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The sad story of LeBron James

12 July 2010 No Comment

(My radio show on 7.10.10 featured extensive analysis regarding LeBron James’ decision to leave for Miami. The following commentary is primarily an excerpt from the show’s opening commentary. The audio link to this show is here.)

Please, please … please … tell me that LeBron James did not just leave Cleveland; that the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unfathomable did not go down this week. That I was NOT proven wrong.

It is a very unfortunate situation in Cleveland, where hometown hero LeBron James decided to end his quest to bring that city a sports championship – and essentially end his chance at becoming the NBA’s greatest player of all-time – and ruin a dream-like relationship with an entire region … to go and join the Miami Heat.

Right now, I am kind of sick over what transpired this past week. Regardless, throughout the rest of this summer, and beyond, you can rest assured that At the Buzzer will do its best to carry the consciousness of the National Basketball Association year-round to you right here in St. Louis.

The LeBron James situation, and the stunning developments surrounding that circumstance, are part of this historic free agency period that has been at the forefront for NBA fans for a couple of years now. Last week, this period made a monumental impact with the most pivotal free agent move in league history. The entire NBA landscape has been altered.

Until LeBron James uttered those fateful words, “South Beach,” no one really knew for sure that he was leaving. I continued to stick to my word that James would stay, but like nearly everyone else in the media, I was wrong. Though I still firmly maintain that James’ move defies logic, and lacks dignity in many ways.

LeBron James was in the most admired, most dynamic and most influential position of any athlete in all of sports. He was in his home region, a genuine hometown hero and someone who was heavily involved in his community. James really permeated the entire Cleveland culture at this point. He had nearly unconditional love from Cleveland-area fans, and was an individual on the cusp of bringing a championship to a city completely starved for one.

Cleveland’s title drought is not only 46 years and running, but features sports fan’s heart breaks like no other city has experienced. Now we have to add The Decision alongside every other heartbreak to this poor city.

The Cavaliers were in position to win a title; when you have the NBA’s best record for two straight seasons, you cannot say that team cannot win it all. And a championship to those fans in Ohio would have been exponentially more meaningful than anywhere else, at least Miami for sure. One … just one ring in Cleveland would have been much, much more meaningful, more significant, than multiple rings in Miami. It’s just the truth. It would have transcended just a title; it would have lifted an economically challenged area and provided a huge spiritual lift to this great Midwestern city.

LeBron James will not experience the unadulterated bliss of bringing NE Ohio its first championship since 1964. He might win, but it won’t be nearly the same. To not finish his quest is puzzling to me, and intensely sad for fans. I watched nearly every game he played the past seven years (thanks to DVR and NBA League Pass), so there is a personal hurt from investing so much of my time and energy into this championship quest.

So, now, we are forced to watch a team that will sway the balance of the entire league because of an enormous, pre-meditated collusion among three of the game’s best players. I realize I am spinning this in a very negative light, and that is just attributed to my sincere love of the NBA and honest opinion about this travesty.

You can make an argument that it will be almost as fun to root against such a powerhouse, as it is to root for your team. I disagree. Fans want to see teams defined by its superstar. Fans want to see LeBron James and the Cavaliers play against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. They want to see LeBron James go against Chris Bosh. But they do not want to see LeBron James pull an Alex Rodriguez …

In 1982, Moses Malone did something kind of similar, moving to Philadelphia from Houston to play with Julius Erving and Andrew Toney. But when you factor in James’ connection to NE Ohio, it separates this event from the others.

Michael Jordan would not have done this, in my opinion. Though, to be fair, Jordan never had the opportunity to test the free-agent market the way LeBron did. Jordan signed his rookie contract; then, three years into it, the Bulls put an eight-year, $25 million deal on the table that Jordan signed and rode out.

LeBron James defined the Cavaliers, defined that region in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie. He was their Michael Jordan. He would have had a statue in front of the arena, and also been forever beloved and a true, genuine historical, inspirational sports icon.

Now … that has all vanished. With those fateful words “South Beach”. Even that is interesting, as he did not even say Miami Heat. Just makes me feel ill.

Miami is not exactly known as an NBA city, as despite having Dwyane Wade they were 15th in home league attendance last season; the Cavaliers were second to the Lakers.

As for The Decision: there could not have been a more painful way for Cavaliers fans to learn about James’ fate. Pure agony. It took Jim Grey 6 minutes and 18 … 18 … questions before asking James where he was going to play next. Ridiculous.

I’m sure the ratings were as good as expected, but it was a nauseating spectacle. Now, if James had announced he was staying, it would have changed the entire tone quite a bit, as none of the other teams would have had to deal with a pain similar to what Cavaliers Nation had to go through. It would have been a tremendous celebration for Cleveland … but it is now time to try and move on.

Given the state of the Cleveland Indians, let’s hope that maybe the Cleveland Browns can turn things around behind Colt McCoy and Joshua Cribbs … maybe LeBron James will come and play tight end.

I heard of James’ decision live as it happened. I was in Kirkwood and popped into a bar, and it was definitely one of those moments where I’ll always recall where I was and how I felt at a specific moment in time. I had hope until the Jim Grey interview ….

I spent much of the rest of Thursday night following Twitter, as Cavs guard Mo Williams was very candid and emotional about losing his teammate.

“I gotta be honest. I’m sick as a dog. I feel like my heart has been pulled out. This is surreal. So many emotions on one man’s decision. I wonder what is our next move.”

He went on to say that the only thing he disagreed with was how James handled the revelation on national TV, if LeBron did in fact know he was heading out of Cleveland. Williams also said that the Cavaliers “could have got it done” and James would have enjoyed winning a title in Cleveland “a whole lot more”

The instant reaction was fascinating, so full of intrigue, and since I was bummed I could not stay away from the reaction from others.

Of course, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert unloaded on LeBron. He called the Cavaliers’ “former hero” (Gilbert’s words) “narcissistic” and “cowardly” and ripped his “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal” and labeled James’ decision a “shocking act of disloyalty,” a “heartless and callous” action.

He told an Associated Press reporter that James quit during the playoffs, and ripped James for “a self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of the decision unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”

Later, in an interview with the AP, Gilbert accused James of quitting in the playoffs the past two seasons.
“LeBron James needs to go to another team with two superstars already so he can win a championship,” Gilbert said. “We will win a championship before [the Heat] do. … It’s not about him leaving. It’s the disrespect. It’s time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I’ve been holding this all in for a long time.”

Post-script: Fathead.com, an online retailer owned by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert dropped, the price of its LeBron Fathead wall decals from $99.99 to $17.41, which happens to be the same year Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold was born.

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