Posted on: October 6, 2008 3:00 am
Edited on: October 6, 2008 4:02 am

LeBron James: King or Traitor?

We Are All Witnesses

Or at least during the NBA season. Throughout every other time in the year, Cleveland sports fans are nothing more than sources of admiration and revenue for a man who is widely regarded as the face of the city.

That's right folks, I'm talking about LeBron James - the self-proclaimed King of Cleveland.

Now let me start off by saying I have nothing against LeBron James personally or even as an athlete. He is easily the most talented superstar ever to don a Cleveland uniform in the past 20 or maybe even 30 years. When it's all said and done, James may very well be the best basketball player of all time. LeBron has contributed so much to the city of Cleveland - both in reputation and financial gain that it's hard to hate the guy. For everything we owe him, I have only one small problem:

LeBron James hates Cleveland.

I say this with a great deal of caution. James does not hate Cleveland in the Braylon Edwards joking sense, but rather an I don't give a crap how you feel sense.

For the few who do not know, LeBron James is not only a die-hard Yankees fan, but a Dallas Cowboys fan as well. Those two facts, while painful in their own right, are not enough to draw this particular writer's ire. Athletes are imported from across the country, so obviously pre-determined allegiances to foreign sports franchises are a given. The issue with James is he does such a good job of rubbing that in our faces.

LeBron James supports both the Cowboys and Yankees.

Flashback to the year 2003. James was selected as the first overall pick in the NBA draft and Cleveland was ecstatic. A phenomenal talent who grew up two hours from city limits was drafted with the hopes of turning our most lowly franchise around. James was a young, charismatic, and charming star who we all embraced as our own. It was a match made in heaven.

Over the next five years, James did little to disappoint. His stellar play on the field and his impeccable reputation off lifted the Cavaliers from the depths of obscurity into the national spotlight.

And we supported him.

According to Neil Schwartz of Sports Scan Info, LeBron James' rookie jersey sales were far and away the most popular of any basketball player, grossing 1.5 million sales in his first year. To put that in perspective, James' 1.5 million jerseys sold in 2004 amounts to 5,542 sales...per day. Carmello Anthony, second in sales, recorded 630,000 sales that year - not even half of LeBron's figure.

So season after season passed, and Cleveland was still enamored with the local hero. LeBron remained the affable young man who brought this city to the brink of championship gold. No one questioned King James or his loyalty until a little over one year ago.

On October 3rd, 2008 the Cleveland Indians hosted the hated New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, and our beloved basketball King made an appearance at the game. Prior to the game, James was quoted on Saturday Night Live as saying that he would openly spurn the Indians by cheering for the New York Yankees.

And true to form, James did not disappoint.

LeBron showed up at the game in a fresh Yankee fitted - much to the chagrin of Cleveland fans. James flaunted his hat - at one point taking it off and holding it above his head for all the crowd to see. The controversial incident was discussed at length on local television, radio, and newspaper shows - with opinions varying on the alleged offense. No general consensus was reached, and the incident died down as soon as it arose.

Three weeks ago we all had the privilege of seeing LeBron James once again outside of Quicken Loans Arena. This time, it was James schmoozing it up with members of the Dallas Cowboys on the visiting sidelines at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that is taking it too far. Why should LeBron spurn the fans who have shown him nothing but loyalty and support since his arrival to the NBA? We are the ones who spend hard earned dollars to support his team, yet he openly snubs ours.

We wear his apparel and he doesn't wear ours.
We root for him and he roots for our opponents.

Question: Which two things here do not belong?

There is absolutely no reason why LeBron James needs to cause such a stir. How does it make us look as fans when we are so loyal to a man who seemingly only cares about himself? Pretty bad, I'll say.

Even if you love the Yankees and Cowboys, why not downplay that fact?  Whether James realizes it or not, image and loyalty mean something to sports fans. 30 years from now when we're discussing LeBron's legacy in Cleveland sports history, it may be tainted due to this stupid show of arrogance.

And it gets worse.

LeBron's latest shoe, the AirZoom V, is covered in navy and white pinstripes: clearly an homage to his love for the Yankees.

