Five thoughts and then we’ll turn it over to my readers, because honestly, they did a better job of summing up last night’s LeBacle than I ever could:
1. One of my first ESPN.com columns was titled, “Is Clemens the Antichrist?” It covered how my relationship changed with Roger Clemens as a Red Sox fan — in five years, he went from my favorite baseball player to my least favorite athlete in any sport — and how the turning point happened in 1996, when Clemens signed with Toronto and showed no remorse at the ensuing news conference.
I still remember seeing that Blue Jays cap squeezed on his fat stupid face for 45 solid minutes, waiting for him to throw Red Sox fans a bone, waiting for him to say anything that would make me think, “Regardless of how this turned out, the past 12 years meant something to me,” or “Just know that this happened because of Boston’s front office, not their great fans.” He only threw us a couple of canned comments, the same way someone would throw table scraps to a dog. I remember how angry it made me. I remember wanting to whip my remote control through the television, then realizing that I couldn’t afford a new one. I remember taking down my autographed photo of Clemens’ 20th strikeout against Seattle and sticking it in a closet. I remember thinking that I would never like sports quite as much ever again.
So when Clemens went to Toronto, got in shape, won two straight Cy Youngs and forced a trade to the Yankees, really, a column called “Is Clemens the Antichrist?” became inevitable as soon as I found a bigger forum to write it. I hated that guy as much as you could hate a professional athlete without things getting creepy.
And you know what? What LeBron did to Cleveland last night was worse. Much worse.
It’s one thing to leave. I get it. You’re 25. You don’t know any better. You’re tired of carrying mediocre teams. You want help. You want the luxury of not having to play a remarkable game every single night for eight straight months. You want to live in South Beach. You want to play with your buddies. I get it. I get it. But turning that decision into a one-hour special, pretending that it hadn’t been decided weeks ago, using a charity as your cover-up and ramming a pitchfork in Cleveland’s back like you were at the end of a Friday the 13th movie and Cleveland was Jason … there just had to be a better way.
I blame the people around him. I blame the lack of a father figure in his life. I blame us for feeding his narcissism to the point that he referred to himself in the third person five times in 45 minutes. I blame local and national writers (including myself) for apparently not doing a good enough job explaining to athletes like LeBron what sports mean to us, and how it IS a marriage, for better and worse, and that we’re much more attached to these players and teams than they realize. I blame David Stern for not throwing his body in front of that show. I blame everyone.
We are already fools for caring about athletes considerably more than they care about us. We know this and we do it anyway. We just like sports. We keep watching for moments like Donovan’s goal against Algeria, and we keep caring through thick and thin for moments like Dave Roberts’ steal and Tracy Porter’s interception. We put up with all the sobering stuff because that’s the price you pay — for every Gordon Hayward half-court shot, or USA-Canada gold-medal game, there are 20 Michael Vicks and Ben Roethlisbergers. Last night didn’t make me like sports any less — my guard has been up since 1996 — it just reinforced all the things I already didn’t like.
For LeBron not to understand what he was doing — or even worse, not to care — made me quickly turn off the television, find my kids, give them their nightly bath and try to forget the sports atrocity that I had just witnessed. He just couldn’t have handled it worse. Never in my life can I remember someone swinging from likable to unlikable that quickly. I will forgive him some day because I like watching him play basketball, and whether you’re rooting for or against him, his alliance with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami created one the greatest “Holy s—, how is this going to play out?????” scenarios in recent sports history. Sports are supposed to be fun, and eventually, this will become fun — for everyone but people in Cleveland — because we finally have a Yankees of basketball.
But I will never, ever, not in a million years, understand why it had to play out that way. If LeBron James is the future of sports, then I shudder for the future.
2. One silver lining for LeBron: No other professional athlete in any team sport could have generated the interest that he generated last night. No baseball player, no football player, no basketball player, no hockey player. He truly is the King … of something.
3. I posted this clip on Twitter last night, but it’s worth posting again: the 1996 Bash on the Beach. I won’t even tell you the context (a reader will explain in a few paragraphs). Just watch what happened, listen to the announcers and choke on the irony.
4. Michael Jordan would have wanted to kick Dwyane Wade’s butt every spring, not play with him. This should be mentioned every day for the rest of LeBron’s career. It’s also the kryptonite for any “Some day we’ll remember LeBron James as the best basketball player ever” argument. We will not. Jordan and Russell were the greatest players of all time. Neither of them would have made the choice that LeBron did. That should tell you something.
