LeBron James broke my city’s heart a few hours ago on national TV. We all knew he was leaving the moment before he made his announcement when he had to stop himself and commented that it was going to be harder than he thought it would be. We all knew then the Miami rumors were true.
Initially, I was pretty numb. I watched the vitriol spew across Twitter with a sense of detachment, but have become more sad than anything else as the hours have passed. There were signs of LeBron being just a kid in his 20s here and there, but by and large this is a boy who grew into a man before our hometown eyes over the last ten years.
And this decade has been amazing as a sports fan in Northeast Ohio. After the wonder of seeing this high school man among boys play and watching the ping pong ball actually go our way at the absolute right time, pro basketball was fun. And we contended. The excitement of watching the Cavaliers compete and this player use his God-given talent was remarkable. Staying up late in May and June with Tracy to watch playoff basketball was worth every following day we spent in an exhausted haze. Getting to see the kiddo excited about watching LeBron and taking him to Cavs games are memories I’ll always carry with me. That sense of pride in being from Akron isn’t going to go away. I am so grateful to have had these last ten years. Even knowing what I do now about the ultimate outcome, I wouldn’t trade them.
This free agency was handled poorly, and LeBron’s reputation is damaged. There’s no way around it. The ESPN special was an embarrassing ego stroke, a bad decision designed only to serve his own sense of self. The way he divorced Northeast Ohio is what's so painful, maybe even unforgivable, but I keep thinking that if he’d never played a single game for the Cavs, if that ping pong ball had gone another way years ago, I’d have rooted for him in whatever other jersey he’d ended up in simply because he’s the local hero who made it big. So I guess I’m a little conflicted. Part of me feels bitter and betrayed and wants the Cavs to win a championship without LeBron, but I know that’s not likely to happen. He was our chance at greatness. And now he’s gone.