I'm envious of the fans who can't understand why LeBron James is being portrayed as the villain in the aftermath of his "decision," I really am. I'm jealous of the fans who were appalled by the sight of drunken, angry Cleveland fans burning their game jerseys and Witness t's of a former hero turned Benedict James.
I wish I could be more like these people, but I can't.
Instead, I salute those that set their LeBron jerseys ablaze and the masses of others that have voiced their disgust with "King" James and his free agency spectacle and grand finale.
And I applaud you most of all, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, for having the courage to call out the "self-titled 'King,'" as you so eloquently described him in your scathing, post-breakup e-mail.
Outsiders can argue the taste of it all they want. For me, though, as a pissed off and betrayed Cavs fan, it was exactly what I needed to hear following such a "shocking act of disloyalty" and "cowardly betrayal" because it's EXACTLY how I felt, and how I still feel over a week later (although the voodoo and championship guarantee were a bit crazy).
The simple truth is that LeBron James handled his free agency about as poorly as possible, and to culminate it with a one-hour, live debacle courtesy of both ESPN and Jim Gray (and Vitamin Water, which I have since stopped hydrating myself with) was truly one of the saddest, cruelest moments in sports history (excluding those associated with death, serious injury, or racial/gender injustice).
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, James played the part of the villain perfectly, and he's more than deserving of the backlash that has occurred in the past week since he arrogantly announced his intentions of taking "his talents" down to South Beach.
Quite simply, there's just a lot of reasons to not like the guy now.
To begin with, there's no dismissing the way James went about making his decision. Like many have likened it to, it was the college recruitment process that LeBron never really had. It was a LOOK AT ME! I'M LEBRON JAMES! EVERYBODY WANTS ME! tour, and it's safe to say he loved every minute of it.
If that didn't turn you off, then I sure hope the way he went about making his announcement did, because it was THAT unappealing.
I mean, to leave your hometown team is one thing. That's hard enough to do. But to do it live, on national television, after not having the decency to at least give the Cavs organization a heads up?
Well, that just wreaks of egotism and serious misguidance.
Of the latter, how could ANYONE in James's inner circle—or his "team" as he so often put it—think that this was even a remotely good idea? I mean, WHO IN THE HELL is advising him? Turtle? Johnny Drama? Some shady dude named Wes? Whoever they are, they need to be dismissed immediately by the "self-titled 'King.'" It's truly remarkable that nobody had the sense to step in and stop this self-indulgent LeBron celebration from taking place.
In fact, the thought of a one-hour show was so ridiculously wrong, it convinced me that James was staying put, and this was after months of wavering AND even after reports from various sources had leaked that Miami was all but a done deal.
I mean, there was absolutely nothing redeemable in a former King dismissing his once loyal subjects live, on national television. Everyone seemed to comprehend this aspect of "the decision." That is, everybody but LeBron and his entourage.
The whole thing—from the collegiate type recruiting atmosphere to the spectacle of "the Decision"—was just wrong on so many levels.
With the exception of real Miami fans (assuming those do in fact exist), I just can't grasp how anyone can come away from this feeling good about LeBron James after watching him betray both the loyal fans of Cleveland and the committed ownership of Dan Gilbert—ON LIVE TELEVISION! There's nothing admirable in an egomaniac or a traitor, there really isn't.
But maybe even sadder than LeBron's ego-driven free agency bonanza and its culmination was what the decision really seemed to do: it exposed the myth of the greatness of LeBron James.
For seven years, and beyond that really, Cavs fans like myself bought into the hype that was LeBron James. Everybody knew he was a one of a kind talent and all signs indicated that he was destined for greatness, which in the NBA is defined by rings. The cherry on the pie was that James appeared to be a likable, grounded superstar.
There was just so much to like about this hometown hero that even the most fatalistic of Cleveland sports fans only figured that it was a matter of time before LeBron broke through and delivered a championship to the city. It seemed inevitable.
But obviously, after choosing to flee Cleveland in favor of the stress relievers known as both South Beach and one Dwyane Wade, LeBron proved once and for all that he wasn't equipped to handle the pressure of bringing a title to Cleveland.
He just wasn't that guy.
Rather, by choosing to team up a with a talent like D-Wade, he was willing to give up his alpha dog status in favor of a more complementary, less pressurized sidekick role, which says A LOT in regard to his competitive drive and mental makeup as a basketball player.
Because of this, the aura of LeBron James's greatness has lost some of its luster.
It's been said time and again this past week, but there's just no way in hell Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant makes the decision that James did. Those two are just a different breed of basketball greatness, and it's now obvious that James didn't ever belong in that conversation in the first place.
I, for one, am sorry to have jumped the gun on that illusion. I'm sure many others feel the same way.
However, what's unfortunate about all this is the fact that James was able to still come away from this debacle with some satisfaction. After all, it was the decision of LeBron James that commanded a one hour announcement show; not Dwyane Wade's, and certainly not Chris Bosh's.
I'm sure LeBron was able to find a tremendous amount of comfort in that while delivering his blindsided sucker punch to the collective beer gut of Cleveland.
But even more unsettling about the end of the LeBron James era in Cleveland, though, is the conspiracy that his departure was premeditated, and not that in the sense of bros talking amongst bros (which still is technically illegal). No, I'm referring to Gilbert's biting accusation to the AP that James quit in the series against the Celtics:
"He quit," Gilbert said. "Not just in Game Five, but in Games Two, Four, and Six. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."
This accusation by Gilbert has more legs than many people want to acknowledge, and I'm glad that he had the courage to voice what so many fans felt during the Boston series. It was just a bizarro series for the two-time MVP.
In fact, looking back on it all, James's bags were packed way sooner than most people realized.
Personally, a giant red warning flag shot up for me in the series clincher against Chicago when James "hurt" his elbow and was "forced" to shoot a free throw left-handed late in the game. It appears now that he was just setting the stage for his eventual departure, which makes this even harder to come to terms with. It's just a sickening thought to consider that maybe you were rooting for a guy that really didn't want to win.
After all, if the Cavs reached the NBA Finals last season, there's really no possible way that James could have left. The only way he could possibly flee Cleveland and fulfill the blood oath taken in China was if a total meltdown occurred—which, of course, ultimately did happen.
So really, it's not inconceivable to think that LeBron mailed it against the Celtics, like Gilbert strongly suggested. At the least, he certainly appeared detached and disinterested for large stretches of that series.
In fact, Game Five probably serves as the defining point of his career in Cleveland for many a Cavs fan. Just watch tape of Game Five. It's nearly impossible to argue that LeBron went down swinging; it's painfully obvious that he just wasn't into that crucial game. And sadly, that's how he'll be remembered in Cleveland.
As playwright Arthur Miller wisely put it, "Betrayal is the only truth that sticks." So true, and so fitting for LeBron's ugly exit from Cleveland.
In the end, it was always destined to be a bitter breakup between LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. After all, this was always a one-sided love affair, which we now know for certain following his egotistical and insensitive free agency process.
Sadly, the fans and organization cared far too much, while the superstar didn't care feel nearly the same why.
So that's why we burned his jerseys, and why we'll always say his name with scorn. The ugly truth is that LeBron James came in a hero, and left a classless and ringless villain.
Now that it's all said and done, I'd much rather root against a guy like that than for him any day of the week.
Miami can have his ego and his catalogue of excuses.
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