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LeBron James' Return: The Biggest Non-Story in Sports History

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LeBron James' Return: The Biggest Non-Story in Sports History
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Sports fans everywhere have been begging all week. Begging for an end to the ridiculous hype.

Late November and early December qualify as a slight lull for those in the sports news business.  Baseball is in the hot stove run, the NBA and NHL are just gearing up, the NFL is at midseason, but in the limbo area where it’s still too early to really start talking about clinching and wild-cards and the like.  There is no tennis, no NASCAR, and college football is about to take its ridiculously long break from season finale to bowl games. 

So goes the list of all the things we have to thank for the stupefying focus on the LeBron James returning to Cleveland story.

Never in the history of sports journalism has there ever been a “non-story” that received nearly the hype and almost unbroken attention that this one has.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock the last year or so, here’s all you need to know about the story:  LeBron James became a free agent after last season. He signed with the Miami Heat in what proved to be a plot between himself, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.  He did not leave the Cavaliers, his old team, with any sort of class—they found out when we all did, when there was a very flashy presser. 

Since then, the majority of folks think LeBron is a jerk.  Last night was his first game back in Cleveland and the fans brought signs.  The Heat pummeled the Cavs, as expected, because the Cavs stink without LeBron.

That’s it.  You now know everything there is to know about the situation. 

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So, why is it that for the past week, forty-five minutes out of every hour of sports radio and TV, and millions of miles of text have been written about this boring bit of nothing?  Who knows?  But here are five reasons why the insane fetish over this topic is just that—insane.

5.  The Cavs are horrible.

Even in a script penned by Disney, there would have been no way that the Cavaliers could have beaten the Heat in LeBron’s return home.  They stink on ice this year.  

4.  Who (outside of Cleveland), really cared.

OK.  The ESPN staff cared.  That’s the point of this whole article.  But aside from them, no one outside of the Cavaliers’ fan base gave a hang about LeBron story, especially this part of it.

3.  Been there, done that.            

While many talking heads claimed that this was a story that was unlike any other ever, it’s simply not true.  Roger Clemens came back to Boston, Montana came back to San Francisco, Bill “The Tuna” Parcells came back to Foxboro.  There are dozens of other examples.  This one seems larger because the story is fresh and because the media has rammed down everyone’s throat, but it is not historic.

2.  The predictable, “Y2K” ending.          

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Even LeBron's powder throw garnered mostly smiles from the Cleveland crowd.

Did you build a shelter and stock it with canned food, water, and a generator in late 1999?  If so, then you can relate to how this whole thing turned out.

In the end there was no climax.  There was no altercation, there was no incident.  Not only was there not even an upset, there was barely even a game.

Pat Riley didn’t even find it interesting enough to show up, and he’s the Heat’s president.

1.   The only interesting end would have been a bad one.

Short of an upset by the home team (which, again, was just shy of an empirical impossibility) the only scenarios that would have lived up to the monstrous hype this story got would have been bad endings.  If there had been riots in Cleveland, if James had been pelted with whatever the fans had to throw, or if he’d actually been assaulted or hurt—that would have made for a ending befitting the insane build up.

Did anyone really want to see anything like that come down?  It seems certain James didn’t.  The Cavaliers brought in extra security who by all reports, didn’t have to remove so much as a drunken sot from the arena and that probably makes the Cavs front office happy.

If nothing else, it would seem like the fervent over reporting of James’ trip back home could only have caused problems by helping to work an unstable fan into a full psychotic lather. 

Thankfully none of that happened.  Nothing really happened.  LeBron James threw his powder, rolled over his old team, and, with any luck, brought an end to the non-stop coverage of the emptiest topic in the history of professional sports.

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