5. Sports shouldn’t mean this much.
I promise more thoughts later in the month. See, there’s an incredible basketball story here that really has no precedent: Only when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant played together in 2001 and 2002, after Kobe had ascended to top-three status and Shaq hadn’t drifted out of that group yet, have two of the best three NBA players played on the same team. I have no idea how Miami will fill out the team, or whether you can win a championship by being so good offensively that defense, rebounding and role players don’t matter. We’re about to find out.
I am not ready to think about it yet.
For now, let’s relive the 12 hours from 9:30 p.m. PT through 9:30 a.m. PT from the e-mails that drifted into my mailbox. As always, thanks to everyone who took the time to write in.
I think this is the first time in history one man managed to destroy an entire city by himself. Even the Enola Gay had a flight crew.
I’m trying to figure out where I’ve had a feeling like this before. Then I remembered: This reminds me of Hulk Hogan at the moment he drops the big boot on the Macho Man Randy Savage to team with the Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) and essentially form the nWo. These are the only two times when I have said to myself “No! Why are you doing this! Evil! Evil! EVILLLL!”
Name: Michael Beach
You know at the end of “Gran Torino” when Clint Eastwood goes to the gang house knowing he is going to die but that it will save the two kids? That is how this lifelong Cleveland fan felt watching “The Decision”, except there was no higher purpose.
I was born in 1975, and I have witnessed every Cleveland heartbreak since Red Right 88 (one of my first sports memories). I’m glad LeBron thinks he did so much for our city and franchise, but he basically ripped out the heart of everyone, and perhaps the city itself, on live TV in one of the most self-centered, self-promoting moments ever. Oh, and he did so under the guise of helping the Boys and Girls club to try to assuage the guilt of murdering our franchise. I’ve read your columns for many years now and I know you know torment and heartbreak. That said, you know nothing of how it feels to be a Cleveland sports fan. Sure there are other teams that are more futile, and some cities come close to our collective disappointment and pain. However, none of them have had the biggest homegrown sports star and pretty much only hope for a dying city, go on TV and give a blatant “F you”.
I think we’re realizing that LeBron was never made up of the same stuff as Kobe or MJ. And the things that we saw him doing in the future were things that we wanted for him, because of his transcendent skills. But in the end, he just didn’t want those things. He was abandoned as a kid, if you see his high school documentary, you see all he wants to do is be a part of something, not be something. He just wants to be a part of a group and be wanted. We’ve just all along wished he was wired for greatness. He’s not. And it’s a shame.
City: East Greenbush, N.Y.
Name: Stephen S
You know what LeBron’s (nationally televised) stab in the back of Cleveland reminded me of? Roger Clemens’ press conference after he went to the Blue Jays.
Name: Dave C.
I cannot believe he would rip the hearts out of Northeast Ohio with this one-hour special. I do not think he understands the full implications of what he has just done. He is not going to be welcomed back. He, better than anyone, should understand the passion of fans in Northeast Ohio. That first game against the Heat in Cleveland will be nothing like he has ever experienced. The venom sent his way from the people who once adored him will shock him. Maybe then he will understand what he has done to this franchise and this city.
You know what made me laugh just now? Joe Johnson came away with the biggest contract of the 2010 Free Agency Frenzy.
City: Redmond, Wash.
Name: Joe Morrison
Just watched the LeBron train wreck. Just thought what Kobe is doing right now. Bet you he is in the gym right now. That’s why LeBron will never win a title. LeBron does crap like this and Kobe gets better.
The South Beach bar reaction shots are the bizarro USA World Cup winning goal bar shots.
Can we please have an all-Cleveland mailbag? I’m 30 and was openly weeping for the past 20 minutes. This is a stomach punch mixed with a groin kick with an open-handed slap.
The oldest thing on my DVR is Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals. As it goes to commercial, there is a little boy with his hands on his head. That boy is every male under the age of 50, including me. We are used to the tough breaks. When LeBron hit that shot to win the game, my first thought was — we have that guy now, our Elway, Jordan, Montana, Bird. Only there was more — he was one of us. He knew the pain of Cleveland teams, whether he rooted for them or not. Thursday night, he dragged out our agony. On a special named “The Decision” he did that to us. To the people that lived through the The Shot, The Drive and The Fumble. None of our players would have done that to us. LeBron, get the hell out of our town.
As a Kobe fan, I just want to thank LeBron. Debate is over and done with. Next up, Kevin Durant.
City: New York
Name: Jim Martelli
My friend Max’s reaction to the LeBron special and signing: “This country was founded upon the practice of defying egotistical kings.”
I watched “The Decision” in a bar. We agreed on shots if he came back to Cleveland. I really, really wanted those shots. I did them anyway.
City: Lake Lotawana, Mo.
