week, one of the first people to congratulate him was James, who also had kind words when Thomas eclipsed the 10,000 snap mark back in September. During his news conference, Thomas — who, himself, is a larger-than-life figure in Northeast Ohio — said those moments, among so many others, will stick with him.
"One thing I'll tell to maybe my kids some day is when I got to 10,000 straight snaps and LeBron James tweeted at me," Thomas said. "Of course, when I retired, he tweeted at me again. I would like to tweet back at him some day. Hopefully, that's not for a long time because I still love watching him play."
While the number 10,363 will be enshrined in the Brown's Ring of Honor in 2018 to honor Thomas, James already has an idea of his next stop.
"He's a legend around here, that's for sure," he said. "He'll be in the Hall of Fame pretty soon. The good thing is he doesn't have to travel very far, it's right down the street."