Hey Cleveland, It’s Time to Let Go of This Whole LeBron Thing

By Stephen M. Zorio

It was seen, rightly, as a needlessly indulgent spectacle that obsequiously catered to the whims of a petulant superstar while showing scant regard for the fans who backed him. Jim Gray cemented his reputation as a man who will do anything to be on TV. ESPN proved the spectacle, once again, matters more than the substance.

Fans burned jerseys and attacked LeBron in every medium possible. Dan Gilbert used a font usually found in the diaries of teen shut-ins to vent to make some foolish claims. Claims of racism (not totally unfounded) were levied and the painfully awkward Heat pre-celebration party fueled the hatred even further.

The anger took on a life of its own, culminating in thousands of people (me included) rooting against LeBron/for the Mavericks.

And then LeBron choked and then we all laughed at him and wondered if he’d ever win and then we all got over it … except for Cleveland.

Many of us know the person who, despite frantic attempts to cut them off with, ‘Right, you’ve told this story …’ plow ahead anyway, regaling you with the 287th version of the time that one person did that one thing and everyone laughed/cried/sealed the emergency exits and prepared for a memorable death.

What becomes clear in the many tellings and re-tellings is that the story has a great personal significance to the person telling it, but little in the way of actual significance.

And while some portion of us will squirm politely and pretend we don’t know precisely what Uncle Jeff said to the waitress (it was racist), the rest wish desperately for the story to end. Not because the story was without merit initially, but because at some point it becomes a dull obsession.

A quick aside on the we: I have been a Cavs and Indians fan since 1983. I have a Kenny Lofton bobblehead on my desk. I lived in Ohio during both The Drive and The Fumble. I have seen the inversely proportionate highlight (Jordan rises, Ehlo falls down) often enough that I have fever dreams about it. I remember the ‘Can the Cavs Finally Jam?’ Sports Illustrated cover (no, they could not) and Gerald Wilkins calling himself ‘The Jordan Stopper’ (no, he most certainly was not). I loathe the Marlins. I have NBA League Pass to watch the Cavs (Anthony Bennet … huh) and MLB League Pass to watch the Tribe (thanks for chasing Terry Francona out, Boston).

In short, when it comes to Cleveland sports, I get it. But, more pointedly, where it comes to LeBron, I got it. Note the verb tense.

It’s time to let the LeBron vitriol go. To be fair, this applies to more than just Cleveland fans, but Cavs fans seem to fuel it and provide cover for people who stupidly rip his skill set. Let’s be clear: We are watching one of the greatest players to ever set foot on an NBA court. The reflexive response here is something along the lines of ‘derrrrr Jordan,’ but that is both a nearly impossible standard and irrelevant.

But stats aside, let’s look at The Decision for what it was at its core: A 24-year-old male made a poor choice and recorded it. That’s it. At its heart, it featured a young man doing a foolish and imperious thing, save that it was writ large.

Putting aside his bizarre final games, the guy holds a stunning number of Cavs records. He carried a franchise to their first ever NBA Finals appearance with a roster that had no business being there. And he almost did it a second time save for a freakishly hot shooting Magic team. He watched a long line of castoffs miss wide open 3s (Donyell Marshall, I’m looking at you). He suffered through Mike Brown’s (sigh) bizarre refusal to run an actual offense and watched as a series of second bananas either said no the Cavs or failed in that role.

Besides, it’s time to be honest about this: Think of yourself in your mid-20s. You can take a lot of money and stay in Cleveland where the weather is … gray … a lot. Or you can take a lot of money and go live in Miami and be surrounded by gorgeous women and amazing culture and miles of beaches. Not to mention that you finally get that second guy the Cavs could never land. What is so unfathomable about that choice? Seriously, go look at the forecasts for those two cities right now. It’s not a contest and it’s foolish to act like it doesn’t matter.

Yes, the way in which LeBron left was idiotic. And he has admitted as much. To wit: “[If] I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it.”

But he left and it’s not an unpardonable offense. Young men have been making stupid decisions for tens of thousands of years. This site has ample proof of that. Sure, it was unfair to elevate that decision into a public spectacle, but it’s unfair to crucify LeBron for doing something that, fundamentally, is so unremarkable as to be pedestrian.

So move past him, concentrate on the future, hope Kyrie Irving can stay healthy and that Dion Waiters is a legit two and that Anthony Bennett proves Chris Grant is a mad genius. But let LeBron go. For now. And pray his next decision has him coming back.