Cleveland Cavaliers: Putting the LeBron James Era to Rest

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Cleveland Cavaliers: Putting the LeBron James Era to Rest
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October 27, 2010. For what seemed like an eternity, Quicken Loans Arena shook that night.

It may have been because of Anthony Parker's clutch three-pointer with time ticking away. It may have been because of the coming out party of forward J.J. Hickson. More likely is the fact that the majority of the 20,562 in attendance (myself included) were letting out months of pent-up frustration and emotion in response to a Cavaliers win over the hated Boston Celtics.

It was as if Cleveland were caught in a giant psychiatric session and someone was finally letting us know everything that happened that summer wasn't our fault. Unfortunately that feeling would not last, as the Cavaliers quickly collapsed into the ground.

For the better part of a year now, Cleveland fans have run the gauntlet of emotions. It started with denial in the weeks leading up to LeBron James' television special. On that night in July, denial turned to blind anger at LeBron for "taking his talents to South Beach."

Bargaining took over the rest of the summer as we tried to rationalize the steps that led our hometown hero to leave. Those thoughts, compounded by the sinking ship that was the 2010-2011 Cavaliers led to the inevitable depression and as a fan base at the failure of a franchise. 

For those of you following along, it would appear that the final step in the process of moving on from the LeBron era would be acceptance. The million-dollar question is: Why is acceptance nowhere to be found here in Cleveland?

Elsa/Getty Images
After a tough 2010-2011 campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the midst of a rebuild that could be accelerated with two top-five picks.

The best answer is that rationality has not existed in our fan base since July. For too long, we expected that LeBron would look out at the bright lights of the bigger cities and find some shred of loyalty to the city that worshiped him for the better part of a decade.

We failed to realize that just because we're content with our blue collar persona doesn't mean our athletes feel the same. Our biggest flaw was that we never realized there was nothing wrong with that either.

As a 12-year-old watching the draft lottery in 2003 with my parents, I knew something special was happening. It was a time of rebirth for Cleveland sports after the collapse of the Indians dynasty, and as a lover of Cleveland sports history, I knew it was all about to change. And change it did.

For seven amazing years, Quicken Loans Arena transformed from another generic stadium to a special place that fans could shake to its foundation every game. We were witnesses to something special, and those are memories that I personally will never forget.

That being said, I was like most fans in the wake of "The Decision." It was easy to discount the magic of the last seven years because of the pain LeBron caused when he left. I was right there with the rest of you on December 2 when the full venom of our city was unleashed on the Miami Heat in their first visit.

As the season progressed, a different emotion took over. It wasn't one of anger or hate. I realized I just felt bad for LeBron. I felt sorry for him that he couldn't see past his colossal ego and realize how good he had it in Cleveland. I felt bad for him that in his distorted world view he needed to be Michael Jordan instead of LeBron James.

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But most of all, I felt bad that no matter how many rings he wins with Miami (and they will win a few), they will mean nothing compared to what one title in Cleveland would have done for his legacy.

That's when I realized it was time to move on and look to the future. It made me take stock of what we have still here in Cleveland: a fan base hungry for success, an owner with deep pockets committed to bringing this city from the ashes, a proven coach, and as of Tuesday, two top-five lottery picks.

It is time for the rebirth of the Cavaliers to begin. Will it take time? Yes. Will it involve more painful season of loss while watching the Heat succeed. Most likely. But it will give this city a chance to have a basketball team built in its own image. A real team, made up of players playing with each other, not for a superstar.

It's time to recognize that LeBron was always more Hollywood than Lakewood, and way more South Beach than Euclid Beach. We also need to realize that at the end of the day, that's okay. If LeBron didn't need us, we don't need to keep rehashing him and his "Decision", either.

So for me, the LeBron era ends with this article. Call it my own personal therapy. Others on this site have chosen to do the same, and at the end of the day, honest discussion about the future of the Cavaliers will make the transition that much easier.

On June 23, a new era of Cleveland basketball begins. Whether it be Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter, or any combination of the group that takes the city by storm next, we as a fanbase need to make sure once and for all that LeBron is where he belongs in Cleveland: the history books.


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