I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and lived there again in 2007. I was a huge LeBron James fan when he joined the Cavs and had followed him since his high school days.
LeBron James winning his first title with the Miami Heat does sting, but just a little.
"The Decision" was disrespectful to a city that worshipped him, and the pomp and circumstance around his joining the Heat and the guarantee of multiple championships showed little tact. It honestly felt like being broken up with by a girlfriend you loved and believed you would be with for the rest of your life, and then that girlfriend gloating about how great her new boyfriend is and how happy they are going to be together. On television.
However, it's been a couple of years, and I have had time to reflect on James unemotionally. He is a young man who has carried himself with class under the loftiest of expectations, with unprecedented 24/7 media attention. He made a social faux pas with The Decision, but that error pales in comparison to Michael Jordan's issues, let alone Kobe Bryant's. Also, he gave Cleveland seven years, really the first half of his career. He gave us the best he had, night in, night out. He impacted the local economy and was a boon to downtown establishments around the arena. He gave Cleveland the best sports highlights in a generation or more. His game five against Detroit in 2007, where he scored the team's last 25 points, is a memory I will always cherish that nothing can take away.
Moreover, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization did not hold up their end. Michael Jordan won six championships with a mix of Scottie Pippen (one of the 50 greatest basketball players), a top five rebounder (Horace Grant, then Dennis Rodman), the best player in Europe (Kukoc), and several clutch sharp shooters (Kerr, Paxon). We surrounded LeBron, the greatest player in a generation and maybe the greatest athlete we'll see in our lifetime, with Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and an aging Shaq. He never had a shot.
Watching him re-invent himself after The Decision, you have to admire his work ethic and commitment to his craft. If you are at all a fan of basketball, you have to marvel at what he does on the court. His season stats (27-8-6, shooting over 53%, with 2 steals and a block per game thrown in) were incredible, and despite my resentment of the Miami Heat, I tuned in to watch him do something breath-taking every time he laced up.
In the end, yes, it hurts, but as a fan of basketball, he is fun to watch. I believe he earned it and deserves the ring. Yes, I tend to wonder from time to time what could have been, but I've moved on and am happy for him
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