LeBron James Finally Apologized, So Is It Time for Cleveland to Forgive Him?

Benjamin Flack@@ClevelandFlackSenior Analyst IMay 13, 2011

"There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."
- Josh Billings

It has been a long time coming, but LeBron James has finally apologized for "The Decision." Not so much for the "decision" to leave Cleveland, but for how he did it...well, kinda.

After finally conquering his nemesis, the Boston Celtics, LeBron had this to say:

“I knew I had to go through Boston at some point. I went through a lot signing to be here… The way it panned out with all the friends and family and fans back home, I apologize for the way it happened. This was the opportunity of lifetime.”

He went on to talk about how this series victory in a way validates his move to Miami:

“As much as I loved my teammates back in Cleveland, as much as I loved home, I knew I couldn't do it by myself against that team.”

This apology was a long time coming. So the question now is, "Is it time for Cleveland to forgive LeBron?"

I myself am not quite sure yet. So think of this article as a therapeutic piece for Cavs fans who are still struggling with emotional tug of whether it's okay to enjoy watching LeBron play basketball, or even cheer for him at this point.

I, like many Clevelanders, was crushed by "The Decision." But it wasn't just the one-hour special... it was the emotional roller coaster leading up to it.

It all started with the ceremony for LeBron to receive his MVP trophy during the second-round series against the Celtics. LeBron insisted on having his whole team come up and accept the trophy with him.

He gushed about how he couldn't have done this without his teammates and how he was so grateful to play for the best fans in the world in Cleveland. He also talked about how his work wasn't done 'til he had brought a championship to the Cavaliers.

Great vibes shooting through all Cavs fans! Watching that press conference, you couldn't believe for a second that that guy would walk out on his teammates and his city.

Fast-forward to Game 5 in Cleveland with the series tied at 2-2. LeBron did not show up. We may never know why (though it probably has something to do with Delonte West... but we're not going there).

Throughout the game, he never took control like he usually does, satisfied to roam around the perimeter and not demand the ball. He scored only 15 points on 3-of-14 shooting as the Cavs were routed 120-88.

LeBron walked off the floor to boos. It was a tough loss putting the Cavs in a 3-2 hole heading back to Boston.

Game 6 will no doubt haunt Cavs fans for years to come. It was like a bad dream. The game was played close but I think every real Cleveland fan knew in his heart the outcome. The Cavs lost 94-85 ending their hopes for a championship.

LeBron's stat line was impressive with a triple-double: 27 Pts, 19 Reb,10 Ast (also 9 TO's). But anyone who watched the game would tell you it didn't seem that impressive. He was simply going through the motions.

In crunch time, once again, he failed to assert himself and will the team to victory. He was a man with one foot seemingly already out the door.

LeBron walked down the tunnel and ripped off his Cavaliers jersey for a final time. The outlook was bleak for Cleveland.

Then came a ton of speculation for the next two months until free agency began on July 1.

And in those dark times, there was a ray of hope...

LeBron announced that he would not be going all over to visit his various suitors, but rather making them all come to him... in Cleveland.

As for me, I saw this as good sign. He was making all these teams come to his hometown to try and convince him why he should leave.

There were meetings and rumors but no one really knew much of anything. Each team representative talked about how the meetings went well. But no one really knew for sure.

Then on July 6, it was announced that there would be a one-hour special on ESPN where LeBron would announce "The Decision."

I immediately loved the idea. He was giving all the proceeds to charity, and above all, there was no way he was going to go on national TV and leave Cleveland. This was the time when "our guy" was going to stand before the world and announce his dedication to bringing a championship to Cleveland.

He would talk about the unfinished business and the family of his teammates and fans. He would tell the world that after all the love and support that he had received, that there was no reason for him to leave.

This is what I thought... but man, was I wrong.

I will never forget the sick feeling I got in my stomach the morning of Thursday, July 8, when I woke up and got on ESPN.com and saw the reports that had LeBron headed to Miami to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. I just couldn't believe it.

There was no way. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. He's our guy. He's a son of northeast Ohio. He understands what we're going through. He promised us a championship.

[Quick preface to this short story: I went to college at a small Baptist school in Wisconsin with strict rules and standards (think BYU strict). So bear that in mind.]

I texted my good friend that afternoon that I was feeling like I had just gotten an e-mail from the Dean's Office asking me to "stop by." There's a chance it could be a good thing... but the overwhelming odds and emotions tell you that it not only isn't a good thing, it could be very bad, like kicked out of school bad.

