Justice Is Served

July 8, 2010 11:34 PM

Heat is on: LeBron breaks his city's heart


Now what, Clevelanders?

Your 18 months of angst and anticipation have given way to disappointment and disgust. You had allowed yourself to fall madly in love with LeBron James, the man you anointed "The Chosen One." He never returned the love.

Unrequited love hurts - hurts like hell, too. It makes you feel like a fool for having poured your soul into a romance that wasn't genuine. You were merely LeBron's mistress, to do with as he pleased.

The bizarre relationship this city and its people had with their native son was destined to end like Tiger Wood's marriage: in an ugly divorce. For LeBron James, his entourage and their global aspirations couldn't find happiness here - not in Cleveland, not among the blue collars that had idolized James since his schoolboy days.

So, in front of ESPN cameras and edgy emotions, James cast his lot with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form an All-Star lineup that might bring James the title he couldn't win in Cleveland. But his decision to leave surely undid the affection the people in his hometown felt for him.

Oh, and one more thing his joining the Miami Heat did: It showed how little class James had.

For nearly two months, he played the whore, peddling his hoops talent on the corner like a hooker. It wasn't all about the dollars. I think everybody can understand that now. For if it were, James would have stayed with the Cavs, a team that could offer him more millions than the Heat could.

But he wanted to play someplace where he can win championships, wanted to play somewhere that allows him to enhance his stature in the discussion about the greatest players ever. In some ways, he's been chasing Michael Jordan's shadow or, more likely, Kobe Bryant's.

Those shadows have weighed on James. He's wanted to be more than Jordan or Kobe. But he couldn't be more if he didn't have a single championship ring he could point to, and he never seemed to believe he could win one here. In truth, he had taken this franchise as far as he could, a franchise that had been his alone: It was his team, his talent and his persona that had brought the Cavs to the edge of glory. His decision to play elsewhere has left them a dispirited wreck, a decent enough team to avoid the NBA lottery but not good enough to compete for a championship. 

Is a championship worth all the broken hearts LeBron James left in his wake last night? Are two or three championships worth dismantling the legacy he had so carefully constructed?  

Soon enough, the people who believed in him and worshiped him and lorded over him can resign themselves to what his leaving means. They have had practice at it. For in Cleveland, sports fans have felt the deep disappointment before of a star athlete forsaking them. They have seen Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome do so. They all left, however, for more dollars and not for anything else. 

Yet none of them were homegrown - none a native son who went from rags to an embarrassment of riches in front of people who had cheered for him since adolescence. When Belle, Manny and Thome left, they didn't leave behind the hurt that James did.

Love, of course, is a hurting thing, so is betrayal. And the latter is how this city - LeBron's city - will look at his decision to sign with the Heat: He betrayed it.

People here won't remember all the warm memories LeBron left them with. Nor will they remember his youth camps and his generous work with local charities. They will remember what they never wanted to discuss about LeBron James: his aloofness, his petulance and his me-above-the-crowd attitude.

They will remember, too, that he left them with a shell of a team, a team Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert had built to accommodate him.

There's a lesson here for Clevelanders, though. It's a hard lesson, one that they should never forget: be weary of who you fall in love with. To do otherwise is to risk having your heart broken.

And what becomes of a broken heart isn't much.




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