It seems that after that fateful night, James became dead to those same fans who had followed and worshiped him since joining the NBA in 2003.
They booed and jeered the man they had so faithfully cheered for years when he returned to Quicken Loans Arena for the first time on December 2nd and took immense pleasure from the Cavaliers thumping the Heat 102-90 last night.
According to ESPN, before the game, James was asked about the possibility of having his No. 23 jersey retired by the Cavaliers. He responded:
"That's something I don't know and something I can't control. Anytime you get a jersey retired anywhere it is a tribute. I have my jersey in my high school and when that happened it was unbelievable. If that happens here, I'll be grateful."
While the Cavaliers and their fans are completely right to hold The Decision against James and express their hatred of him right now, the fact is that sometime in the future, James should be recognized for his achievements with the Cavaliers.
Regardless of what the Cavaliers and fans may think of him as a person, James was the most important player in franchise history.
For seven years, he single-handedly managed to keep the Cavaliers relevant and even turned them into a yearly championship contender despite never playing with a single solid secondary player.
Night after night, he dazzled fans and teammates alike and continually carried the team on his shoulders.
Nothing exemplifies how essential James was to the Cavaliers more than when he led the team to their first Finals appearance in franchise history in 2007. If you look at the roster from that year, it is difficult to find a single player who would have started on another contending team.
During his time with the Cavaliers, James averaged 27.8 points, seven rebounds and 6.9 assists per game—numbers matched by few in history. He left Cleveland as the franchise leader in points, minutes and steals. He was second in assists.
To top it off, he picked up two MVP awards.
Yes, he never delivered a championship, and yes, The Decision was cold-hearted and downright wrong. At some point, however, Cleveland needs to leave James in the past and keep his exit out of their relationship with the Cavaliers.
Part of rooting for a team involves honoring its history, and James is the greatest player that the Cavaliers have ever had. His time with the Cavaliers deserves to be celebrated, and what better way to honor a player’s time with the team than to retire his number?
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