Name: Rob Reid
My first thought after hearing about the ESPN special: Nobody could be so cruel as to go on national television and sucker punch his loyal fan base of seven years, right? My second thought? That’s exactly what a self-absorbed, ill-advised 25-year-old kid without any real perspective would do. It was at that point I was certain he was not staying.
City: Bloomington, Ind.
My wife is a psychologist and after watching the documentary about James’ high school years, she is convinced LeBron is trying to recapitulate his high school years with the “five friends” only this time it’s with highly paid peers in Miami.
My three favorite things from last night. 1) LeBron referring to himself in the third person no less than five times; 2) LeBron stating that he brought a lot to Cleveland (seriously … what did he bring, hope and excitement only to rip it away in one of the most cruel fashions ever seen in professionals sports through a one-hour “Go F Yourself” special aimed directly at his hometown); and 3) LeBron having the audacity to think that anyone in Cleveland (minus his mom) would still like him. I get the feeling that he does not understand exactly what he just did.
City: San Diego
Name: Aaron Weitzen
February 19, 2009: If Cleveland traded Wally Szczerbiak’s $13 million expiring contract, they could have gotten a legitimate #2 for LeBron, probably would have won 1 or 2 rings, and there would be no Decision (sponsored by the University of Phoenix). Instead, they stand pat, confident of their record and chemistry, only to miss out on two championships and the rest of LeBron’s career.
How does someone recover from this? My father will be dead before a Cleveland team wins a title.
Name: Pat N
Cleveland has to top the list on tortured cities, right? Anyone I talked to today was already geared up for a knife in their hearts before 9 p.m. rolled around. It wasn’t because of all the media and “sources,” but because it’s happened to us year after year.
Name: Dave S.
I’m devastated. Not surprised it played out this way, but it still hurts. When the “Zombie Sonics” left Seattle you dedicated an entire mailbag to their fans. I think you can only extend the same to Cleveland fans. I’ve seen The Fumble, The Shot and Jose Mesa. This city has been let down too many times. I realize we’ll never have the glamour or glitz of a Miami, New York, etc., but we’re still good people and we just want to see something good happen to us. Something cathartic has to come out of this mess.
I’m 25 years old. I’m about to re-enlist for another tour overseas with the Army. I have an idea of what matters and what doesn’t.
But this still hurts. Nothing stings worse than when one of your own rips your heart out. Not like this …
Maybe I should do what’s best for me and get out of the Army. Unfortunately, loyalty is driving me to do one more tour.
LeBron knows nothing of that word.
City: L.A. (from OHIO)
Explain to me why I should care about sports when the savior of my city turns out to be a false prophet.
Name: Eric Retter
Closest example to what LeBron did with Cleveland: Instead of proposing to your girlfriend, dumping your wife on the Jumbotron. At the Super Bowl.
City: Canton, Ohio
Name: Derek G.
I just finished staining my deck … at 10:30 p.m. I’m not really sure why I did this, but I was trying to take my mind off LeBron. The last time I felt like this was when my high school girlfriend dumped me; only this time I am Dan Gilbert/Cleveland and the girl is LeBron. LeBron wanted a free agent, we got him a free agent. LeBron drove 100 mph on I-71, or bombed in the playoffs, we forgave him immediately, and loved him nonetheless.
I never did find out why my girlfriend left me, it just seemed like she thought the grass was greener elsewhere. I hope Miami is greener, LeBron, because Cleveland is more dead now that when you arrived. It doesn’t matter how many titles you may win, you have lost a chance to do for Cleveland fans what Miami fans will never truly appreciate.
My brother and his friends have been in a fantasy basketball league for 10 years, an epic league that gets 100 posts a day in July! This league will not be renewed next year because nobody has any interest in watching the NBA anymore. These are high school friends in their 30s who love nothing more than to watch basketball and talk trash on the league message board as a way to stay in touch with each other. I can’t fathom watching that selfish piece of crap in another uniform. I hate what I once loved. Basketball has been my favorite sport since I was 3 … 23 years later, it is now dead to me at the highest level.
(What the hell am I supposed to do now all winter … in Cleveland?!?!)
When it came out that Brad Pitt was divorcing Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, EVERY woman in the world wanted to hate Pitt. Yet, he handled his business and didn’t talk about the reasons. Shortly after, women weren’t holding a grudge and couldn’t even remember not loving him (absolutely amazing!). Why? Because he didn’t call an hour-long live TV spectacular to dump Jen for a hotter woman. After tonight no one will ever forget to hate LeBron.
