On July 8, 2010 I was stabbed in the back. Not physically of course, no blade pierced my skin, no blood came pouring out of any open wound. The pain and agony of that metaphorical stab wound was very real however, or at least as real as sports fan emotions can get.
LeBron James, Northeast Ohio’s own chosen one, the kid who grew up in Akron and played his High School ball at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s and then jumped straight to the pros to play for his hometown team had left us. He had promised to bring us championships while lighting the city up like Las Vegas — instead he left us standing at the doorway in our prom dress, waiting for that limo to take us to the dance. It would never come, because he stiffed us for the hotter girl… and did it on National TV.
In the days and weeks leading up to what would become known as “the decision,” I had become convinced that James would be leaving. I had just thought that it was going to be to New York, where Knick fans had spent most of LeBron’s first 7 season’s in Cleveland calling it a forgone conclusion that “King James” would go play in the basketball “Mecca” of Madison Square Garden or possibly Chicago who had a real good young team, battled LeBron’s Cavaliers in the playoffs and were just a piece away.
I had made my peace with it, it would suck and I would be pissed at him, but hey he was a free agent and here in Cleveland we are already used to losing big-time free agents (Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez…). Then came word that LeBron had decided that he was going to go on National TV on ESPN and announce his decision in front of the whole wide sports world.
What had previously been a guaranteed lock in my mind, the peace that I had made in knowing that he was leaving has disappeared. I mean what kind of person would book a 1-hour long special on prime time television, to tell not just the team that he played for but the team he played for in the region that he grew up in, his HOMETOWN team — that he was leaving. Who would do that, what kind of arrogance does that take?
I couldn’t believe it, Cleveland had finally won, our hometown hero was staying here to fulfill his promise to us. Then I turned on ESPN, saw Jim Gray ask the question and then heard LeBron James say those infamous words, “..I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach.”
What? What the fuck even?
In one fell swoop all of Northeast OH felt that warm blood pour out of that metaphorical stab wound — that we received with the entire world watching.
To add insult to injury in the days, weeks and even years after “the Decision” national media figures in the sports world talked down on Cleveland for the way we reacted. Really? How the fuck did you expect us to react? “Thanks for leaving us hanging LeBron and fucking us over on National Television, good luck in Miami, we love you.”
That’s not how sports work, and EVERYONE KNOWS IT. If it had been any other city any other fanbase that was stabbed in the back by their HOMETOWN HERO in the manner that LeBron stabbed us in the back, the reaction WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SAME. Not only that but everyone would agree that the fans were right in their response.
But hey, we’re Cleveland, you’ve got to be tough to be from Northeast Ohio.
Flash forward to four years later, time heals all wound, including metaphorical sports stab wounds. Cleveland has had, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Move, The Shot, The Jose mesa choke job, The Decision and now… “The Letter.”
Via Sports Illustrated:
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?
LeBron James was a free agent in 2010, he had every right in the world to leave Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and the Cavaliers organization. We in turn as fans had EVERY RIGHT to be pissed off and angry about it.
The WAY he went about leaving us put a whole lot of extra sting into that metaphorical stab wound. This letter that LeBron James wrote even without the part about “coming home,” is everything I have wanted to hear from him since he left.
He has truly realized that he was a douchebag in the manner he left, but is not sorry for leaving, nor should he be that was his right as a free agent.
He also admitted that us as fans had the right to feel pissed off about it.
This is NOT about the money, he WOULD have made a WHOLE LOT MORE in MIA or elsewhere.
I think he realized what most of us in Northeast, OH know, but many refuse to admit.
There’s no place like home.
Who am I to hold a grudge?