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Thomas Alter Headshot

The King Needs To Leave Cleveland

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The whispers in Cleveland all season turned into a roar Thursday night. The King is leaving town.

After the Cavaliers' embarrassing performance against Boston, why shouldn't LeBron leave?
Cavs fans claim James should be loyal because of all they've done for him, but in this case that's a crock. LeBron was the number-one overall pick in the '03 draft, possibly the most hyped high school basketball player ever. It's not like he was some undrafted free-agent who blossomed into a star once he got to Cleveland.

Oh, but he's from Akron, which is less than an hour from Cleveland. Home-state loyalty and all. Big deal. If players decided that they only wanted to play where they were born and raised then NBA championships would rotate between New York, LA, Chicago and DC. Hell, Cleveland probably wouldn't even have a team. The guy is an international superstar; I think he'll be fine living in a different city.

There's a case to be made, that this "hometown hero" persona is what's actually hurting LeBron.
The Cavaliers put some pieces around James this year. Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams are borderline all-stars, Anderson Varejao and Anthony Parker are solid role players and, washed up or not, Shaquille O'Neal may be the most dominant center in NBA history. The problem is, the city of Cleveland, and Ohio in general, has put LeBron onto an impossibly high pedestal. He's a deity there. The adulation showered on one professional athlete is scary. This video is exhibit number one. Yes that's Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Senator Sherrod Brown singing to LeBron.

No matter what Shaq or Jamison accomplished in the past, when they got to Cleveland they turned into million-dollar cheerleaders. It's the LeBron show, partly because of his unbelievable talent but mostly because the "Legend of the King" is a monster the state of Ohio has created.

If and when LeBron leaves, he needs to change. No more dancing on the court in the middle of regular season games. No more quotes proclaiming his own greatness. Less media coverage in general if he ever wants to win multiple championships. Do you think Michael Jordan or Larry Bird ever played to the cameras like James does? Not a chance.

Possible landing spots for James this summer are Chicago, New York and New Jersey. The Bulls make the most sense for a lot of reasons, but playing in Jordan's shadow might not be the best choice for James. The Knicks have a lot of money and play in New York but that's about it. The Nets have some young good pieces but James or not they're not winning a championship next season.

I don't care where he goes; LeBron needs to get out of the city on Lake Erie. Eventually a Cleveland team will win a championship. But right now, this pathetic city-wide hero worship is exactly what's preventing it.

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