City: Plano, Texas
Name: Geoff Giauque
This event played out just like Season 3, Episode 12 of “Entourage” … “Sorry, Ari.” Imagine if you will Ari Gold being Cleveland and Vince as LeBron. The episode starts off with Vince waking up with the gut-feeling to leave Ari because he couldn’t get him the deal he wanted (NBA title). Ari wakes up with the gut instinct that he is going to be fired by Vince. Ari says losing Vince would hurt the most because he discovered Vince and brought him to stardom.
Ari tries everything he can to get Vince’s deal back (Cavs dropping coach and GM and hiring Byron Scott).
Vince and his boys sit in pitch meetings with a handful of other agents (NBA teams), including the laughable Josh Weinstein (Clippers). Johnny Drama uses his “fool-proof” points scale to determine who has the best agency (I don’t doubt that Maverick Carter used something similar). Lloyd knows every move that Vince makes during his pitch meetings (Brian Windhorst knew every move that LeBron made during his pitch meetings).
Before Vince arrives for the MGA pitch, he decides to stay with Ari, because “he was there from the beginning.” Ari has the “home” advantage and pulls out all the stops (Cavs playing “Family Guy” video/thinking they know him the best). However, Ari still can’t tell Vince the things he needs to hear.
It ends with Vince walking out on Ari and firing him in front of the entire Miller Gold Agency. Vince then goes with the “sexy” pick — Amanda Daniels (Miami Heat).
City: Cary, N.C. (originally from Akron)
If you were watching LeBron’s post announcement interview and saw his reaction to our fans burning his jersey, you saw the pain in his face for a second before regaining composure. People from Ohio have a strong connection to where we are from. He was no different. We love the Browns, Cavs and Indians, even when they’re terrible. We love our athletes and treat them like gods. We can’t explain how bad it hurts never to win. No other city feels this in EVERY sport, in such a variety of ways. The fumble, the drive, the shot, two World Series losses, losing the Finals, Ohio State losing two national titles, the Indians losing the ALCS to Boston, Cliff Lee and CC leaving us, and now LeBron leaves us. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s the worst feeling in the world and I have ZERO pro sports teams even with a winning chance in 2011. Just know that people in Cleveland rarely forgive or forget. Half a century of losing hardens people to the point of dumping beer on old women who are dumb enough to wear Steelers gear to Browns games, even to the point of hating our once beloved son LeBron. We can’t cheer him, it would hurt to much. We burn his jersey not to hurt him, but for us. Destruction is great company to misery.
City: Coral Springs, Fla.
Name: Matt Williams
The way sports is headed is really worrying me. Everyone accepts this narcissic attitude to these prima-donna athletes without any regard to who it may hurt. And for what? More money? More fame? When does it end?
LBJ didn’t even pretend to care about leaving Cleveland. He said true fans would understand. Does he even know what a true fan is? Does he know that true fans wake up reading/surfing the Internet about last night’s game? Does he know true fans talk to others about what happened last night and what might happen in tonight’s game? Does he realize that true fans cut out 4-5 hours a day to follow a team? Does it even bother him when he loses a game? Does he realize that true fans were following Cleveland long before he was born and will follow them long after he’s retired?
I fear this is just the beginning. Sports as we know it ended tonight.
City: Bowling Green
Name: Rob Schuster
Like dangling an engagement ring in front of your longtime girlfriend, then getting on your knee at the bar and proposing to a girl you met last week. Completely destroyed.
City: Anywhere USA
Name: Name Withheld
This is the day he went from being a lovable superstar trying to reach his potential to enemy number one. I want the Knicks to bring back Charles Oakley and Xavier McDaniel on 10-day contracts to injure him. I want Kobe Bryant (yes, Kobe!) to destroy him so badly every time they play that he loses confidence, Rick Ankiel style. I want him to lose in the first round and then break his leg in the offseason, only to see Wade and Bosh win without him (and have him screw up the chemistry when he comes back). I want him to join the French World Cup soccer team. I want him to go into the stands and attack a child in a wheelchair. I want it to come out that he was point-shaving. I want Cleveland fans to throw urine water balloons at him. I want Castro to annex Miami. I want Florida income taxes to spike to 73%. I want the Bulls to beat the Heat by 50 points every time they play. And I want LeBron’s father to come out of the woodwork and say “You’ve brought shame on me and our family.” This has moved me from the NBA fence to a die-hard Premier League fan. Goodbye NBA!
City: Sherman Oaks via Cleveland
I’m a Cavaliers fan living in Los Angeles. I came to your L.A. book signing last October, was one of the first 10 or so people in line, and had a special request for a “reverse jinx” in my book. I asked you to sign my book with your preemptive condolences for LeBron leaving. I wish I could attach a photo, but anyway you signed it: “I’m sorry LeBron left.” and dated it 8/1/2010 with “futuristic” written next to the date.
