by MARK GREY
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Not to this city and not by this guy. The city of Cleveland and its sports fans had been through decades of heartbreak, but one of their own was going to make everything right. This time it was going to be different -- Cleveland was now home of the “King” and it felt even better because this was all home grown talent. LeBron James wasn’t just a basketball player, he was Cleveland’s prodigal son. The city and its fans had been behind him since he was a young teen, and had helped to mold him into the man he is today. Now that the cities favorite son has grown up and left town as a glory seeking man, just like any irresponsible parent, the city of Cleveland is in denial about the role they played in what their child has become.
When James informed the city of Cleveland he would be “taking his talents to south beach” during his self-arranged hour long primetime special, the fans were in an uproar. “How could he do this?” the fans screamed at just about every television in Cleveland. How could the man this city has been so loyal to turn his back on his fans and home town, they cried. As I sat and watched the Cavs fans reaction to “The Decision,” one fans comments really caught my attention.
“What makes him think he is bigger than this city? It’s like he thinks he is a god or something.” As I sat there and watched the drunk Cavs fan vent, two words came to mind “Uhh Duh.”
As I sat and watched fan after fan bash James and call him every different form of arrogant there is in the English language, I wondered if they could even hear what they were saying. Really? You can’t believe that a man you all have been calling King since he was 15 is arrogant? You can’t believe a man who an entire city has made excuse after excuse for feels like he can do no wrong? My question to all of the stunned fans of Cleveland is, where have you all been the last 10 years?
LeBron exploded on the national scene his Junior year in high school when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the words the “Chosen One” in bold print. In the article, LeBron was quoted as saying it was “unfair” he even had to do his senior year of high school. However unfair LeBron thought it was having to play one more year of high school basketball, he was gracious enough to bless the city of Akron with another - a year in which the city marketed and cashed in to the level that High School basketball has never seen. There were ESPN games, Pay Per View games, and sold out college gyms all feeding the growing legend that was LeBron James.
After his much celebrated high school career, which even outshined one of the greatest performances by a freshman in college history turned in by Carmelo Anthony, James was the number one pick of the NBA draft by his home town team. Already a mythical figure in Cleveland, fans all over the country did there part in fueling the LeBron James hype machine. Everywhere you looked it was “King James” this and “King James” that. There was even a Nike Commercial shoot in a church where James was labeled as the savior, and people were being moved by the mere “Spirit of LeBron.” There was a 10 story mural in downtown Cleveland with LeBron’s arms spread open like Jesus on the cross that read “we are all witnesses.” There was a country full of men and women more than twice his age calling him king -- all before the age of 22.
As LeBron racked up the individual awards and continued to put together highlight after highlight on the court, his praises and followers continued to grow. LeBron could do no wrong, and when he did, to his fans it was like it never happened. When the team won, it was because of him. When his teammates made great plays it was because of him. When the team lost, it was his teammates fault, and when his teammates struggled it was their own fault. Hell, even when LeBron struggled it was his teammates fault.
For those of us who weren’t too busy being “witnesses to his greatness” we could see the “King” title getting out of hand. Then there was the hand shaking incident after the Magic series in which LeBron walked off the court without shaking hands stating he was not a “Loser.” As dead wrong as he was, his following made excuses for both his comments and sportsmanship. After that came the “Check my $tat$” t-shirt and a ton of third person references, and Cavs fans remained oblivious to the fact the LeBron James Ego machine was firing on all cylinders and picking up steam.
Fast forward to the hour long special known simply as the Decision, aka the biggest “look at me” moment in TV since Kayne took the mic from Taylor Swift at the MTV Music awards, and it is now clear to Cavs fans James ego has reached new heights. If Cavs fans are looking for answers to who has created this King James figure, they need to look no further than the mirror. You can’t give a 20 something year old kid hundreds of millions of dollars, call him king, make excuses for his every move and then be surprised when he is full of himself. Does LeBron James think he is walking greatness? Of course he does and so would you if you were told you were your entire life by a city of millions. Even as a high school kid from the projects, James drove a $60,000 car to school. The fact that LeBron bolted Cleveland for the bright lights and sunny beaches of Miami shouldn’t shock anyone who isn’t in denial. He said a long time ago he wanted to be a global icon and two things global icons don’t do is live in Cleveland and repeatedly get knocked out in the playoffs. He was already the King of Cleveland at 19, he is now approaching 25 and is looking to conquer bigger and better things.
As bad as LeBron looked that night on ESPN, the Cavs owner and their fans still managed to look worse. Dan Gilbert released a statement in which he sounded like a bitter high school girl and fans took to the street burning James jerseys and bashing an out of control ego they single-handily created. The shear irony of hearing local business owners call James selfish because of the effects of his decision to leave will have on them is nothing short of comical. It’s like the owner and the fans of Cleveland are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t even realize James is doing the exact same thing. Has James head gotten a little to big? Yes, but can you blame him? After all, the city that has raised James, including his former owner, have spent his entire career telling him he is the King. All he did was believe them.
*Follow Mark Grey on Twitter @greyAmark