As a Cleveland native, I’m getting asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers — and many of my friends and co-workers expect me to be upset, indignant, jilted, etc. So, while the blogosphere hardly needs one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I’ll make this short and to the point.
LeBron doesn’t owe me anything.
He’s a professional basketball player who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. That’s a tall order, and yet he’s one of the very few with the physical gifts, youth and talent to potentially eclipse the legendary legacies of Wilt, Russell, Oscar, Bird, Kareem, Magic, MJ and, yes, Kobe. So, as an unestricted free agent, having sized up his chances for multiple NBA championships with the Cavaliers in Cleveland, LeBron has chosen to move on. So be it.
After all, LeBron already did the Hometown Hero thing. Born in nearby Akron, LeBron went to Cleveland to start his career when he could have pulled some kind of “I won’t sign” stunt to avoid it. (Others certainly have.) And he brought a lot of excitement to Cleveland: 7 seasons with no behind-the-scenes demands to be traded, no belittling of his teammates, or any of that negative superstar prima donna crap. That’s why Cavs fans loved him. It wasn’t just his points, assists, rebounds, and come-from-behind shot-blocking — it was his behavior as a relatively-solid citizen.
I don’t know what happened against the Celtics in the playoffs. How can you go from blowing the Celtics out in Boston to being unable to win anther game? (I’ve heard ALL the rumors.) But, now that the NBA playoffs are over, it’s obvious the Celtics were better than any of us thought they were at the end of the regular season. That collection of veteran all-stars took The Lakers to Game 7. Maybe, just maybe — all the locker room rumors notwithstanding — the Celtics were still the better team.
A player the caliber of LeBron James deserves his shot at winning multiple titles. That wasn’t happening in Cleveland. Am I disappointed? Yes, of course, I am. Do I feel betrayed? Not at all. The bitter Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, says LeBron quit during the playoffs. He’s crying out loud in an open letter about LeBron’s lack of loyalty. Hey, Dan! You just fired a head coach and GM who won more games in the last two seasons than anybody else in the NBA. Stuff your indignation. Perhaps Gilbert’s fit of pissy pique is an inside glimpse at yet another factor in LeBron’s decision to exit the Cavs. Dan Gilbert owns the Cavs. He doesn’t own LeBron James.
As for “The Decision” and all the pomp, pageantry and ESPN schmaltz that attended it? If the media and fans dub somebody “King James”, don’t be shocked when he behaves like royalty. I, for one, will be rooting for my Cavs and for LeBron James and The Miami Heat. (I’ve always liked D. Wade.) But if the Cavs and Heat match up in the playoffs, I’ll be rooting for LeBron to remain ring-less. That would be a great story.
Oh yeah, now about those two wars we’re fighting and that oily problem in the Gulf…