My friends and I all got a kick out of this, and I kid you not, some of them actually believed that your reverse jinx powers would keep LeBron in Cleveland.
Obviously, it didn’t work out. I’m not angry. Hey, it was worth a shot.
City: New York
As a Knick fan I’m not even mad, I’m just disappointed. He gave up. He quit. The most gifted basketball player ever said “I can’t do it.” How disheartening is that for sports fans? He had options, and good options, to be the man on a good team with a legitimate second banana (Amare, Rose) or stay with a 60-win team, but he chose to ride the coattails of Wade. Wow. He gave away his shot at being the greatest ever … or even entering the discussion. What competitor does that?
Name: Greg S.
You just saw the sports death of a city. I can’t see LeBron ever being hated as much as Modell, but his future will be similar. He’ll have to move his entire family out of the state and never return. Cleveland fans never, EVER forget. It’s been 15 years, and Modell still can’t set foot in the state for fear of his life. But the anguish with LeBron is a little different — he was supposed to be one of us. He was supposed to be the Chosen One. When the chips were down, he didn’t show up, and at the first chance he had, he bolted and left us hung out to dry, like so many before him. That’s the action I would expect from a politician — not a monarch. Even a self-proclaimed one.
Everyone in Cleveland is now cursing LeBron’s name, praying to whomever they all pray to that he gets his just desserts. But we know better. We’re from Cleveland. The torture isn’t complete until the most hated figures get to rub their championship rings in our face. The most vilified characters of our history all got to do it. Jordan got six. Belichick got three. Elway got two. Even Modell the antichrist got one. LeBron will get his, too. Maybe even more than Jordan. And we get to watch it for the next five years. Alas … it’s the Cleveland way.
City: Stockholm, N.J.
Name: Ron Battiston
It’s been amazing to watch LeBron go from arguably the most popular player in the NBA to arguably the most despised over the course of one week.
City: Akron, Ohio
Please do a catharctic “Ohio Fans Only” mailbag … I’m sure you’re getting dumped on with Cleveland Readers’ e-mails after the fans have gotten dumped on by LeBron. These people need to grieve. Since the announcement, there has been NOTHING else on local TV. I am dead serious. The NEWS has not broadcast ANYTHING OTHER THAN REACTION TO LEBRON. No shootings, no robberies, no sex scandals, nothing. It is LITERALLY the ONLY news. An hour and a half of news, and going strong, of just LeBron. There was a 30-second break on one channel when they gave the cheery weather report that it was going to rain tomorrow and that was as a positive. When is a thunderstorm blurb a good thing? What other event could possibly usurp the rest of the world’s news from happening? I don’t know how to recover. Help us grieve.
Who would have thought the biggest winners image-wise from the summer of 2010 would have been Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant?
City: Sydney, Australia
I know what’s coming. The inevitable mailbag where you provide a forum for disgruntled Cavs fans to vent their emotions alongside their lit LeBron jerseys and effigies (a thrice of its own if you will, just not Miami’s). Go ahead. That’s your role as the Internet equivalent to Michael Moore films or Springsteen songs about working class people in working class towns. Know this though. The argument that LeBron shouldn’t have gone to Miami because Wade is too good a player (one of the 5 superstars currently in the league, in your words) might be the most ridiculous you’ve ever come up with (I’m a fan, but you can be a little out there). So if Magic and Jordan went through the same draft class, were great friends, and had the opportunity to play together, they say no, because they’re concerned how their legacy will be remembered in William J. Simmons world? Please. Bring on the black jerseys, the evil empire comparisons, South Beach models, bandwagonism, dynasty and everything else. Bring on the Heateration, haters!
City: Mentor, Ohio
You have to make Cleveland the number one most tortured sports city of all time. After tonight it is indisputable. I am literally shaking as I type this. My city has been through so much, WHEN WILL IT END!?!?!
City: San Jose, Calif.
So right after “The Decision,” my buddy who’s a trainer for the Browns set his Facebook status as “I am a trainer for the best sports team in Cleveland!” The fact that his statement is 100% true is one of the most depressing sports situations I can think of.
Was that the ultimate Gen Y move? Pick hanging with your friends as a career instead of kicking their butts and laughing with them in the offseason ala Jordan and Sir Charles? Us Gen Xers will never understand.
I know I’m a little late with this but I just wanted you to know that when he announced his one-hour special the pendulum here in Chicago swung firmly from “we want LeBron” to “I want that diva to go somewhere else so we can beat him.” Maybe it didn’t swing all the way in that direction, but it was about 85% there. Two of my co-workers took advantage of his new Twitter account to send him a message that went something like “Chicago doesn’t want someone who’s more invested in their image than winning. Jordan would never pull this crap.” I’ve never been more proud of this city.
