LeBron James‘ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami was one of the most devastating moments of my young life. And yes, I am well aware that I live a lucky life where a sports figure leaving town can be one of the worst moments of my life instead of a fate much worse.
But back to sports and my life. Anyway, as we all know jerseys burned and grown men cried when he left, followed by a party of sorts thrown by LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in Miami. Mario Chalmers was on the roster too, but no one likes him. A party! LeBron James was rubbing it in the face of Cleveland that he went to Miami to bring them championships. He spurned his hometown to join a team that featured a “Big Three” in South Beach.
The Heat reached the NBA Finals during LeBron’s first year in Miami which brought with it an infusion of love for the Dallas Mavericks in Cleveland. Children began awkwardly fading away from opponents when they shot a basketball in honor of the great Dirk. The Mavaliers were Cleveland’s new favorite team, and they took down the mighty Miami Heat and the traitor named James.
The amount of pure hatred toward the Miami Heat by fans in Cleveland was at a dangerously high level during those NBA Finals. Rooting for the Heat expended as much energy as rooting for a team to win. The opponent did not matter as long as LeBron James did not win an NBA title.
The Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder for the title the following year. And the San Antonio Spurs were next. The hate was still there, but the energy started to dwindle. What more was there to hate? LeBron James had won a title. Dan Gilbert’s prophecy became false. By the time the Heat lost to the Spurs in 2014, the amount of energy given to rooting for the Heat to fail became lost to apathy. There was more disgust than anything else. LeBron had won, but he needed the help of Wade and Bosh to do so, although he did carry the team during the final two seasons in Miami. But either way, he needed help.
Suddenly he was back with the Cavaliers. All the negative emotions seemed to fade away and he was welcomed back with open arms. The whole city seemed to forget that he had left in an absurd manner just four years prior. I was guilty of this too. I heard the news and rejoiced, ran around, jumped up and landed and up again. He had returned!
As with any reunion, the feelings from the past made a swift return. At least they did for me. LeBron had come back to Cleveland to join another Big Three. This was the system we in Cleveland had despised for four long years.
The regular season started rough with a record of 19-20, but was a mere afterthought after that point. It became a wait to reach the playoffs, and ultimately the Finals. Just like the Heat of recent past, the Cavs went through the motions of the regular season in preparation for the Finals.
The team has an owner who is willing to spend insane amounts of money to bring the city a championship, just like Pat Riley did in Miami. It feels wrong. I know it seems crazy that I would complain about being a fan of a championship team, but it just doesn’t feel like it is being done the right way. After rooting against the idea of buying a title, we are now no better than those we hated in Miami. The only difference is that we have fans who show up to the games.
I think I know the issue. After being used to the failures immortalized in those crude ESPN montages, something good seems weird. Success is not something easily accepted, as pride is found in failure. Maybe it is just a failure to adapt to the way professional sports function, but I do not think it is wrong to feel a little bit like we have become the bad guys just like those ten people who showed up to games in Miami were for four years.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are bound to win an NBA title in the near future, but I ask this question: How will it feel knowing we did it this way?