LeBron James, the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers, basically told the city that loves him so much that the feeling is not mutual, and that he is heading to the Miami Heat in one of the most interesting and controversial free agency decisions in NBA history. It was on July 7 when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh announced their commitment to the Heat and just a day later, the heart-halting news came to Cleveland that LeBron James would be joining the two in Miami.
I spent eight hours in my car driving to Las Vegas in the days before Lebron’s big decision was announced, listening to way too much LeBron coverage, and nobody had a clue what LeBron was going to do. Some said there was no way he would leave Cleveland. That’s where he started and he was the face of that franchise – he was the team’s only hope at winning a championship. But the Knicks, who had been courting LeBron it seems for a couple of years now, wanted to bring him to the big city and the big life of the city. They thought they had LeBron in the bag. Who wouldn’t want to move to New York City? Right? It’s the biggest and best professional sports market in the country. The L.A. Clippers made him an offer, but everybody knew he wasn’t going to one of the worst organizations in pro sports. And of course the Miami Heat had an offer for him as well.
Would LeBron choose the biggest money deal? Was he just looking for championships? Does he want to do right and stay in his home state? Was he looking for the exciting bling-bling city life in New York?
As it turned out, LeBron wants to win championships (he’ll get plenty of bling-bling life in South Beach, don’t worry).
The Wade-Bosh-James trio going to Miami, under the NBA’s salary cap, seemed impossible, but all three stars decided to take less money to be able to play together and improve the Heat tenfold. They all want championships, which will, in turn, bring them more money in the future. (Heat executives should get a lot of credit for scrambling to clear enough cap room.)
Of course, LeBron’s decision was not going to be taken well in Cleveland, especially the way he did it in an un-humble way by announcing it on ESPN Special called “The Decision.” It was an “in-your-face Cleveland” kind of an announcement.
At the time of this big decision, I was enjoying a week of leisure in the Dominican Republic on my honeymoon, drinking strong boat drinks and taking an obscene amount of naps. I happened to turn on the Spanish language edition of CNN and saw crazed fans in tears, burning LeBron’s jersey. I couldn’t understand the Spanish newscast but I knew right away that LeBron had made the decision to move on, and all of the images and video footage that I saw left the impression that the city really is crazy over LeBron. This craziness spread across the country.
Torie and I were sitting in the exit row of a 737 ready for take off at Charlotte International Airport when we heard the flight attendant speaking with two European basketball players sitting next to us.
“I can’t believe what that man did to that city,” the Chicago-based attendant said. Both the players burst with laughter at her statement.
“It’s not like he killed someone,” one of the players replied.
Well, it would seem that LeBron killed an entire city, with the widespread anger that spread across the country.
I have tried to put myself in a position to feel that same anger Cleveland fans are filled with right now. What would it take?
Let’s say John Elway, after winning his two Super Bowls, decided to go play with San Diego or even, God forbid, Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Would this scenario fill me with that kind of anger? Would I be burning my No. 7 on camera? This guy was the face of Colorado sports but I am not sure it would work that way. No, I am sure I wouldn’t be acting in the same crazed fashion Cavs fans are right now. Maybe, but probably not.
The real reason for so much sadness and anger in Cleveland is that, as a sports city, it was already hurt when Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore – an unpopular choice that nobody in the city will be able to forgive.
Cleveland is the stereotypical soap opera: A mid-40s single woman, madly in love with her dream guy, but whose heart is torn apart when she finds him with another lover and vows to never love again. Then, another Mr. Right comes along and she, despite her caution, opens up to him and falls madly in love once again.What happens next? Of course, Mr. Right turns out to be another male pig sleeping around on her and she finds herself once again heartbroken and burned.
And that’s how Cleveland feels right now. Burned once again. They put all their love and money into LeBron and LeBron walked away. He tore open old wounds in Cleveland’s heart and I am not sure the city will ever forgive the guy.
I am all for LeBron’s big move to the Heat. It will make for some entertaining basketball and finally, the spotlight won’t be solely on LeBron. As for Cleveland? I am not sure the city will ever recover after the LeBron departure. T hey will probably be a sports city basket case from now on, not knowing who to trust and who to love.
But hey, at least Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – right?