City: Austin, Texas
What kind of odds would I have gotten a few months ago that Gilbert Arenas would no longer be the craziest Gilbert in the NBA before the next season began? I could have made a killing!
City: Hibbing, Minn.
Imagine you’re an average dude in high school. Somehow, you begin dating the hottest girl in school. It goes good not great, but hey, she’s beautiful and you aren’t really going to complain. Senior year, she breaks up with you and begins dating the new quarterback that just transferred into the school. Except she did this on stage at the homecoming coronation, embarrassing you in front of the whole school. This is what LeBron did to the city of Cleveland.
At 25 if you had the opportunity to spend the next 5 years with two of your best friends living in South Beach winning NBA championships would you pass that up? I think we overestimate how much this guy thinks about his “legacy.” This is someone who calls his mom on the morning of The Decision, and right after The Decision, for moral support. He is a 25-year-old kid, not a 25-year-old man. This is EASILY the FUNNEST scenario. What other choice could there have been?
City: Fair Lawn, N.J.
You know how happy Carrie looked at the prom? And when the pig’s blood was dumped on her you couldn’t help but empathize? And when she went on her rampage you were actually kinda rooting for her? That’s how I feel about the city of Cleveland right now.
City: Boynton Beach, Fla. (by way of Buffalo, N.Y.)
While my heart hurts for Cleveland right now, heel turns in the WWE are awesome. I’ll never forget that moment when Triple H revealed he had married Stephanie McMahon the night before her wedding right as she was supposed to tie the knot with Test (or when Stephanie subsequently revealed to the now-deceased Test that the whole thing was a ruse all along). It makes for great theater. And LeBron and Bosh and Wade together in Miami makes for great theater too. Hopefully, LeBron will embrace that role and ascend to Shawn Michaels, Triple H and The Rock-like levels, cementing his greatness once and for all just like they did. ‘Cause anything otherwise and LeBron James is a complete sellout.
City: Glandorf, Ohio
Name: Jay Karhoff
This is a drunk e-mail but I’ve never felt this betrayed. The deepest circle of hell is reserved for those who betray and LeBron earned his spot.
City: Ravenna, Ohio
You probably know that Art Modell doesn’t exactly have good standing in Cleveland. Or Akron. Or Canton. Or … well, pretty much anywhere in Northeast Ohio. I never, EVER thought that anyone would replace him at the top of Northeast Ohio’s blacklist.
Is this the biggest turn in sports history? It makes Tiger’s fall from grace look like a DUI. LeBron was loved and now he is a coward, disloyal, self-absorbed and completely insincere. It reminds of me of something William Goldman said after Nicholson made a drunken ass of himself at the Golden Globes a number of years back. He said that was what movie stars were really like. LeBron has shown in public what we all know: athletes, our “heroes”, are often spoiled adolescents who deserve our pity, not our admiration. It is a sad day for all sports fans. And like most of America, I’m cheering for LeBron to never win a single title. I hope he enjoys that as his legacy.
Name: Rick C
John Wooden said “It takes talent to get to the top, but it takes character to stay there.”
It is now apparent that LeBron does not have the requisite character.
City: San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Thanks LeBron. My favorite player (Kobe) now looks like a class act. You also managed an impressive precedent tonight, which was screwing up your carefully crafted public image without a woman being involved. Oh, and you forgot to wear a pair of sunglasses on your head as you informed us all that “I will be taking my talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat.”
“The Decision” confirmed what I have feared for two months now: that LeBron knew he was going to be leaving after this season, so he had to start justifying it early.
I recognized his strategy, because I’ve done the exact same thing prior to breaking up with a girlfriend. Breakups suck, so why not try to make it a little less painful? Stop doing the little things, start making up excuses for not spending time with her, stop communicating as much … essentially, do things that she will resent so that by the time you break up with her, she’s mad at you and almost welcomes the breakup because of all the crap that you just put her through. LeBron did the same thing — stop trying in the playoffs, refuse to be a part of planning for the future, stop talking with the organization other than the pre-ordained free-agency meeting, and then top it off with a ridiculous TV “special” to drive home the point that he’s even more narcissistic than Lex Luger.
Unfortunately, LeBron had never tried that strategy before, so he was unaware that it’s a terrible idea. The people you break up with just totally lose respect for you and despise you even more for contriving such a stupid situation. The breakup is going to suck regardless — there’s really nothing that can be done to stop it, so don’t make it worse by playing mind games leading up to it. Obviously I’ve learned that lesson, but I don’t think LBJ has, mainly because all of his “advisers” are just yes-men because everyone on the planet is afraid to disagree with “The King.”
