LeBron James: the second fiddle to Miami's potential title bid. LeBron James: King of Cleveland who will restore hope into the city and lead them to many titles. LeFraud James: his imprint left on Clevelanders for the rest of history.
These several, yet similar personalities of one LeBron James have left him to be a "media/self-proclaimed" king without a crown. In the end, like many other false prophets preceding him, James too would offer false hope to a city starving for a championship.
It all started back in 2003 in Akron, Ohio at Catholic St. Vincent St. Mary High School. Ohio's "Mr. Basketball" had put the state, and eventually the city of Cleveland, on notice forever. This king had come through on several high school accolades and would soon move on to the NBA.
From there, James would be dubbed "The Chosen One" on a cover of Sports Illustrated and so the media fascination began and justifiably so. Some of his games would be nationally televised on ESPN2 where he'd often leave his audience astonished. After all, this is what kings do.
Almost immediately after he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2003, comparisons to Michael Jordan started. Patronized by media hype, King James had amazingly large shoes to fill, also, a shoe deal with Nike would be signed shortly thereafter, prior to his NBA debut.
Upon the king's arrival in Cleveland, it wasn't a question of if he would win an NBA title for a city in a lengthy drought, but how many he would deliver.
For Cleveland, they were a rebuilding team building every single piece around James and his talents. With LeBron, Cleveland had hope for the first time in a very long time. For a city known for Drew Carey and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James was the "next coming" to be quite blunt. In his being there, Cleveland's ticket and jersey sales skyrocketed.
It soon got into James' head that if he could deliver in small-market Cleveland, he could deliver anywhere. Big markets like New York, among others, were screaming for James. However, at that moment in time, James was Cleveland's present and future as he oozed with loyalty to Cleveland. Oh how times change.
Like James or not, he is certainly one of the best players in the game if not the very best on any given night. His ability to single-handedly take over games can be entertaining and awe-inspiring. Even in Cleveland where he had "me, myself and I," James established himself in the upper echelon of NBA talent, winning two MVPs.
After a few rebuilding years, it had become clear by the 2006-2007 season that Cleveland's title forecast was becoming clearer. King James and co. were ready to take that next step and nearly did until they were heavily over-matched by a better, deeper San Antonio team. After posting numbers of 25.1 points, 8.0 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game in the spring of 2007, James had arrived and then some. To many people, a title was soon on its way.
With James, presentation is everything. From his pre-game ritual of tossing crushed chalk into the air to his aura on the basketball court, James is one-of-a-kind.
After a few more floundering playoff performances in 2008 and 2009, 2010 would come another new age in Cleveland basketball. The Cavs would bring in mammoth Shaquille O'Neal in their "Win a Ring for the King" campaign. O'Neal, who had already won four titles, was an expert at this sort of thing and now gave James another viable option on the court. That season too ended in utter disappointment as the king exited Quicken Loans Arena in his last appearance as a Cav to loud boos, empty seats, and to some respect, broken hearts. In a crucial Game 5 in the Semis against the Boston Celtics, James shot just 3-14, scoring 15 points. Goodbye Cleveland. Hello...
Yes, after the 2010 season, James' career and time for that matter, stood still. In Cleveland, we were all "Witness" to LeBron James and his stellar play, but now it was onto the next one for the king and his peasants.
The 2010 Free Agency, or LeBron James Sweepstakes rocked the NBA and the sports world. For on July 1st, 2010 at 12:01 AM, ET, James would become a free agent, no longer under Cleveland rule. Many teams were involved in courting King James, but a king courts himself after all. From New York to Dallas and everyone in between, even Cleveland and Miami, they were all witness and ready to offer James whatever he pleased. The media frenzy that would soon follow would become one of the biggest swerves in sports history.
On July 8th, ESPN hosted The Decision featuring LeBron James. The world learned that James would be "taking his talents to South Beach." By aligning himself with all-stars/superstars, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Heat were "unbeatable" to some and would rule the NBA for many years. On the contrary, James' decision shows that there is no such thing as loyalty in sports anymore.
At the helm at all of this was the satan incarnate, Pat Riley. Riley sold that James would be Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade would be Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh would be Kevin Garnett. The only thing that Riley forgot is that there's only one basketball.
James' making a spectacle of The Decision put him on the same level, if not higher than Baltimore Ravens' owner Art Modell with Clevelanders. His decision not only shocked, but crippled them and will do so for a while.
For a man with an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008, an NBA Title would complete years of turmoil and tribulations with triumph. Fans in Miami and around the basketball world could "feel the Heat." South Beach was about to be the center of the NBA world with their new three-headed monster ruling. Would all of the celebrating be deemed premature? Or would El Heat be sitting atop the NBA throne in mid-June?
After a strong regular season, the Heat earned the East's 2nd seed and had the entire world outside of South Beach rooting for their opponents in each round.
First it was my hometown Philadelphia 76ers, who the Heat polished off in five, showing their strength and experience, but not without a few minor panics from a young, hungry squad from Philly.
Then, Miami dismantled another threesome from Boston, known otherwise as "The Boston Three Party." The celebration after that series was far premature and wasn't a foreshadowing of what would soon transpire. Yet for LeBron, this was a great triumph as he'd previously never beaten the Celtics in a playoff series. Next was Chicago and their sensational league MVP Derrick Rose. The Heat would also make quick work of the Bulls, finishing them in five.
Then came a team of destiny in Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. Many didn't give the Mavericks a chance against the almighty Heat. Game 2 was the turning point of the series. After Wade hit a momentous three-pointer to put the Heat up 15 with just 7:14 left, the Mavericks looked all but out and heading to Dallas down two games.
Suddenly, a remarkable comeback orchestrated by Nowitzki gave the Mavericks new life and quieted the South Beach crowd. In the process, this also showed of the king's fourth quarter flaws.
There's no doubt in my mind that James will eventually win a title, but for now the king may have a robe but no crown. His call to "witness" had culminated in his being "ringless." For the city of Cleveland, though, this can't possibly take the betrayal away, this has to feel damn good. For the Dallas Mavericks, a hard-earned victory through perseverance is enjoyable and will be forever. Better yet, how about DeShawn Stevenson. A certifiable NBA goon, Stevenson was mocked and jeered by James as a member of the Washington Wizards back in the 2007 playoffs, now look who's laughing. Even Brian Cardinal got his NBA ring before James. Who?!
James crippled the city of Cleveland with his decision. Owner Dan Gilbert has tried to restore the faith and, with two of the top four picks in the NBA Draft this summer, he just might do that. Gilbert's retribution must be sweet, ditto Cleveland as a whole. As for King James, Dirk Nowitzki is sitting atop his throne for now.