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Is LeBron James Willing to Break Cleveland's Heart Like Art Modell Did?

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts to a call in the first half against of the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Daniel ZylberkanCorrespondent IJune 30, 2010

I feel bad for the Cleveland sports fans. They haven't won a championship since 1964 and have suffered heartbreak after heartbreak in the five decades since.

But there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the blue collar and hard scrabble, salt-of-the-earth people who live on the banks of the Cuyahoga. A local product from nearby Akron was supposed to come into a city that has had very bad experiences with sports.

But in a few hours, what could have once been a lifelong relationship that would heal the wounds of a city that really needed it, will end as a tragedy for Cleveland. Its average working Joe's, who wish for nothing more than for it to get better. After all, they've gotten only worse and worse since the 1960s.

LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers would recapitulate and overshadow many of the most painful of these memories.  Ernest Byner, Art Modell, John Elway, and LeBron James would stand together on the Cleveland sports' hall of shame.

Cleveland Browns heartbreak can be identified by two word titles that stick in the minds of all who witnessed it and have heard of them. "The Fumble," "The Drive," "The Move." All indelible moments in the history of the Cleveland Browns, the most important of all franchises in the history of the city.

Although on field memories are painful, at least the regular sports fan knows what happens on the field is for the most part out of the control of management, finances, and other factors.

But Art Modell's move to Baltimore was a betrayal on a level that very few cities has ever known. Cities feel a connection to their sports teams, teams are often a reflection of a city's values and vice versa. So it was pure heartbreak when Modell took the Browns in a midnight move to Baltimore.

Now LeBron James has the same opportunity to break what is effectively his home town's heart, and for what?

To move to a larger market in a more glamorous city on the shore of an ocean or a lake? To eat in fancy restaurants and hang out with celebrities?

Betrayal is a heavy word to throw around, I know that. No matter what, this new version of the Cleveland Browns that has as much bad mojo as any professional sports franchise in the world, will never be able to make up for the betrayal that Art Modell levelled upon the flinty, tough town on the banks of the once flaming Cuyahoga river.

This will be LeBron James' defining moment, a moment Art Modell never had. A moment for LeBron to redeem himself and prove that he is a real emotional human being. Proving he favors loyalty over betrayal, winning over money, and community over fame.

If LeBron James wishes to be a reflection of the city that loves him: a hard worker and somebody who understands what it is to be heartbroken, he will stay in Cleveland.

In six hours he will have that choice. Maybe he'll make the easy choice and leave to bask in the light of fame and fortune. Or he'll make the right decision and prove that in this world there's still such a thing as humanity and depth in a world that is so shallow and inhumane.

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