I waited 27 minutes to hear LeBron say that he was gonna be Dwyane Wade’s lackey? What a joke.
Name: Chunky A
Athletes, or most of them, treat sports like a business. Everyone says that, but it’s times like this when it actually becomes clear. For fans, it’s a romantic relationship. You’ve sort of noted this many times, but I never quite felt it until now. Fans of teams are not third parties to their teams. Or maybe I should say we don’t feel like third parties. Not sure athletes realize that for most of us (especially the older folks paying the bills), the individual athlete is not that important.
That’s why the LeBracle was so unseemly. It was premised on the assumption that fans (not just Cavs fans but Knicks fans, Heat fans, etc.) had romantic relationships with their teams while personifying the fact that the athletes don’t return the favor. LeBron made the decision like the executive leaving Ford for GM, yet the LeBracle played on the fact that people would be on pins and needles because they had more emotionally invested. No one spends the whole day reading chats and texting when a CEO leaves Ford for GM. I can’t imagine that experienced PR professionals would have condoned LeBron’s strategy here. Not all PR is good PR.
City: Long Beach
Big freakin deal, Cleveland. Signed, Seattle.
Name: Jay Karmelek
So I’m watching LeBron treat Cleveland like my daughter treats her diaper, and I hear Jackson and Van Gundy talking about how horrible the Cleveland fans are for burning his jersey and how “this is how you handle yourself” as though they’re watching something I’m not. I like both of their analysis usually, but they’ve never spent a month’s salary on games, never put in 80 hours waiting tables, taking out trash or even been stuck in an office with the escape of sports as a way to get through it. So they wouldn’t understand that many fans don’t care about “witnessing” LeBron whatever the heck that is, as if Cleveland fans should be grateful they got to see him dunk a bunch of times and choke in the playoffs.
Name: Justin Johnson
The generational shift in the NBA:
Jordan = John McClane
Kobe = Maximus
LBJ = Vincent Chase
I never thought I’d reach the day where I could no longer hate Kobe, Joakim Noah, Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard, or your beloved Celtics for hope that they dish out to LeBron the punishment he deserves for this charade.
City: New Canaan, Conn.
Name: Peter Kirschenbaum
I am a lifetime Heat fan. Last night: Mixed emotions. This free agency has been like winning two different lotteries. When Wade and Bosh chose the Heat, it felt like winning a $5 million lotto jackpot. Having LeBron pick the Heat feels like winning the powerball megamillion. Now nobody likes you and all of the sudden you have all these bandwagon fake friends wanting to hang out since you’re finally worth something. You can’t enjoy your money anymore because everyone wants a piece. Am I happy about winning the powerball? Yes, of course. Is it wrong though, that I feel like I might’ve been better off just winning the $5 million jackpot?
City: Albany, N.Y.
I have been following the LeBrachelor from Spain where every afternoon they do to six bulls what LeBron just did to Cleveland.
City: Richfield, Minn.
If I’m Cavs owner Dan Gilbert I immediately look at the schedule for when the Heat come to town the first time. I then arrange a ceremony where they retire jersey #23. Even have LeBron help raise it into the rafters. Do it up right and honor the accomplishments. I’d have an emotional speech put together honoring all the ups and downs that they’ve seen; bring up all the heartbreaks and near misses in the playoffs and regular season.
The name on the back of the jersey? Jordan.
City: Kingston (Canada not Jamaica)
Name: Kris Thiele
Now that LeBron has secured his place on the Mount Rushmore of Benedict Arnolds of Sports — who else do you put up there? My picks: NBA — LeBron James. MLB — Roger Clemens. NHL — Patrick Roy. NFL — Brett Favre.
Right now, I’m just finishing Chapter Two of your Book of Basketball, and I find it odd that we are having this free-agency spectacle happen right as you reflected on the age-old debate of Chamberlain/Russell. Since the most captivating basketball argument nowadays is LeBron/Kobe, don’t you get the sense LeBron will be remembered as Chamberlain and Kobe as … *gulp* … Russell?
City: Akron, Ohio
My perspective is simple: there is no way Michael Jordan ever makes this choice. None. It’s sad for Cleveland, that is for sure. But, honestly, I think it’s sadder for basketball because we’re missing the chance to see a basketball specimen come into his own and reach that rarified level of transcendent player. Maybe the Heat play beautiful basketball, but I think no matter what this will be remembered for three things: LeBron’s ego, the realization that he is scared to be great, and that we all know, no matter what, Michael Jordan never would have chosen this path. LeBron will never touch Jordan’s shadow at this point, let alone surpass him. And I think that lack of chase is a sad day for basketball.
