Ever since I broke into the media in 1995, I have always taken great pride in my ability to remain objective on most occasions on the subject of sports; whether it was talking about it on radio and TV or expressing my thoughts in print. Unfortunately this is not one of those occasions; as I have been too close to this situation to maintain my objectivity on this subject. So in the spirit of full disclosure I admit up front that I am writing this commentary with my own agenda.
For the second time in the last few weeks I have read articles talking about Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James expressing thoughts that he may want to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers; possibly as early as in 2014. The first article was written by an old friend Larry Durstin, a very talented writer who has covered a variety of subjects in the city of Cleveland for many years.
The second article was written by another former colleague of mine; Brian Windhorst, whose piece appeared on Thursday on “ESPN.com” one day before the Miami Heat take on the Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night. When reporters asked the former NBA MVP after his team’s shootaround on Thursday, if he could envision himself ever being back in a Cleveland uniform he responded positively.
James told members of the media “I think it would be great, it would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot of fun times here. You can’t predict the future. Hopefully you continue to stay healthy. I’m here as a Miami player and I’m happy where I am now but I don’t rule that out in any sense. If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”
The former Cavaliers superstar has not spoken with the Team’s Owner Dan Gilbert since early in July of 2010 when the forward decided to take his services to South Beach. Gilbert did not take the news well and ripped his former player in a statement the night James announced that he would sign with the Heat.
Reporters asked the All-Star if he thought this relationship could be repaired. He replied “I don’t hold grudges, I hold them a little bit but I don’t hold them that long. He said what he said out of anger. He probably would want to take that back, but I made a mistake, too. There’s some things I’d want to take back as well. You learn from your mistakes and move on.”
The first question that comes to mind is what is the motive behind James making these statements? Is this simply “Spin Control” designed to try to repair the ruptured relationship with the city of Cleveland? Or has James decided that he enjoyed life more as the center of the spotlight rather than being thought of as a sidekick to Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade?
What ever the reasons behind this rather bizarre turnaround; how do Cleveland fans respond to these statements? Is this enough to make them forgive and forget not only James deserting the team that was built around him; but the statements he made last year denigrating his former team and former teammates? Would the city of Cleveland and their fans embrace him once again if he truly wanted to return?
Regular readers of these pages are well aware that I covered James as a radio reporter when I was Sports Director of Metro Networks in Cleveland. I spoke to James after every home game his first three seasons in Cleveland as well as during the two games in Cleveland of the 2007 NBA Finals. I was one of his biggest proponents in the media and was convinced that he would choose to stay in Cleveland when he became a Free Agent. I took him at his word when he called his teammates his family and that he would light up the city of Cleveland like Vegas which is what he said the night he was drafted by the Cavaliers back in 2003.
I also thought that he was a true leader and should be included along with the likes of Jordan, Magic, Bird and Kobe. However, his signing with the Heat proved that I was wrong; that he did not have the confidence in his own abilities to lead a team to an NBA Title and so he latched onto the cape of D-Wade in Miami.
James had the right and no real obligation; other than letting his former team and fans down; to sign with the Heat and join Wade and Chris Bosh to try to capture an NBA Championship. He went beyond the pale however, when he made disparaging comments about his former club and his “family” last season. He ridiculed the club when they were blasted by the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. The second instance was after Miami defeated the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals and he said that he was finally playing with teammates who didn’t die down in the moment. It would be James dying down in the moment during the NBA Finals that cost his team a Title last June.
In my opinion the waters have become too sullied for the former number one draft pick to come back to the team that he played for the first seven years of his career. I truly believe that the majority of Cleveland fans feel the same way and have lost far too much respect for him to ever embrace him once again.