Friday, July 11, 2014

Decision 2.0: LeBron is Back!

LeBron James is back.

It seems like everyone in Cleveland has something to say about the return of the NBA star to northeast Ohio, including me. I wish I could say I am unequivocally thrilled he is coming back, but my feelings about the situation are, well, complicated.

I watched The Decision, the live ESPN television broadcast four summers ago, when King James told the world he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Miami Heat. Half an hour into the televised show, he announced the words Clevelanders would remember forever: "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat." 

It felt like a punch to the gut. I cursed him, his plaid shirt, the Miami Heat and all things Cleveland sports-related. When Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote his infamous letter to the fans denouncing James and promising Cleveland an NBA championship, I was moved by Gilbert's passion (but bewildered by his font choice, use of caps lock and misuse of quotation marks). I declared on Facebook, "I am LeDone with Cleveland sports."

I wasn't angry that James chose to leave Cleveland. I was angry about the way he chose to leave. Breaking up with us on national television? It was humiliating. It was heartbreaking. My son, seven years old at the time, wanted to stay up to watch the show with me but it was past his bedtime. The next morning, I told Nico what LeBron had decided to do. Nico had been enamored of the NBA star and as a kindergartener, had even lobbied to name his future brother LeBron James. When told the bad news, Nico wailed and used the strongest language he had in his vocabulary then: "SHUCKS!"

So we donated Nico's LeBron Cavs jersey to Goodwill. We treated him like so many other Cleveland sports villains my husband and I grew up despising: John Elway, Michael Jordan, Art Modell, etc. We booed LeBron whenever we saw his face on TV.

But then.

The King decided to return. This time, instead of televising the announcement with great fanfare, he opted to make the news known through an essay in Sports Illustrated. Well, that's one way to score points with this writer/writing instructor. Bonus points for not using Comic Sans using a respectable font. The tone of the essay sounded sincere, humble, mature. Also, as someone who recently moved back to Cleveland after spending two years in California, I could relate to LeBron discussing leaving home and wanting to return. I was softening. Then, I read the last few words of the piece:
"Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get. 
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. 
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home."

That's when my eyes started leaking.

Welcome home, LBJ.