I’ve figured out the moral of the story: Stay in school.
Wade: 3 years at Marquette
Bosh: 1 year at Georgia Tech
The kid from Akron: no college
The most educated guy convinced his dumber friends to come play on his team for less money.
City: Tulsa, Okla.
Name: Ryan Flippo
LeBron’s decision to sign with Miami absolutely constitutes the biggest heel turn I’ve ever seen in real life. It’s like LeBron and Cleveland are working the ring together in a gigantic Tag Team Royal Rumble, and it looks like they’ve got a real chance to come away with the Belt, until all of a sudden Jim Ross screams, “Good God, that’s Pat Riley’s music!”
City: St. Cloud, Wis.
Bill, in your LeBronocalypse column, you said the message LeBron was sending by signing with the Heat was “Help!” Is it possible that this was more about LeBron deciding that what he wanted most was to have fun? Think about it, he never went to college and has been looked upon as a franchise savior since before he was drafted, now he can live in one of most fun cities in America and play ball with two of his best buddies in the league, and he doesn’t have to carry the franchise every night. I’m not saying he went about announcing his decision the right way, I’m just saying, if it were me, I’d jump at the chance to get paid to play with two of my best buds in a town where we can have tons of other fun on our days off.
City: Perth, Australia
Name: Glenn Jamieson
Can you please annoint “Taking my talents to South Beach” as the new euphemism for masturbation?
City: Las Vegas
The stone-cold assassins that I have witnessed in my life: Tiger, Jordan, Kobe, Federer, Brady. All had what appear to be strong father-figures in their childhoods.
LBJ and his mom agreed that Miami “would make him happy.” Need I say more?
I know that you have coined the so-called “Tyson Zone”, but I think LeBron entered the “Tiger Zone” last night. LeBron was a global athletic icon who was well-respected and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Then he revealed during a 60-minute nationally televised event that he was selfish and more narcissistic than Rickey Henderson. The NBA is a business and I couldn’t care less that he’s leaving Cleveland. I wouldn’t stay there in his shoes. However, the way LeBron conducted himself was shameful. The Tiger Zone: A global athletic icon who appears to be a genuinely nice guy is revealed to be a total jerk following a single event.
City: Minneapolis, Minn.
Last night may have been the best PR moment for Kobe in his entire career. How many people are, just like me, going to be rooting for Kobe to tear LeBron apart on the court after that disgusting, narcissistic spectacle last night? LeBron really pulled off something to ‘AMAZE’ me last night … he made Kobe 10 times more likable at 10 p.m. last night than 3 weeks ago.
When LeBron arrives in Miami, will it be Dexter Morgan’s responsibility to “put him down” since he murdered all of Cleveland?
City: Ottawa, Ontario
Name: Dave Smyth
The first comparisons people were making last night were that LeBron will now be Magic to Wade’s Kareem, or more accurately Pippen to Wade’s Jordan. Sorry, but the real comparison here is A-Rod.
A-Rod is also the most physically gifted and talented guy in his sport. A-Rod also has the biggest ego in his sport. A-Rod also has no heart and no guts and typically gags in the playoffs. A-Rod blew off a smaller market team (Seattle) that adored him to play in Texas. A-Rod decided to go the Yankees to win rings knowing that they would always be Jeter’s team. A-Rod won a World Series last year but nobody considers him a champion the same way they look at Jeter because he didn’t help build the Yankees. How is any one of those things any different in any way shape or form than LeBron? The Heat will always be D-Wade’s team regardless of how many titles LeBron wins there. Congratulations on your decision LeBron — you have successfully downgraded your career arc to A-Rod. Unbelievable.
City: Southampton, Pa.
Name: Steve L
On ESPN last night, they were wondering what the nickname for the new trio of free agents in Miami should be. I vote for …
1. The Sisterhood of the Traveling That’s Never Called
2. The Fly Girls
3. The Unholy Trinity
4. Florida’s Second-Best NBA Team
and my personal favorite …
5. The Nazgul
The Nazgul were the characters in “Lord of the Rings” that were former kings who turned into demons that were constantly chasing the ring. It completely consumed them and robbed them of their humanity. I think this sums up the situation in Miami.
City: Ann Arbor, Mich.
A picture tells a thousand words.
City: Akron, Ohio
Name: Kevin Heffernan
Please elevate Cleveland to #1 on your Levels of Losing list. I want to be #1 in SOMETHING.
We had a LeBronfire last night … I burned everything I own with his name on it.
My wife could sleep with my father and I wouldn’t feel this betrayed.
Born here. Raised here. Played here. Betrayed here.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times best-seller “The Book of Basketball.” For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy’s World. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.