You know. It’s almost funny.
I was caught up in the hoopla, the pipe dream. LeBron, against a good bit of reason, was going to come back to Cleveland. Cleveland, where his last memories were bad and bitter. Where he could look back and see his jersey being burned. Where he could remember the boos raining down. Where he could remember fans being attacked at other sporting events for daring to wear his gear. Yes. Those memories were going to draw him back. Back to an organization where the first seven years of his career were wasted away by stupid trades, win-now efforts, and the signing of past-their-prime stars and anyone who would take their money. Back to an organization that had it’s billionaire owner write a childish, tantrum letter that in the short-term got him further into the good graces of hardcore Cleveland fans, but in the short- and long-term haunted him as immature.
That hoopla. That pipe dream. I was caught up in it. Hoping against hope that LeBron would return.
Then yesterday – yes, yesterday – I tried thinking logically.
LeBron was not going to leave Miami. He was playing with his friends. With an organization that had proven the ability to win a title. With a guiding force – Pat Riley – who was iconic and magnetic. He wouldn’t leave that to play for an unproven Euro coach and a GM who has less than one year on the job.
Dwyane Wade – again, one of LeBron’s best friends – had just opted out, leaving $40 million on the table, to show LeBron he was serious about him coming back and making the sacrifice to win another title. With a decision looming, LeBron hadn’t told Wade he was leaving. That had to mean he was staying. He wouldn’t get his friend to give up money and certainty to leave him hanging.
Plus, somewhat leaving logic here, this is Cleveland. Cleveland doesn’t have stories like this happen to them. It’s the victim in stories like this. That’s their lot in life.
And, over dinner, I asked a friend – also a Cleveland transplant in Denver – his thoughts. We agreed that there was probably no way LeBron was coming back. If he was, it was about ego – being the man who brought Cleveland their elusive championship. But, that couldn’t be enough against his overall legacy of winning titles. We agreed. At best, there was a 40% chance.
And then … I log into si.com this morning. I thought at first they were running two stories as part of hype. One story on LeBron staying in Miami, and one on him going to Cleveland. The kind of hype story where a writer speculates on what could be. The kind of thing that in this day-and-age gets more clicks than actual news.
And then, I read the story. And it was true. LeBron is “Coming Home”.
The story wasn’t long. But it was emotional. It was the antithesis of “The Decision”. The Decision had me shed a tear in angst. The story had me shed a tear, as well.
The love for Northeast Ohio. The understanding he showed for the struggle and lives of those who are from there. It connected with me on a level I couldn’t explain.
Suddenly, any doubt I had was gone. I thought I wanted LeBron back two weeks ago. I thought I shouldn’t get my hopes up yesterday. I knew I wanted him back as I read that later. And I was overjoyed as I came to that conclusion.
Something else is funny.
Four years ago, a buddy of mine tried to cheer me up about the whole LeBron thing. He hypothesized that this might be good for the Cavs. That, as currently constructed, they had reached their ceiling. With their limited assets and cap space, they couldn’t add the kind of dynamic player they needed to add to win a title. We’d be condemningourselves to a perpetual cycle of hopes for a title, and falling short in conference finals or NBA finals, while condemning LeBron – possibly the greatest talent ever seen – to a career arc of Kevin Garnett. This buddy then pointed out that bottoming out, getting a couple of high draft picks, and starting over could give Cleveland a real foundation. And, after four years (the earliest LeBron could leave Miami) that such a young, promising core might be enough to get him to come home.
I laughed. Sure, it was possible. But it wasn’t gonna happen. This is Cleveland. We don’t get fairy tale endings.
But this time, we did.
This is Cleveland. We don’t get titles.
Maybe this time, we will.