Weak Nod to Cleveland Is Latest Awkward LBJ Moment
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Thanking the city that supported him for seven years would seem an easy task, but on the gratitude front, LeBron James continues to throw up bricks that would make even Shaquille O'Neal squeamish.
LeBron's latest failure came Saturday, during his annual Bikeathon in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, just days after he took out a full-page ad in that city's Beacon-Journal thanking his hometown fans. The ad made no mention of the city of Cleveland or its Cavaliers, the team just up the road for whom he starred for seven seasons before announcing last month he was leaving to play for the NBA's Miami Heat.
In a short speech where the usually robotic LeBron manufactured typically insincere thank yous and other good thoughts, he offered briefly: "To the city of Cleveland, my fans in Cleveland, northeast Ohio...I want to say thank you for the last seven years and the years in the future."
Now I'm never one to argue that pro athletes should be splendid public speakers, but I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish when he took to the microphone Saturday. Whatever it was, he came up far short, unless it was actually his aim to buffoon himself once again before all those dozens of people in Akron on a lovely summer weekend.
By waiting nearly a month to take any public steps like the full-page ad—but doing it a day after teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas set the example in the Cleveland paper—then doing it only in the Akron paper and offering no thanks to Cleveland, it was clear that James was just being rebellion.
Or, at least, he was the recipient of some weak counsel from his ill-prepared team of young handlers.
But Saturday's gesture, though weakly executed, may show he's finally gotten some good advice or has at long last chosen to listen to such counsel.
Whichever the case, Saturday's slippery thank you in Akron was another PR airball, and it's about time someone grabbed that dude by his mammoth, tattooed shoulders, gave him the Chris Rock treatment, and shook the shit out of him.
We've watched James as a man among children on the basketball court, but it's about time he figures out what it takes to act like a man in the real world.