LeBron James and the 10 Most Hated Sports Figures in Cleveland
If there's one thing the fans in Cleveland know, it's heartbreak. The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move, Red Right 88—Cleveland fans have felt it all.
There have been times where that heartbreak turns into flat-out hatred for a person. Sometimes it's temporary, as a result of just missing a moment of greatness. Other times, however, it feels like the fans have been stabbed in the back, with the knife wiggling around someone laughs maniacally.
Some of the spots on this list are deserved, others are not necessarily. Some are people that Cleveland fans love to hate, rather than actually hate, such as Willie Mays (who missed the cut). Others, including the obvious top spot, belongs to someone the fans will not stop hating, and they are free to hate the person.
All three clubs are equally represented (Indians, Browns, and Cavs) as the top 10 people who probably should not hang around in Cleveland are unveiled.
10. Michael Jordan
Why not start the list with him? Michael Jordan is the greatest man to play basketball, the true king of the court, and a man I love watching whenever he's on ESPN Classic.
That being said, you know how a criticism of Cleveland was that they could not bring a title home? They may have had a couple to begin with if not for this guy knocking them out of the playoffs.
Cleveland fans have the utmost respect for MJ, but he's still a lasting thorn in the side of the Cavs, especially now.
9. Albert Belle
The Indians teams of the mid-'90s had some of the most likable guys in the game. There was Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser, Carlos Baerga, a young Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome, among others.
Then there was this guy. The corked bat incident, his adamant hatred for the media, among other things. When someone retires and what's written about them is "He was a surly jerk..." then that's saying something.
8. Larry Dolan
I feel like he gets treated worse then he probably should up in Cleveland, but then again, he followed up the revival of the franchise behind Richard Jacobs with a return to the records of the '70s and '80s, where the Indians traded away their best players.
Nonetheless, he has a reputation as a tightwad, which is great in some careers, but terrible as a baseball owner, and that's where the problems come from. It's not so much a hatred as an annoyance, and it can always be reversed if Cleveland starts winning again.
7. Ricky Davis
Before LeBron came and Cleveland had themselves a hero and fan favorite, they had a fan...least favorite. Heck, the Cavs traded him away shortly after LeBron came on the team since they found him cancerous to their development.
Unlike others such as Terrell Owens or Albert Belle, he didn't have the stats to back up his attitude.
Yes, he had 20 points a game in a season once, but at the expense of the team; look up "Wrong Rim Ricky" for what I mean.
6. Jose Mesa
This depends on which side you take int he Omar Vizquel-Jose Mesa rivalry. The Pro-Omar people would definitely put him on this list. Here's an excerpt from Omar Vizquel's autobiography (according to Wikipedia, hopefully this is actually true in that case):
"The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game."
If that's true, then Mesa's pretty much handing Cleveland someone to blame for the 1997 World Series, which was lost in Game Seven in the 11th inning, the closest they've ever gotten to a championship since 1964.
5. John Elway
Here's another great of the game who Cleveland highly respects, but naturally love to hate as well. The Browns of the mid-1980s were actually really good, but like the Cavs, were held back by one man: John Elway.
In 1986, the Browns were beaten by The Drive, then in 1987 they were beaten by The Fumble, both times against the Elway-led Broncos. The Browns lost again to Elway in 1989 and are still trying to find their way back to the top.
Of course, to add insult to injury, Elway won his titles during the Browns' nonexistence, so they couldn't even play them to try to get revenge.
4. Ted Stepien
Now we're getting to the major problems. Stepien makes Dolan look like the Owner of the Year. For anyone who complains about Ferry, Gilbert, and others not knowing what they're doing, they're miles better than this guy.
How bad was he for the Cavaliers? Under his ownership, the Cavaliers were considered, according to the New York Times, "perhaps the worst club and most poorly run franchise in professional basketball."
He even has the Stepien Rule named after him, to prevent owners from trading away first-round draft picks in consecutive years. The Cavs rebounded when owned by Gordon Gund, but for a while they were truly in the cellar, all thanks to Stepien.
3. LeBron James
He will slide down the list somewhat as the hurt wears off, but still. How many legends has Cleveland harbored? A handful, maybe. Bob Feller, Jim Brown...that's about it.
How many people have made Cleveland their home only to bail for greener pastures? Many have: CC Sabathia, Man-Ram, Carlos Boozer, the list goes on.
But none of them had the impact LeBron did. You know that Cleveland tourism video that says "Our economy is based on LeBron James?" That's not that far off.
Cleveland fans are allowed to be angry about this. Burning jerseys is going too far, but when someone latches on to hope and it's ripped away, what else are they supposed to do? It was not even that he bailed on Cleveland necessarily, but the way he did it that hurts.
As a sportswriter I can understand his decision and his desire to win a title; pairing himself with Wade and Bosh definitely helps. As a Cleveland fan I'm hurting inside, and I can't look at LBJ the same way again.
2. Frank Lane
There are people more hated than LeBron? Of course, even in the aftermath of his decision. These top two are people who destroyed franchises, rather than left them. The first is Frank "Trader" Lane.
After the 1954 Cleveland Indians won 111 games, they began to struggle under Hank Greenberg, who was not well-liked either.
Nonetheless, Lane was far, far worse than Greenberg ever was. In his five-year tenure, he sent away the following players:
Rocky Colavito, fan favorite and all-star slugger. Roger Maris, two-time MVP and the real single-season home run king.
Norm Cash, multiple all-star appearances, Tigers '68 championship leader.
Joe Gordon, Indians manager. Really, he traded the manager.
Early Wynn, just in time for his Cy young win.
What hurts is that in his general manager role for the White Sox, he wasn't half bad, getting them near an American League pennant. For us, it took 30 years to undo the damage.
1. Art Modell
Do I really need to say more?
Well, I won't. I'll let others say it for me.
"...these are the best fans in the NFL. I said that when I came here with my Bears. They (the Cleveland sports fans) don't deserve this. If Modell had any sort of sense of dignity he would have sold the team." - Mike Ditka
"I've been married for over 40 years. It would be like coming home one day and everything's gone—not even a note." - Sam Rutigliano
He is still reviled in Cleveland. I don't think the Cleveland-Baltimore rivalry would even be a rivalry if not for that move, even if there had still been a franchise formed. The NFL kept the Browns' history intact due to the outcry, and he has probably been kept out of the Hall of Fame as a result of this move.
It's impossible for any Cleveland fan to write objectively about this man, though I'm trying my hardest. He took the city's most beloved franchise and handed it over to another city.
This move happened around the time I first got interested in sports as a kid, so I never really picked up football, and I don't have those same memories earlier generations, as well as today's kids, do of the Browns, for better or worse.
Thanks a lot, Art Modell.