LeBron James: The Moment of Truth Came and Went

Jason NedrichCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2010

MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is introduced during a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

As the lifelong, die-hard Cleveland sports fan that I am, you'd think this would be the worst of times for me.  And a week ago, I might have thought so.  

But the fact of the matter is, aside from the economic repercussions that LeBron's decision will effect in Cleveland , I can honestly say that the idea of him leaving was much more stressful than him actually leaving.  

Sure maybe reality won't set in until I see him throwing his baby powder in the air wearing his No. 6 Miami jersey, or watching my Cavs miss the playoffs or get swept in the first round.  

But I suppose when you root for athletes, or are fans of musicians, actors, or any other public figures, you must accept something far beyond their performance.  That is their character.

And despite being one of the most gifted, and the most hyped, pampered, prodded athletes we've ever seen, the self-proclaimed "King" proves that talent alone won't make you a winner.

The moments after the debacle that was Game 5 took place, I realized that LeBron was no longer the same person that grew up and became a star right in his own backyard.

No I don't mean the 3-of-11, turnover-filled performance, I mean the demeanor on which he conducted himself.  He reminded me of my own demeanor when I was a few days away from quitting a job.

The only thing is, leaving my position wouldn't turn millions of my hometown people against me and affect some of their livelihoods.

National sports writers claim that LeBron didn't owe Cleveland anything, he gave us seven wonderful years.  The last time I checked, time effects all parties involved.  We gave him seven years of our lives too.  

We paid our hard-earned dollars during those seven years and LeBron raked in millions. And from a basketball perspective, LeBron handcuffed the Cavaliers for the last three years and prevented other top-notch free agents from signing due to his lack of a long-term commitment.

So memo to NBA analyst Steven A. Smith: I'll be kind and say let's call it a draw.

LeBron may think his decision made good basketball sense, but it made no sense in every other aspect.  Every great player  is after a championship.  

But deep down, even more than that, every great player chases the same thing.  That is being the greatest.

Ask Charles Barkley if he'd rather have been an average player on championship teams or a great player with no rings?  I think we all know the answer to that.

So with LeBron leaving in the manner he did and teaming up with two other superstars, it will severely damper his quest of being better than Jordan, Kobe, Magic, Bird, or much less Tim Duncan.

So even if it does all work out for LeBron and he wins a handful of rings, what will that mean?  Maybe he feels that a ring is a ring and that is the bottom line.  

He's in denial if he thinks that.  Winning one ring in championship-starved Cleveland would mean so much more than cheating the system and winning five or six in Miami .  

Would Karl Malone have felt as good about a ring when he joined the Lakers than had he gotten one in Utah ?  The difference there is Malone was past his prime and therefore it would have been acceptable.

I guess that brings us to where the sports universe has turned.  No longer does today's athletes or franchise owners care as much about character, loyalty, and principals.

That's why it's allowed that the New York Yankees (a team LeBron likes) spend $200 million on their payroll compared to $60 million for most franchises.

That's why LeBron teaming up with other megastars to win championships is allowed.  It reminds me of the old Nintendo game Duck Hunt.  

Sure it was fun getting a higher score, but how meaningful was it to put the gun right up to the TV and shoot?

Much like ending a romantic relationship, one starts to reflect and soul search shortly thereafter.  I guess that is where I am right now.  Questions start to surface.  

"Would I have been better off never meeting this person?"

I suppose anytime one puts emotion, energy, time, and money into something and it ends badly, you wish that there is an alternate universe to take it away before it started.  

"Will I ever feel this way again about someone?" 

Okay, this one might be a little dramatic but after such heartbreak, one becomes more immune and sort of expects it, which can be dangerous.

Then you look back on things that you might have given a free pass on since you were emotionally involved.  

In this case, I recall reading an article about LeBron maybe about a year ago.  It stated how he was at a local club and had the establishment stay open late for him and his entourage.  

After running up a $950 bill, which is pocket change to "The King."  He tipped the server a lousy $10.  This was a telltale sign of LeBron's character.

 I suppose LeBron felt that his presence gave that server enough joy to make up for a generous tip.  I guess he was wrong, since an article was written about it.

The bottom line is: the way LeBron went about this entire process proved that although his talent might make him a billionaire, his lack of character could have made him so much more had he cared as much about the name on the front of the jersey as the one on the back.

If there is one thing I am thankful for, LeBron with his whole ordeal has changed my outlook on sports and life.

The passion in which I displayed in this article will be the last time I feel this way about a sports figure.  I'll be as loyal to them as they would be to me.  So I suppose I already answered one of those above questions.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.