I just returned from a two-week trip to Akron, Ohio, where LeBron-hating is still gaining momentum for his "defection" to Miami.
Our tickets to the watch the Akron Aeros, a double A ball club of the Cleveland Indians, happened on "Ship out LeBron night." Guests were encouraged to bring in any piece of LeBron James apparel and exchange it for a free ticket. A sign said, "All donated items will be donated to the Canal Union District of the United Methodist Church to be taken on a mission trip far from northeast Ohio."
Sports Illustrated reported it only took three hours for Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing Company to sell its first 30-gallon batch of "Quitness," a pale ale inspired by LeBron James that reportedly leaves a bitter taste behind.
These are humorous examples of how some have responded to James ditching the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, but many others are quite serious in their outrage.
The Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, kicked things off with a statement that told fans, "You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal" and "You have given so much and deserve so much more."
Do they really? Why do they deserve more? Didn't Cavaliers fans, of their own free will, show up and see some really great basketball these past seven years? Weren't they more than compensated for the price of their ticket to see a real basketball superstar, a guy who was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2003-04, NBA Most Valuable Player in 2008-09 and 2009-10, and has been both All-NBA and an All-Star every season since 2005? And didn't James have quite a bit to do with the Cavaliers having numerous playoff appearances in his tenure and a spot in the NBA Finals?
Apparently, that's not enough from "Akron's son." Apparently, he's supposed to stay in Ohio forever, whether it's what he wants or not. I think James missed that memo.
I admit I didn't know much about LeBron James until I read the story of his youth about a year ago — it's a great story, the kind that inspires hope and greatness in others, the kind that put a big fat smile on your face. I watched the documentary, "More Than a Game," just last month about his early years and those of his friends — dubbed "the Fab 4" (and later the Fab 5 when Romeo Travis joined in).
It's pretty amazing that "King James," a superstar by age 18, stuck around Ohio as long as he did. I don't think he's ungrateful, disloyal or lacking in character. On the contrary, I think he's a guy with humble beginnings who has shown his values and stayed true to his roots. Born in Akron, James played his heart out for local teams, signed with an Ohio NBA team, married his high school sweetheart and is still best buds with old friends. He even began a charity — the LeBron James Family Foundation — with his mom.
I agree James could have told the Cavaliers he was leaving, but I don't begrudge him leaving. After watching the spectacle ensue after his announcement, I think if anyone should feel betrayed, it's James.
"Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there. Sorry, but that's simply not how it works," continued Gilbert's open letter to James. "This shocking act of disloyalty from our homegrown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And 'who' we would want them to grow up to become."
My interpretation of Gilbert's remarks is he believes James should die trying for a championship with the Cavaliers in order to open the gate to heaven, his euphemism for that elusive blank on James' resume.
It seems clear from his own admission that James is a little burnt out being the go-to guy at every game. The pressure has been on James arguably longer than any other player in the NBA. How many of them were dubbed "the chosen one" by Sports Illustrated before they were even out of high school? I'm sure he'd like that championship ring on his finger just like anyone else, but he's also willing to give up some of the limelight for it. James doesn't need to die for anything, or feel obligated. He's already given quite a bit of in terms of sweat, dedication and loyalty.
I learned a hard lesson years ago in the employment world — and let's not forget that basketball is about business and that James is employed by it — business is business. It's not personal.
LeBron is gone; Ohio (and everyone else) should move on. I just returned from a two-week trip to Akron, Ohio, where LeBron-hating is still gaining momentum for his "defection" to Miami.