A few Cleveland Cavaliers fans aren't taking this whole "don't get your free-agency hopes up" approach very well.
Last year when James Blair stormed the court, I was watching at home, said Raggi, who grew up in Cuyahoga Falls but now lives in Cranberry Township, Pa. My partner was at the game, sitting two rows in front of James Blair. We saw the fans’ reaction, overwhelming. We got to talking, ‘We might have something here.'
Before the Cavs host the Heat, Raggi, Blair and supporters will pass out 2,000 bright green T-shirts at three tables outside the Q from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. Those who take a picture wearing the shirt and tweet @ComeHomeLebron will be eligible to win 2014-15 Cavs season tickets.
Their plan doesn't end there, either:
But that’s just the start of their campaign, aimed at getting James to leave Miami for the Cavs in free agency in July. On Monday, a Come Home LeBron billboard will go up near James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, for four or eight weeks. Another is slated for Interstate 71 at Pearl Road at the end of December for one week; it will return in mid-February and remain until the end of March.
The Cavs and two-time NBA champion Heat meet for three games this season, the last at the Q on March 18, when Raggi and his crew hope to distribute 10,000 T-shirts. Some will be passed out Dec. 14 at the opening of the renovated St. V-M gymnasium, funded by a $1 million donation from James.
Nothing like approaching this summer with tapered expectations, am I right?
The latest campaign is in stark contrast from what we were seeing a little over three years ago. Fans took to the streets and torched LeBron's jerseys in 2010 after he announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach. This is a pleasant, and slightly vexing, reminder of how much things can change in such a short time.
And of course James Blair, the fan who greeted LeBron courtside against the Cavs last season, was the inspiration of all this—this complex petition for King James to return home.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this sounds like begging. Josh Raggi, who is spearheading this crusade, made it point to say their intention isn't to "beg him to come back."
From the outside looking in, it sure seems like this is a case of upscale pleading. Investing $50,000 in a LeBron fishing expedition doesn't mean the city is playing hard to get. It's quite the opposite, in fact.
You shouldn't need a fanatical barnstorm to show you're open to LeBron's return—you should just be open to it. He's the best player in the NBA, a two-time champion and four-time MVP; it's just assumed you're amenable to signing him, even if you're the Cavs.
Sure, The Decision stung. It was a misguided and ignorantly narcissistic attempt at positive hype and publicity. But this is LeBron. Never mind that he's matured beyond those years—he's any team's best chance at winning a title (provided he's an option). I don't care if his decision comprised him playing the ukulele to the beat of "No Scrubs" while singing his team of choice. He's still LeBron. You embrace him, because he's LeBron.
Admittedly, a select few Clevelanders are going over the top. Some good ol' fashioned Blair-ing—rushing the court to shower LeBron with hugs, kisses and sour apple-flavored lollipops—should suffice. No need to break the bank in hopes he leaves Miami.
I'm also left wondering if these fans have considered the possibility that LeBron doesn't want to leave the Heat. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are his friends, and if they win a third straight title together, he has the opportunity to do something Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have never done—win a fourth consecutive championship.
Even if the Heat fall short of another title, I see LeBron giving it at least one more go in Miami before calling it quits. I could be wrong, of course, but that doesn't mean Cleveland shouldn't plan for the worst. Again.
"I’m willing to get over it completely if he comes back," Raggi told Ridenour of LeBron's decision to leave. "I’m sure we all are."
But are they ready to usher in life without him if he doesn't? That's the real question.