Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Cavaliers’

When LeBron James was interviewed before returning to Cleveland to play against his hometown team for the second time since his departure, he was asked about eventually having his number retired by the Cavs.  “That’s something I don’t know and something I can’t control,” James said. “Anytime you get a jersey retired anywhere it is a tribute. I had my jersey in my high school retired and when that happened it was unbelievable. If that happens here, I’ll be grateful.”

Gratitude has not been LeBron’s strong suit when it comes to his former team, or for the people of Cleveland for that matter.  Had he remained in Cleveland, he would have had his number retired and most likely would have had statues erected in his honor.  Had he left Cleveland with a modicum of grace instead of publicly humiliating his former team, he may have been able to mend fences down the road and be honored as the best basketball player to ever wear a Cavs uniform.

Based on his performance on the court, LeBron absolutely deserves to have his number retired by the Cavs one day.  But since you can’t honor the player without honoring the man, LeBron should resign himself to the fact that the only way that his number will ever be retired in the NBA is if the Miami Heat choose to do so when his playing days are over.

Time heals all wounds, but people don’t often forget being disrespected.  When LeBron made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland, he burned a bridge that will never be rebuilt.  He instantly transitioned from the greatest sports hero that the city has ever known to the prodigal son who was no longer welcome in his hometown.

If the people of Cleveland were somehow able to forgive LeBron at some point, there would never be enough of a public outcry to have his number retired, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, has nothing but contempt for the former king of Cleveland.

After the Cavs defeated the Heat last night in Cleveland, Gilbert tweeted “Not in our garage!!” (a reference to LeBron and his entourage being stopped when trying to enter the garage underneath the Quicken Loans Arena before the game).

Long before his Twitter message taunting LeBron after the Cavs exacted their revenge by upsetting the Heat last night, Gilbert issued an open letter to Cleveland fans, which illustrates the depth of the betrayal that he felt after “The Decision.”

{Click here to read the letter}

Perhaps LeBron regrets how he left Cleveland.  Perhaps he has hopes of being welcomed back to his hometown someday.  But the reality is that his betrayal will linger for many years to come, and it would come as a total shock to see him honored in any way, much less something as monumental as having his number retired.

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Picture this…

You are an 18-year old high school phenom who has been named “Mr. Basketball” in your home state three times in your four years of high school.  You are about to skip college and go straight to the NBA as the top pick in the draft, with your struggling hometown team picking first.  You have the chance to be the savior of the franchise, and become a hometown hero.

By the time that you set foot on the court for your first NBA game, you already have a shoe contract from Nike and the adoration of the city that you call your own.  Born to a 16-year old single mother, you have overcome the odds that that were stacked against you.  At the age of 18, you are already earning more money than most people will earn in a lifetime while doing something that you love.  You are held in such high esteem by your hometown for your basketball skills that you are referred to as “King James.”

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but you embrace the pressure that comes with being “King James” and become a hometown hero.  You turn around a franchise that had struggled for years, and transition them into an NBA powerhouse.  Although you have yet to win a championship, your hometown fans worship you.  They believe that you are the person to bring a title to Cleveland, a city that seems cursed, having watched potential championships slip through their fingers in bizarre ways over the years.

But then it happened…

After seven years as a hometown hero, you decided to explore your options as a free agent.  For a long time, you dangled the dream of your return to the Cavaliers, even though you knew full well that you were not coming back.

Sports fans understand that free agency is a part of the game.  We hate it when one of our best players leave and we love it when we sign a top player off of another team.  It’s the nature of the beast.  We understand that loyalty no longer exists, mostly for financial reasons.  And though we don’t like to see our favorite players leave, we understand that everyone has the right to make as much money as they can, because we do the same thing.

LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers was not about the money, which is why Cleveland fans are so angry.  This was about quitting on the city that crowned him “King”…quitting in a way that was a slap in the face to an entire city…quitting in a way that was much more befitting of a court jester than a king.

On July 8th, even the most casual fan was tuned in to watch the LeBron James circus – “The Decision.” In the days leading up to the show, LeBron said that his decision kept changing.  He claimed that he still wasn’t fully decided when he woke up that morning.

There’s no reason to mince words.  LeBron James is a liar.  He said what he had to say to make sure that people tuned in to the worst reality show in the history of television.  The drama was fake.  He was always going to the Miami Heat.  The other teams never had a chance.  He claimed that he was doing this for charity, but that is not why he made his announcement is such a distasteful, disrespectful way.  This was all about “King James” and his ego.

Did the proceeds go to charity?  Absolutely!  But if LeBron really wanted to support the charity, he could have done so by writing a check, or making appearances to sign autographs, or host events.  There are numerous ways that he could have generated as much money for the charity without spitting in the face of the fans who crowned him “King.”

Last night, Cavalier fans finally got the chance to extract their pound of flesh as “King James” returned to the arena that was once his castle.  The atmosphere was electric.  The fans were louder on TV than any game that I can remember, including the seventh games of NBA Championships.  The booing was deserved, as were the creative signs and t-shirts scattered throughout the arena mocking him.  Crowd chants are usually difficult to understand on television, but last night they were crystal clear.  And though LeBron James rose to the occasion with a great game, it was still a chance for Cleveland fans to gain some closure.

For all intents and purposes, “King James” died on that fateful night in July.  Last night, the people of Cleveland finally got the chance to give him a proper burial.

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