Lebron James’ choice to leave Cleveland Cavaliers was pretty lame, in my opinion, but then who cares what uniform the guy wears – he’s playing for Lebron. As a former Cleveland resident, I had endless opportunities to experience the Cult of Lebron, which is omnipresent in northeastern Ohio. (FYI, Miami, it doesn’t take long to go numb.) But even for a seasoned Lebron Witness, the ESPN special was way over the top.
Lebron’s decision to make an event out of announcing his decision looked desperate and ill-conceived. Why in the world does he need a press conference on ESPN to make a one-sentence announcement? Even superstar athletes whose talent eclipses James’ abilities (e.g., Michael Jordan) – never felt the need to do that. But if Lebron feels that a nationally televised conference sponsored by big business is necessary, then it must be. it is not for us to question the King.
ESPN ceased to exist in the hours leading up to “The Decision”, and became
a media outlet devoted to Lebron James’ every movement. Rather than descend from the heavens for the occasion, King James opted to materialize in Connecticut to host Lebron Hour. After announcing he was “taking his talents” down to Miami, Lebron spent several minutes delivering a heartfelt eulogy to his career. My favorite part was Lebron’s reflection on his own loyalty. Look, when you’re a free agent, you can do what you want. If you want to leave one team, and go to another, then you can do that. You’re acting legally, you’re acting in your own interest, and you may be making a great financial or career decision. You are not being loyal.
Lebron’s loyalty can be categorized with Lady GaGa’s quiet reserve, Bobby Knight’s calm rationality, and Rosie O’Donnell’s feminine allure.
Lebron didn’t spend all of his time talking about his loyalty, but went on to discuss his talent, his prospects, his mental struggles in leaving Cleveland and Akron, and finally a heartfelt thank you to himself for all he’s done for the city. As James continued to talk about his “blood, sweat, and tears”, I found myself wondering what Lebron’s done for Cleveland. Sure, he brought a lot of revenue to the city, but come on. Was he scoring baskets FOR Cleveland? Or was he trying to become the richest athlete in history, as he once claimed was his career goal?
The Chosen One does have some reason for his inflated opinion of himself. He’s a good player. The people surrounding him are always on hand to assure him of his superhuman status. Clevelanders LOVE(d) him. Maybe Lebron just bought into the hype. And he’s not a horrible person or anything; he does a lot of charity work for the Boys and Girls club. But Lebron indulges in significantly more cringe-worthy activities than even the rankest of publicity whores. One example is nicknaming himself King James. Or that stupid Messiah pose he likes to strike.
Lebron’s ultra-original idea to start a bidding war for himself was not pulled off with the level of class Americans have come to expect, based on our experience with similar concepts (you know, like The Bachelor). First of all, it’s truly bewildering that anyone would create the huge spectacle Lebron did leading up to “The Decision”, and allow the teams he is rejecting to find out with anyone who happened to be watching TV. His treatment of the Cavs was especially shabby in this regard. You’d think at least they would’ve earned a face-to-face meeting, or at the very least, a phone call. Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert published an open letter last night which permanently endeared him to Clevelanders past and present. It was bitter, and unpolished, and awesome. Just guessing, but I bet the King’s display of etiquette didn’t go down so well with the Knicks or the Bulls either.
In all the excitement, Lebron forgot to thank his nauseatingly loyal fans, as well as the universally favorable press he’d enjoyed until last night. The Cavs’ ridiculous efforts to please him throughout the past seven years didn’t make the cut. The State of Ohio did not get a nod for the financial support it provided to King James via welfare for the first 18 years of his life. Fortunately, Lebron did remember the essentials. His talent? Check. How awesome his future is? Check. His morning chat with his mother? Check. Best of all, he spent several minutes talking about his firm commitment to making himself happy. I can’t remember if that was before or after he talked about his loyalty.
So the City of Cleveland is witnessing an all-too-familiar sensation of disappointment. As the world witnesses Lebron making a production of walking away, there’s only so much comfort his fans can take in the King’s farewell press conference, despite his thoughtful assurance to everyone that he “didn’t expect his fans to understand”. Rest assured, they’ll be watching to see how well Lebron is able to share the spotlight with two other stars.
Cheer up, Cleveland! You’ve still got a lot going for you. There’s a low cost-of-living, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and a new sitcom starring Betty White and Valerie Bertinelli. And for what it’s worth, I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to you in unloading Lebron to Miami Heat. You’re better off without this ingrate.