When do I forgive LeBron?
I am a Cleveland sports fan, born and raised, and just about every Cleveland sports fan has at least three things in common:
1. They absolutely loved the Indians in the 90s.
2. They could coach the Browns.
3. They have an opinion about LeBron.
I would even go so far as to say that everyone in Cleveland has a strong opinion about LeBron. Some people absolutely hate LeBron for reasons that I don’t need to rehash. They want him to get injured, lose every game ever and maybe develop several personal problems. Others have literally given up on basketball over his departure. Some went with him, and have ceased to cheer for a team, choosing rather to cheer only for an individual. Others want him to come back so bad that they run out onto the floor of the Q during actual games. (Okay, so that was just one guy, but others have thought of it.)
Personally, I was just wounded by LeBron. Friends who aren’t from Cleveland tell me that I should get over it. “He made a business decision.” “Players sign contracts all the time.” “Anybody in their right mind would leave Cleveland for Miami.” “You act like he was your girlfriend.” Those people are right, in a sense. LeBron does have the right to do what he wants. Miami probably is a nice place to live. He isn’t my girlfriend. In fact, as far as I know, he never got romantically involved with any of the fans in Cleveland (insert your favorite joke about his mom here).
But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like he betrayed me, other Cavs’ fans, Austin Carr and every other significant Ohioan in the annals of history. His departure stung because the relationship between the player and the fan is just that; a relationship. We study their body language, we learn about their personal lives and we defend them when they mess up. We love our boys, warts and all. It takes a real scumbag (or Tim Couch) to get Clevelanders to turn on their own.
I played that game with LeBron. I felt like I knew who he was on and off the court. I could tell when he was heating up, and I knew the name of his high school coach. I knew his stats, and I knew his favorite cereal. I knew when he was going to take a jumper before his defender did, and I knew about his childhood friends. I felt like I really knew the guy, and I defended him with fervor.
So it hurts that he left, but there was also the way that he left. He made us think (both with his words and his play) that he wouldn’t leave until he won a championship. And then it was over. With very little warning, and with very little tact, it was over. Some lashed out, but I was just wounded. I don’t like to think about what we had. I don’t like to think about LeBron anymore.
I got to thinking about LeBron while watching him lose to the Bulls last night. The full LeBron package was on display. He was zipping nifty passes to open teammates, swatting shots with violent intent and shooting with maddening efficiency. He also demonstrated his pride, as he gave Carlos Boozer a cheap forearm shiver to prove that he is the man, and you don’t mess with the man. He demonstrated immaturity in hanging on the rim after a crucial bucket when it became clear that Miami was going to lose. LeBron, perhaps more than ESPN, wanted to break a meaningless win-streak record, and he responded childishly when it became obvious that it was all going down.
He’s the same old LeBron, only he’s matured and also somehow become more immature. He has learned how to look humble only so that he can be thought of more highly. He has learned how to look unselfish only so that he can gain accolades. He has learned how to look like the media doesn’t bother him, when he really just tries to read more of the positive media treatment than the negative. He hasn’t changed; he has just learned how to look like he has. He hasn’t changed enough to apologize to the city of Cleveland.
I’ve also been thinking about LeBron because there’s word that he might come back to Cleveland.
Now, there’s no way of knowing if LeBron really wants to come back, but what if he does? How do us fans respond? You can bet that LeBron would bring a bunch of his followers back to our fan base, but how do us true fans respond?
Some hate him so much that they say they would sign him only if we then traded him immediately. Or, as smcoyne4 said in a comment,
“Just to be clear, when we’re talking about recruiting LeBron it’s so that he can sit on the end of the bench for 48 minutes, bring Kyrie water during timeouts, and tie Tristan’s shoes for him so TT doesn’t have to bother himself with the unnecessary task of bending down, right?”
I sense some bitterness, but man is it funny. But I’m still left to wonder, what do I do if LeBron talks to his mom, decides that the most important thing is what’s best for LeBron, and decides that Cleveland fits the bill?
From a basketball perspective, if you have a chance to sign the best player on the planet, you do it. If it’s all about winning a title, LeBron is a no-brainer.
But he’ll never be that same kid to me again. It’ll never be our boy winning one for our city. It’ll be the king graciously descending to the level of the little people that he once knew and bestowing his talents on us.
Can a fan that is in danger of never seeing a championship in his lifetime be too picky about how we get a championship? I guess not. If LeBron comes back, I’ll cheer for him. But I’ll never view him the way I did, or even the way I view our boys now. Does LeBron care about this? No, and that’s exactly the point. LeBron has long ceased to think about anyone other than LeBron. He’s so talented that he doesn’t need to think about anyone else. Which is fine, because he’ll keep winning championships for those fans that he doesn’t care about.
Just not the way any true fan wants them.