This is the last blog post I will ever write about LeBron James.
He has been the subject of my admiration, then scrutiny, then hatred. I’ve purchased three of his jerseys and worn them to occasions where they were not at all appropriate. (For the first time since the mid-90’s Indians squads dominated the AL Central, wearing Cleveland attire didn’t incite ridicule.) I watched every game in awe of his supernatural abilities. I spent the entire 2009/2010 season worried that, even in victory, his supporting cast hadn’t done enough to earn his respect. During the 2010 playoffs, I penned 2,000 words about why I thought LeBron was a goner; such rigor hadn’t gone into most of my college papers. When he decided to leave, I was sipping overpriced beer at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, cell phone off, as I chose to drain out the inevitable sorrow, at least for a night.
In the years since “The Decision”, Cavs fans have held onto hope that somehow, some way, our nemesis would never win a championship. This was delusional, and we knew it. LeBron James is the greatest basketball player that has ever stepped onto the hardwood; his abysmal personality off of the court does nothing to legitimize the absurd arguments to the contrary. Basketball is a sport easily dominated by one great player, and James’ combination of unworldly talent and fierce work ethic were going to wield a title.
Our fanatical vitriol for the man coupled with a pair of impressive, eminently likeable Western Conference teams to damage our judgment. In 2011 the Dallas Mavericks stopped the emotional bleeding for Cavs fans, who had endured one of the worst seasons in league history. Led by a quiet, unselfish superstar who had spent his entire career with one team, the Mavs gave Clevelanders something to root for. Justice was served, as the Mavericks held back the King for at least one year and atoned for a finals loss to Miami in 2006.
This year’s finals seemed eerily similar to Clevelanders. The only thing standing in the way of a LeBron championship was an affable team led by a reserved, lengthy big man who was the league’s premier perimeter scorer. But it was not to be. James’ postseason experience, much of it gained in slugfests against the Pistons and Celtics while in Cleveland, overcame the Thunder’s athleticism.
LeBron got his ring, and the series wasn’t even close. All the false talk of his lack of “clutch”, “grit”, and other terms used by lazy, statistically brain-dead sportswriters has been put to rest.
I’d rather James have never won a title, but such hope was akin to wishing Gary Johnson will become president. Dallas spared us the embarrassment of a 25 game losing streak and a LeBron title in the same season. Now, finally, the inevitable is no longer looming on the horizon. It has arrived; the worst has happened. No more thinking about how agonizing it will be to see LeBron hold the Larry O’Brien trophy, or how nauseating (more so than usual) ESPN’s NBA coverage will be. We have closure.
Thanks to shrewd management and the expected happening (i.e., the Clippers trading the pick that would become Kyrie Irving for some cap relief in the most Clipper-like trade ever), the Cavaliers are now well positioned to make a title run in a few years. Irving has drawn comparisons to a better-shooting Derrick Rose, and forward Tristian Thompson has potential to be an elite big man. The team has three first round picks this year and tons of salary cap flexibility; General Manager Chris Grant should be able to assemble a title-worthy squad. Irving, meanwhile, has earned the love of Cavs fans for not being LeBron: selfless, soft spoken, and genial.
It still hurts, to be certain, and the unappreciative Heat fans don’t make things any better. But the saga is over. No matter how many titles the King wins, we can finally abandon our obsession with him. It’s been unhealthy from the beginning, and we are better now that it is over.