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The PJ Tatler

Conflicted About LeBron’s Return to Cleveland

The way he departed was lousy. His return, classy and mature.

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

July 11, 2014 - 5:19 pm
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Four years ago this week, workers tore down the iconic, 10-story-tall  Lebron James Nike mural that had graced the side of the Landmark Office Tower in downtown Cleveland  for most of the Cavaliers star’s tenure with the team. The transparent mural covered the window of my husband’s office in the building and he watched as a part of Cleveland history fell to the ground in heaps that day, along with the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Northeast Ohioans. A handful of diehard fans stood on the sidewalk below that day, snapping pictures of what they thought was the last glimpse of their hero on Cleveland soil. It was a terrible day after a terrible week. In the hours following James’ announcement that he was “taking his talents” to the Miami Heat, angry fans hurled rocks at the mural, which featured a triumphant James with his head thrown back and “We Are All Witnesses” emblazoned on it.

It’s an indisputable fact that James handled his departure poorly, sticking a thumb in the eyes of fans — who had supported him since he was a standout at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School — by turning “The Decision” into a national media event. It was tantamount to a high-profile Cleveland-shaming in the eyes of many fans, who burned #23 (and #6) jerseys in response, knowing that their hopes of a Cavaliers championship had just defected to Florida. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing, emotional letter to Cavs fans that week (which was still on the team’s website until last week) calling James a “former hero” who had “betrayed” the team. Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and a major partner in several Ohio casinos, told fans at the time that they didn’t deserve James’ “cowardly betrayal.”

It was a painful episode in a long history of Cleveland sports disappointments. No Cleveland team has won a championship in half a century, not since the 1964 Browns won a (pre-Super Bowl) NFL title. The last time the Indians won a World Series was 1948 and the city has never won an NBA title. So perhaps it’s not difficult to understand, just a little, why LeBron found himself the repository of fifty years’ worth of pent-up frustration.

For the last two weeks Northeast Ohio has been on “LeBron Watch,” waiting for “The Next Decision.” On Thursday reporters and fans were camped outside his Bath Township mansion (just outside Akron, where LeBron has maintained a residence) after the media reported that an announcement was imminent. Fans and pundits speculated about factors the NBA star might be considering as he pondered his decision: money, family, roots, championship, legacy.

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All Comments   (25)
All Comments   (25)
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OK, I'll admit that I'm dense. Will somebody please explain to me in simple English just why I should care what LeBron Wozzname does or where he goes?

Ben Hartley
(I write it, I sign it)
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't for the life of me understand the fuss that's made over a gang of oafs playing a child's game. Billion$ are spent on it every year; fist fights, riots and murders are provoked by disagreements over its arbitrary and incomprehensible rules; colleges neglect their academic programs while lavishing their wealth on facilities in which illiterate lunk-heads grind one another's faces into the mud.
Who give's a crusty rat's a** what LeBron does, where he goes or anything else about him?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sadly, the fact that this dude who is getting $44 million over a few years is major news in the US by moving. Insane "fans" go as far as stalking his house. It was covered in the first 10 minutes on the national news broadcast. This country sure has gone down the toilet.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think a big factor in the move from South Beach is the wife not wanting much Latin-infused booty around (there was an incident where one such morsel tweeted Labron on the birth of his 2nd son) and the fear on LBJs part of not getting cleaned out in divorce.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
"For the most part, James has been an excellent role model, somewhat of an anomaly in the thuggish culture of the NBA."

Thuggish? As compared to the culture of other professional sports - especially hockey? I've noticed that writers - newspapers, TV and Internet - have become too easy with that word. often using it as a synonym for black. I guess they had to think of something now that they can no longer use the "N" word. Compared to hockey, where bloody fistfights are the rule, not the exception? Oh course, hockey is considered a "white" sport, as opposed to basketball, which is considered an "urban" sport.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The short answer to your question is: "thuggish" refers to crimes committed outside the arena, not fistfights on the court or ice. In that regard, the NHL isn't even close to the NBA, though admittedly the NFL has them beat. You can search the internet for "NBA felonies" and "NHL felonies" and then you'll understand. If you don't have the time to look, here's a quick link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_professional_sportspeople_convicted_of_crimes

So in this case, playing the race card puts you on thin ice.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
"playing the race card puts you on thin ice."

Ouch!

Well played!
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
To be frank, Lebron's letter made me think, this is the way a leader should act. I have no doubt that Lebron will bring a championship to Cleveland. Being a Laker fan from LA all my life, I can only wish we had a young man like that leading our team again. Thanks Magic :)
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
White whine.

Of all the things in the world to feel "conflicted" about, this ain't on my list.

23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good column, Paula!

As a long time Lakers fan (suffering increasingly over the past decade!) I've watched LbJ from afar. Big, strong, smart, well-adjusted for a superstar - but I could never find the handle that let me like him. As a player it would seem he should be able to deliver just enough more to differentiate him from the merely excellent, but I've never seen it. Our own (aging) Kobe has his pluses and minuses too, as a player and as a star and as a human being. Just hard to get into the NBA competition the way it used to be, maybe we just expect too much anymore. Well, let's see how LbJ III does in Cleveland this time around. Maybe he should just keep on being himself, and let the fans fall where they may.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to be a big professional sports fan. Not anymore.

And at least part of the reason is look at the commotion this event has caused, as if Lebron James' move "back home" is some monumental worldly event.

Perhaps it's an escapism in a world gone mad. But part of the madness is the fact we've selected arrogant, ignorant men like Lebron James as 'very special', when in reality he puts a round ball through a round hoop better than anyone else and makes a king's ransom in doing so.

Talk about having our priorities out of whack?

Bread and circuses...
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tex, read the letter and call back in about 3 years. This guy is special. This is the kind of leader America is looking for, loyal, tough, forgiving, and industrious.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
For what it's worth, I've known a couple of pro athletes and they work incredibly hard. Harder than almost anyone I know. I'm not necessarily saying that their salaries are commensurate with what they do, but it's not like a player can roll out of the bed every morning and hit 100 home runs in MLB or outmaneuver LeBron in the NBA without an incredible amount of practice and conditioning. Personal sacrifices too, especially for their families. Obviously, they think the fame and enormous salaries are worth it.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
No Cleveland team has won a championship in half a decade, not since the 1964 Browns won a (pre-Super Bowl) NFL title.

Uhh, shouldn't that be half a century, not half a decade?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, the "math molecule" in my brain (never been good at math), kinda went haywire on that one too!!
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was born without that "math molecule" -- thanks for pointing it out. :) Fixed.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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