That's how I felt. There was tiny little bit of my heart that was clinging to hope for dear life. But the reality of being a Cleveland sports fan was setting in and I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn't going to be good.

We all know how it went. LeBron came in looking very somber and serious and very un-LeBron like. He wasn't smiling and it just seemed wrong.

"I'm taking my talents to South Beach."

Hearts of Cleveland fans all across the world dropped like a rock. It literally felt like he was staring me in the face and stabbing me straight in the heart.

We went through all the emotions: disbelief, bitterness, anger, rage, depression, whatever the heck all those other things are.

It was simply devastating. And yet I couldn't pull myself away from the TV. I was just waiting for him say "I'm sorry things didn't work out in Cleveland. I loved the fans and my teammates. We gave it everything we had. It was just time for me to move on. Thank you all for all of your support."

Was that too much to ask? Seriously? Am I crazy for expecting that much from a guy of I owned four jerseys? A guy who had grown up not 30 minutes away from many of us. That's all I wanted. And we never got it.

The guy who only a few short months earlier had said he wouldn't be satisfied until he'd brought a championship to Cleveland, said he had "no regrets" about his time with the Cavs. WHAT!?

It was at this point that my wife, mercifully, turned off the TV before I started throwing things at it.

It was just a bad dream. I would wake up and it would be just that, a nightmare. If only I could fall asleep. Pain and anger kept me awake most of the night. Our favored son had crushed our souls and left us without a second thought.

So now we're about 10 months removed from "The Decision." Is it time to move on?

"We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends."
- Sir Francis Bacon

"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend."
- William Blake

Why was it that "The Decision" hurt us all so much? It was because we saw LeBron as a friend, a brother, who had wronged us and just didn't care.

I firmly believe that if he had gone about it all differently, then there would be much less hate from his former fans.

Would we still be upset and even angry? Of course. But it would have been easier to get over and come to grips with if he had simply reciprocated our love.

It took a full month after "The Decision" for LeBron to finally remember to thank the Cleveland fans. At his annual bike-a-thon in Akron on Aug. 8 he said:

"To the city of Cleveland, my fans in Cleveland, my fans in northeast Ohio, I want to say thank you for the last seven years and the years that continue to go in the future."

Now that wasn't so hard. Better late than never, right?

LeBron went a step further in his praise of the Cleveland fans after their March 29 meeting when the Cavs got a little revenge, beating the Heat 102-90 in front of a playoff-caliber crowd.

 "Even when I played here, the atmosphere was great. The fans are unbelievable...I've always said that...and it was great for their team tonight."

Now that was a good night! And the comment by LeBron (who over the course of the season has subtly been expressing his, shall we say, disappointment with the Miami fans) was the icing on the cake.

And now, on May 11 (ironically one year to the day of the Game 5 no-show) we finally have an apology from LeBron about how he went about making The Decision.

So how does Cleveland respond?

I know many of us will still harbor that bitterness and will take it to the grave. Many will say that it is too little too late.

But as for me...

I forgive LeBron.

"When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free."
- Catherine Ponder

Life is too short to go through harboring grudges and hating people.

Did he screw up big time? Sure. But who hasn't done/said something in their life that they don't eventually regret?

It took him a long time to make his apologies and thanks heard. But I really feel that the weight of beating Boston being lifted off his shoulders helped him get there.

Whether we want to admit it or not, he never had anything even close to D-Wade in his time in Cleveland. The franchise did everything in their power to put the best possible team around him to compete for a championship.

But as he expressed on Wednesday, he just couldn't do it on his own. It wasn't a dig at his former teammates. They all know that the Cavs' success hinged directly on LeBron's shoulders. And the weight was evidently too much. He's human after all.

We often forget about the enormous amount of pressure that was placed on this kid from the day he first stepped on the floor nearly nine years ago in Sacramento. He was the "King." He was the "Savior." He was the "Chosen One." But he was also human...

And he couldn't win a championship on his own. And for that I forgive him.

This doesn't mean that I'll be rooting for Miami or going out to purchase a No. 6 Heat jersey. It just means that I'm over it.

If the rest of you want to go on hating him with every fiber of your being, go right ahead. As for me, it's just not worth the energy anymore.

I'm a Cavaliers fan... not a LeBron hater.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
- Gandhi

You can follow me on Twitter @ClevelandFlack


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