What if the love of your life ran away with someone else, after spending a couple of years planning it, and all the while living with you and claiming to have your best interests at heart? Would you really want this person back in your life? If your dog one day bit you for no apparent reason, how likely would you be to reach down to pet it again?
These are analogies that Cleveland fans will have to ask themselves in 2014 should LeBron James opt out of the Miami Heat contract he signed back in July of 2010. There is a lot of talk these days of the Cavs keeping cap space available should LeBron become available next summer and wanting to return home. However, most people assume that Cleveland should just take him back with open arms. I say that Cavs fans should take a walk down memory lane before being so willing to forgive and forget.
My biggest problem with LeBron James is the manner in which he ditched the Cavs and his fans. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Brian Windhorst reported on July 10, 2010 that during a rally for Miami Heat fans, Chris Bosh said he had been talking with new teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade about the moment they were united in Miami for months.
The premise that the trio had been talking about teaming up for months hinted there was a plan in place. That potentially would be against rules, and should have raised concerns from the league since Bosh and James were playing for teams battling for the playoffs in Toronto and Cleveland respectively. But it appears the trio had been discussing a complex master plan for parts of the previous four years.
In July of 2006, they gathered in Las Vegas for Team USA’s preparation for the World Championships. It was there that they came across the idea that if each of them extended their contracts for three years, they could all become unrestricted free agents simultaneously in 2010. The three had already won a gold medal in China in 2008, proving that they could play effectively together. From this point on, the plan was in motion. A conspiracy of NBA superstars would be deciding the league’s fate from here on out, and the league was powerless to do anything about it. Now if the NBA owners had started colluding to affect the flow of free agent movement, they would have been hit with a law suit faster than you can say David Stern.
What didn’t sit right with me was King James final playoff series in a Cavs uniform, the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Boston Celtics. The Cavs jumped out to a two game to one lead on Boston. I can just picture Wade and Bosh calling or texting LBJ after the Cavs went up 2-1 saying, “Dude, what are you doing?!” It was as if a bell sounded, reminding LeBron that if they were to win and continue further into the finals, his excuse for leaving the Cavs wouldn’t hold water. The plan was for LeBron to claim that he had to leave Cleveland in order to win a championship.
The Cavs lost the next three games, with LeBron disappearing for long stretches. Complaining of a sore arm going into the series, LeBron continued to shoot bricks from long range. Now if my arm hurt, I wouldn’t be pumping it up from downtown. I’d be taking the ball to the hoop, which is what he finally decided to do in game six, once the Cavs were comfortably down three games to two. Some of you will point out that in game six, LeBron put up a triple double, but he also incurred nine turnovers pretty much negating the ten assists.
Once the playoffs ended, the free agency period commenced with LeBron non-committal about what he would decide. He did try to recruit Bosh to come to Cleveland, but Bosh was having none of it, sticking to the original plan of partying in South Beach, while paying no state tax. I now see this as just an elaborate ruse. Recruiting Bosh was just for show, so that when decision time came, James could say, “look, I even tried to personally recruit some all-stars, but no one wants to come to Cleveland.” It also led credence to LeBron’s claims that in order to win a championship, he’d have to leave.
The free agency period went as expected with teams quickly sweeping up the best players available. Meanwhile, the Cavs were forced to wait while LeBron conducted his dog and pony show, going thru the motions interviewing with several other teams. By the time he was ready to announce his decision, the best players down to the most mediocre were already committed to other teams, while all the Cavs could do was wait. I will never forgive James for not just telling the team he was gone, so they could have at least tried to explore other options on the free agent market.
This brings us to perhaps the most painful moment in Cleveland sports history, July 8, 2010. I hurt when Art Modell sold us out for a few dollars more in Baltimore. It really hurt watching Manny sign with the Red Sox after the Tribe made a competitive offer. But “The Decision” of watching LeBron James drag out his choice and the rationalization for it, just plain cut Cavs fans to their very soul. Thirty minutes into the program LeBron delivered the following statement:
“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I feel like it’s going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row, I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there.”
This was our native son, telling us that we were no longer good enough for him. It was our native son further propagating the myths that Cleveland can’t win championships or attract free agents. That he had to leave if he ever hoped that a championship ring would grace his finger. Not only had he selfishly conspired with Wade and Bosh to leave, but here he was telling the world that they had been right all along. Don’t come to Cleveland if you want to win!!!
Right here, you might say that LeBron had given us seven good seasons and two MVP years, and that as a free agent, he had the right to play where he wanted, with whomever he wanted. You are absolutely correct. It is just that he didn’t have to beat Cleveland up on his way out the door! A simple, I have decided to play for Miami, would have been sufficient. This guy sat there in that director’s chair for the next 45 minutes telling the 10 million people tuning in that he had to escape “Loserville” before he was too old to win a ring! The Decision joined The Move, The Drive, The Shot, and The Fumble in “Cleveland’s sports hall of shame”.
You certainly have the right to your opinion, but for me, I don’t want LeBron James to return to the Cavs. In my book, the guy is a traitor. The Cavs were gaining momentum and were very much a force in the playoff picture when he left. The last thing I want to see is him returning so he can smooth things over with his home town fans and retire a Cav. Right now, the Cavs are putting together a pretty good team. They are going to win, regardless of where LeBron James plays. It just seems fitting for him to be on the outside with his nose pressed up against the glass looking in.