LeBron James’ nickname quickly changed from King James to Court Jester according to many Cleveland Cavalier fans Thursday night. It was not about the money. It was about acquiring jewelry: specifically multiple rings from multiple championships. In an hour long nationally televised ESPN Special called “The Decision,” James said he believes the possibilities of winning those multiple championships exist with the Miami Heat and not with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “He will be taking his talents to South Beach this fall.”
To say that the news hit Cleveland Cavalier fans like a slap in the face would be putting it mildly. Slaps sting. This felt more like a stab in the back.
Dennis of Akron took issue with the way in which LeBron made his announcement. He commented, “LeBron is entitled to go wherever he wants but after seven years in a city he claim to love, he nationally announces he is leaving in another state. Why? Something about that felt very cowardly…. I never thought LeBron’s name would ever be mentioned in the same breath as Art Modell.”
In a show of solidarity, thousands stood along East 9th Street this pass Saturday as the Cleveland Cavalier organization presented their pitch to LeBron. An organization that Jackie of Hudson told me, “He didn’t even give the decency of a pre-phone call to…I feel used.”
Cleveland fans could not have done enough. Hundreds donated their time to the city wide organizations that brought us a Glee inspired performances in Tower City’s main concourse, signs on I-77 overpasses; and a city inspired pep rally in Akron which LeBron attended. This was all in addition to offers to supply James with free dry cleaning, hair cuts and corn beef for life. Top Chef Michael Symon even offered to cook for James for one year if he chose to remain in Cleveland.
No one can say the fans of Cleveland, Akron and Northeast Ohio never cared. No one can say they did not try to let him know how valuable he was to them. For seven years, fans sold out the Gund then Q Arena. They faithfully purchased his merchandise and supported his charity events. Yet in the end it was not about fan support either.
Late in the interview special, James stated that he empathized with Cleveland fans after he was shown an image of a LeBron James Cleveland Cavalier jersey burning in the street. He realizes that he let some people down but his decision based on doing what he felt would make him happy.
Thursday July 8, 2010 LeBron James left the building. Disappointed, Northeast Ohio will eventually find renewed happiness as well.