The July 11, 2010 Forum section of The Plain Dealer carried an opinion piece placing a picture of LeBron James next to Cleveland “Enemy Number One” Art Modell. Brent Larkin compared the level of treachery of both men while also pointing out Clevelanders “blinded by adoration.”
And so we Northeast Ohio natives now have “The Decision.” Everyone from sports pundits to former players to news anchors weighed in on the choice he made to leave. Some called it a punk move to join up with former rivals in an attempt to score hand jewels with a dream team. Others said he was making the best business choice for a man driven to win. I actually have no issue with his choice to change employers (if you want business talk) saying all along, “let him leave. I’ll go help pack the bags.”
I’ll fess up that I’ve never been a fan…not almost a decade ago when he was a high-school star and not over these seven years of watching him whine. When people have asked me why no love for “the King,” I’ve never been able to point to a direct incident causing my scorn. I never ran into him downtown only to be rudely blown off. He didn’t unjustly foul a favorite player with an elbow to the face. I’ve never lost money betting on a Cavs win only to watch said King choke during the playoffs.
My underlying issue…that thing getting stuck in my gut…was a simple statement of feeling – “I think he lacks personal integrity.” It’s the same statement I’ve always felt about Michael Jordan (one that was quite an unpopular opinion with boyfriends back in the day). Having ultimate respect for Michael’s team leadership and professional game—and hating his drive to not only win, but savagely spank any opponents—this was an opinion of the person vs. the sports hero.
And so my gut feeling played out on “Decision Night.” I felt no satisfaction on not being surprised; rather my heart broke for all of his young fans. They are the ones still young enough to believe when someone gives random sound bites about loyalty and staying true. For their belief, they witnessed what class is not. Integrity in action is not holding a media free-for-all under the guise of charity.
I remember who I was at 25 and know the change and wisdom that comes in time, thus I hope this 25 year-old rises up to that challenge. But I’m not holding out much hope.