I posted this over at my blog, Thoughts From the Couch, and though I'd share it with you guys:
As the clock ticked under the final minute - as the Miami Heat rolled over like a dead fish - I sat in my neighbor's basement, catching game 6 with four lifelong sports fans. All of them rooting against the Heat, one of them a native of Northern Ohio, that same one my father. And as those last seconds ticked off the clock, as it became apparent that, yes, LeBron was going to lose this series, it began to sink in how much this loss meant. How much it meant on a number of levels. It meant something to casual NBA fans, who were either crushed that on Monday morning the "Heat Index" would simply read 'frigid', or ecstatic that a team covered as obnoxiously extensively as Miami would finally be dead and buried. It meant something to hardcore, lifelong sports fans, who were proud to see Dallas defeat a group of preening divas who apparently thought the NBA title was entitled to them. As Dan Gilbert tweeted after the game, "there are no shortcuts." It takes hard work to win titles, and those who have been watching sports for their entire lives know this, it is inherent, a cardinal rule. Which is why the Miami loss vindicated them, and their long held beliefs. It meant something to the national media, who were foaming at the mouth to rake LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Spoelstra over the coals as soon as they failed. But, most of all (beyond true Maverick fans), it meant something to those of us from Cleveland. The folks who invested our hearts and souls in LeBron for years. Those of us who defended him against all comers. Those of us who proclaimed him the king, our basketball savior, the comic book hero who would rescue Cleveland from it's seemingly perpetual series of heartbreak and failure; of epic losses and bewildering defeats. LeBron was the kid from Cleveland who would end all of that. Then, of course, came "The Decision", and just like that, he was gone. 'Bron went to Miami, and Cleveland was right back where it belonged, in sports hell.
Throughout the regular season, as a depleted Cavaliers roster full of kids - largely devoid of NBA talent - lost their way, the Miami Heat seemed to feed off of their failure. This is ridiculous, I realize, but it felt that way. When the Heat came into Cleveland, and LeBron put up one of his best games of the season, in front of perhaps the most hostile crowd in NBA history, it sent the Heat on their way as it simultaneously sent the Cavaliers into a tailspin they would never recover from. As that game progressed it seemed LeBron and his teammates began to embrace their role as villains. They became comfortable with being hated, being booed, being reviled. It is because of this that when they crushed the Bulls, advancing into the Finals, I had begun to prepare myself for the inevitable. LeBron James was going to deliver a title to the bogus, fair-weather fans in Miami, while those who had once so lovingly embraced him back in Cleveland watched on in despair; only one year after being betrayed by the man they had labelled the chosen one. But then a funny thing happened, a big goofy German came along and - in the words of Mo Williams - "Dallas healed my HEART". And it was true, Mo, Dallas did heal our hearts.
Sure, LeBron James may go on to win some titles. But, at least for today, I don't care about all of that. I just know that watching the Miami Heat saunter into the Finals, strut out to a 2-1 lead, then proceed to crash and burn was glorious. And, like I said, I think - second to Dallas fans - this one meant the most to the Clevelanders. And it was at that moment on Sunday night, when Miami gave up, when Dirk mysteriously vanished from the court, when the clock finally struck zero, that I did realize how much it did mean to us. And, while I consider myself a Clevelander, I was only born there. Never have I lived there. And, really, I haven't spent a whole lot of time there. So when my dad - who did spend much of his life in Northern Ohio - gleefully danced across the room, laughing deliriously, throwing me a high five, I realized how deep-seeded the animosity toward LeBron was. How much Cleveland, as a community, as a family, was rooting for him to fail. And afterwards, when LeBron made some incredibly pretentious, wholly unnecessary, and frankly offensive comments it made it even more clear why that is. LeBron James just doesn't care. He doesn't care about me, he doesn't care about you, he doesn't care about his teammates, and he apparently doesn't care about winning. He cares about himself, his brand, and money.
So, thank you, Dirk Nowitzki, for not allowing the False King and his subjects dance their way to a title. Thank you, Jason Terry, for stepping up and making huge shots. Thank you, JJ Barea, for doing whatever it is you do that somehow enables you to score in the NBA. Thank you, Tyson Chandler, for caring so much. Thank you, Jason Kidd, for sticking around forever. Thank you, DeShawn Stevenson, for being so crazy. Thank you, Brian Cardinal, for giving hope to out of shape white guys everywhere. Also thanks to you, Shawn Marion, Ian Mahimni, Brendan Haywood, Peja Stojakovic, you all did admirably. Thank you, Mark Cuban, for assembling this group. And, once again, thank you, Dirk, for never giving up, because this year you won a title for two cities. And someday, hopefully, I will be able to dance around deliriously and celebrate a true Cleveland title with my father. But on Sunday night, for at least one night, celebrating with the Mavericks just felt right.