LeBron Returns to Cleveland

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve intentionally not talked a lot about LeBron James and the mighty Miami experiment. There is a lot to talk about, but there’s also been a lot, and I mean a lot of people talking about it.

The basic story line is obvious, a hometown star elevates to the pros and takes the Cavs near to the top of the basketball world. The fact that he fails to do so results in an incredible degree of criticism, and after a highly publicized courting process, he leaves, becoming a villain in the eyes of many and presumably killing the hopes of the fan base who was once his faithful following.

Since, the army of press/bloggers/critics/haters have executed a 24-hour-all-media-format-Britney-Spears-when-her-life-went-nutso full court press, and have been doing so since he announced his decision on June 8th.

Can you think of a single happening in the NBA that has provoked such relentless canon fire? There was a hurricane when Magic announced he’d contracted HIV, TV cameras and paparazzi followed Jordan at each of his baseball games, well, until they decided he was no good at it and left town. You could say that Reggie Miller vs the Knicks was an unusually dramatic storyline,  but I’d argue that in none of these cases did the player in question have to deal with quite the same kind of instant opinion orgy that we’re seeing here.

They didn’t have to deal with YouTube and Twitter and the Heat Index and unnamed sources leaking stories to ESPN that said player is trying to get rid of his coach and/or destroying team chemistry in an elaborate scheme to divert attention away from the fact that he’s not playing well.

Actually, let me pause right here for a second, because I actually do not want to try paint a ‘Poor LeBron’ picture, nor am I about to break into a tearful ‘leave LeBron alone!’ tirade.

(For those keeping track, that is in fact the second reference I’ve made to the media circus that surrounded Britney Spears during the crazy days. Just wanted to be sure no one confused as to whether that may be intentional)

It’s important to remember that I’m with LeBron on only about 65% of all this. While I fully support his choice in going to Miami, I agree with many that it could have been handled differently – though I also feel like as someone who hustled home and fumbled around with the remote so that I wouldn’t miss a single second of it, I don’t feel I have any right to complain about silliness that was The Decision, even if I kind of just did.

I don’t think he’s a faultless victim in all this, but what I will say I this. When I think back to important player scandals in the NBA, the only one that comes anywhere near this level of intensity – and the only one recent enough to be fueled by the 24-hour news channel/Internet revolution –  is Kobe Bryant’s court case, and he was on trial for rape.

Or to put it another way, I feel like the basketball world has been batshit crazy about LeBron this year, and maybe its time we chill the frak out.

And maybe we will start doing that tomorrow afternoon, but not tonight.

LeBron returns to Cleveland for the first time and will face what may be an unprecedentedly hostile crowd. There are efforts to get the entire crowd to laugh sarcastically whenever LeBron touches the ball, the Cavs general manager choice this moment to announce his intent to ask the NBA for an investigation as to whether LeBron’s choice was made legally – presumably in an effort to deepen the intense feelings from the fans. There will be pat downs and metal detectors and extra security guards on hand at the stadium today after veiled threats of violence from some of the fans.

I may not agree with the insanity – and my intentional lack of LeBron content on this blog is my own silly little way to protest against it – but I will say this: tonight’s game may well be one of the biggest in LeBron’s career.

I do worry that this may actually be a no-win scenario for LeBron. If he has a huge night, the headline tomorrow is that his journey to the dark side will be complete – ‘LeBron returned to Cleveland and ripped their hearts out.’

If he only has an decent night, they’ll say that he couldn’t rise to the occasion, and if he has an off night, they’ll say he crumbled to the pressure.

Still, there’s a certain appeal to the idea that with all our punditry and statistics and predictions and spin, ultimately its up to LeBron, the kid who grew up wanting to put Akron on the map, to take the court and prove to us – all of us – whether his decision to sign with Miami was worth it.

~ by djepperson on December 2, 2010.

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