LeBron’s departure feels like the ultimate betrayalWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Betrayal never felt so cruel.
Within a matter of seconds, LeBron James went from hero to Judas when he announced July 8 during a one-hour televised event that he would play with the Miami Heat.
James opted to leave his hometown Cavaliers, where he had played the previous seven seasons, to join fellow NBA superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.
There are two parts to my opinion on the decision. The Cleveland sports fan in me is angry because James embodied the city. In a time where things are tough not just in Cleveland but in Ohio, LeBron and the Cavaliers were a welcome distraction.
The journalist in me is trying to be rational about the situation. The opportunity that awaited James in Miami is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It is rare, if ever in sports, when three all-stars play for the same team. If James is all about winning a championship, which he has made no secret in the past, Miami represents an enticing scenario.
The one area where both the fan and the journalist in me agree is that the one-hour special may go down as one of the cruelest moments in the history of sports.
I wrote in a column this past week about showmanship, and how both James and Wade have been the ultimate entertainers during this summer’s NBA free agency period.
Thursday night’s one-hour special was not showmanship but rather an ego-boosting trip to feed a man who had to milk just a few more drops of attention.
There has been a lot of talk about greatness concerning James these past few weeks. Certainly one of if not the top talent in basketball, James holds a basketball skill set that has electrified the sports world since he first set foot on the court in 2003.
But greatness can’t be defined by a simple dunk, a show-stopping block or a buzzer-beating three to win the game.
Greatness in our sports figures has long been defined by an intangible quality of selflessness that has been the hallmark of great American heroes.
Once thought of as the consummate team player, James’ foray into the off season has shown his true colors.
A poignant comment has stuck with me for a few weeks that was made by a fellow Toledo media colleague, who said, “There is a reason while LeBron James is holding the NBA hostage right now, and there is a reason why Michael Jordan never did.”
Certainly the comment speaks volumes about personalities, egos and sportsmanship.
The decision, the way it was made, and the way it was delivered to the public states so much more about James than anything else.
A man who has always compared himself to the basketball greats, almost seemed to need the attention and hype to prove something to himself.
For people like James, it is not enough to be told you are the best basketball player in the world. It’s not enough to be named the league’s MVP in consecutive seasons. It’s not enough to have six different teams falling all over themselves to talk to you about playing basketball for them next season.
No, the insecure James needed this charade to play out the way it did, simply to make himself feel better about him.
Late Thursday night Cavs owner Dan Gilbert released a scathing letter to James, accusing him of cowardly betrayal and reassured fans such treachery will not soon be forgotten on the shores of Lake Erie.
But this was never about betrayal. This was never about being a coward.
To LeBron James, it has always been about LeBron James.
Sadly, we were the ones who got it wrong. We were the ones who thought James was someone he is not.
When asked what he thought Cleveland fans would think of his decision to play in Miami, James asked the fans to remember the good times, and he thanked the city for watching him grow from and 18 year old kid to a 25 year old man.
The sad thing is I’m not sure we watched James become a man. His actions of the past few months are not those of a man.
When James was asked how he felt about breaking him promise of bringing a championship to the city of Cleveland, James was empathetic.
“I feel awful that I’m leaving, I feel even worse that I wasn’t able to bring an NBA championship to that city,” he said. “To my real fans out there, I hope you continue to support me.”
Unfortunately for James’ real fans, tonight they found out who the real LeBron James is, too.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com. He also can be heard every Tuesday at 11 a.m. on the Odd Couple Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA.