It was an ending fit for a king. Finding out which team LeBron James chose to play for via text message wouldn’t do the situation justice; nor would seeing it scroll across the bottom of your screen during a baseball game. “The Decision” was all anyone in the sports world was talking about, and having an hour special on ESPN was a fitting way to make the announcement. How they went about conducting the interview I didn’t care for so much, but that’s another story (and besides, who tucks a shirt into jeans?).
I got the feeling James was going to the Heat in the days leading up to the event. The Knicks needed too much work. The Nets are even worse than the Knicks, and you don’t want your friend as a boss. He couldn’t wear 23 in Chicago (but judging from the picture it wouldn’t have mattered anyway), and Los Angeles seemed like a long shot. All that left was Cleveland and Miami. Once Wade and Bosh announced they were both going to play with the Heat, it really hurt the Cavs’ chances. No Tom Izzo, and now no free agent signings. All they had left to offer LeBron was sentimental value, but millionaires don’t tend to listen to people yelling “you owe us.” If things are bigger in Texas, then they’re certainly hotter in Florida–Miami especially. For the spectacle of LeBron James, his brand, and his legacy, the aura of Miami seemed too much to ignore.
Thursday morning, things got crazy. Every radio show and sports site was talking about LeBron. Nick Mendola may or may not have broken news that LeBron was scheduled to fly to Miami and meet with Pat Riley. Whichever guest host was murdering the Jim Rome show that day (I know, I know. Cut me some slack… that’s what WGR has on when I get my lunch break) had all kinds of people on from Ohio saying how LeBron better come back and how much they will hate him if he doesn’t. Facebook and Twitter were loaded with predictions and suggestions… some less serious than others.
When you think about it, you do love an owner like that. I wish our owners were more like that. He personally guarantees the Cavs will win a championship before LeBron will. While our absentee and aged owners don’t seem to know games exist after the regular season, their owner personally guarantees them a championship. In all honesty, that’s probably a bet he’s going to lose, but either way, you have to admire the passion he has for his city, something James seemed to be lacking.
I actually got a letter from James in the mail a week or two ago. In it, he said, “No matter which team I end up playing with next season, I promise to continue to work hard and remain dedicated to the game of basketball… without the support of the fans, basketball would not mean nearly as much.” Guess basketball doesn’t mean as much to him. And if not basketball, then the city of Cleveland.
Eventually though, The Forest City will do what us small-markets do best, pull together and be resilient. It’s not going to be easy and it will certainly take time, but Cleveland will start to get over it and LeBron will stop being headline news, maybe when the Browns start-up. Art Modell will still be public enemy number one, and eventually, Clevelanders will make their way to the acceptance stage of grief. One of the last things I asked my friend was if they had a feeling LeBron was going to leave. He answered, “I knew he was going to leave. I think everyone knew but didn’t want to admit it.”
Through writing this I’ve realized that Cleveland is going to be okay. It may take some time to become title contenders again, but when the wounds heal, they heal stronger than before. And Cleveland–if you need a hug along the way, Buffalo is just a short trip away.
Not really relevent to the piece, but you knew this was a big deal when dictionary.com even got involved. Take a look (note the extension is 666): http://hotword.dictionary.com/?p=666. They know grammar and things of that nature, but I would have liked to see them make note of Gilbert’s use of a double negative “nor NEVER.”