You know what? If LeBron really wants to take a bite out of the Big Apple and chooses to leave Cleveland, so be it. The last thing I want to see is James pull a Brett Favre and hold the city hostage for whatever dollar figure he sees fit. A departure from C-Town would immediately destroy the surreal nature of his career and personality, as well as annihilate any legendary status he may garner. James would go from beloved icon to another athlete in search of fame and fortune.

Since LeBron wants to be "Like Mike," why not follow in Jordan's footsteps and at least try to get along with a city clearly in love with you? Never once can I recall seeing Michael Jordan attend a Chicago Bears' game while fully clad in a Packers' gear...

Only time will tell, but these recent backlashes at Cleveland sports teams sure look like the start of a tumultuous relationship. Hopefully LeBron wises up and protects his image from further damage. I would hate for something so simple to put a black mark on a storybook career and legacy.

LeBron James hates Cleveland, and if this continues Cleveland just may hate LeBron too.

  1. "LeBron spurns Tribe, sports Yankee Cap" Official Major League Baseball Website, Accessed October 6, 2008 http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp
  2. "A Yankee fan from head to toe" Cleveland Plain Dealer, Accessed October 6, 2008 http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index
  3. "New school rookies top NBA jersey sales" ESPN.com, ESPN Internet Ventures, Accessed on October 6, 2008 http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/spor
Posted on: September 2, 2008 5:07 pm

Cleveland versus Detroit - A Rivalry?

This one has been in the makings since 1952.

Cleveland and Detroit are two cities intertwined in a brutal sports grudge match that has been in the works for over 60 years. The past and present of these two cities only leads me to believe that we as sports fans are on the cusp of a fierce rivalry - the likes of which no one has ever seen.

In order to break down a potentially competitive rivalry, it is necessary to understand the two things that make any rivalry truly bitter: history and similarity.

I'll start with the latter.

Cleveland and Detroit are eerily similar to one another. Both are lakefront cities, both have all three major sports team (NFL, NBA, and MLB), and both cities claim a strong tie to Rock & Roll, music, and fatty foods. In addition to their passion for the respective collegiate programs, these two cities share in social problems such as poverty, education, schooling, and obesity.

For a closer look at the two contenders, I present the tale of the tape:

Cleveland, Ohio

  • Age: 212 years old
  • Weight: State Ranked 17th in TheCalorieLab's most obese state poll in 2008
  • Famous Food: Cleveland Roast Beef Sandwich
  • Rulership: Monarchy (King LeBron James I )
  • MLB: Cleveland Indians
  • NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers
  • NFL: Cleveland Browns
  • NHL: (none)
  • Total Championships: 10 (8 Browns, Cavs 0, 2 Indians)
Detroit, Michigan
  • Age: 307 years old
  • Weight: State Ranked 10th in TheCalorieLab's most obese state poll in 2008
  • Famous Food: Cooney Island Dogs, Detroit Square Pizza
  • Rulership: Democracy (?) (President George Bush)
  • MLB: Detroit Tigers
  • NBA: Detroit Pistons
  • NFL: Detroit Lions
  • NHL: Detroit Red Wings
  • Total Championships: 29 (9 Lions, Red Wings 11, Pistons 5, Tigers 4)

As you can see, both cities have significant achievements over each other - with Cleveland holding the edge in rulership and Detroit countering with total number of championships. The battle is close enough that we need to look to the second category to find out who holds the edge in this most heated rivalry - history.

Cleveland Browns versus Detroit Lions

The Browns and Lions might actually have the most bitter historical feud of the contrasting teams. Buried away a long time ago in the history books is arguably one of the most intense competitions in pro-sports.

During the early 1950s, when soul patches and top hats were the order of the day, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns stood atop the football universe. The Cleveland Browns from the AAFC (All-American Football Conference) were the juggernauts of their league and finally merged into the NFL. Awaiting the Browns were none other than the heavyweights of NFL at the time, you guessed it, the Detroit Lions.

These two franchises met for the first time in the 1952 title game, which resulted in a 17-7 Detroit victory for the 1952 NFL Championship. A year later, the two teams clashed once again - the outcome closer with a similar result, a 17-16 Lions victory.

Cleveland won NFL championships in 1954 and 1955 - to go along with the one they achieved in their inaugural season in 1950. Had the Browns defeated the Lions in '52 and '53, it would have marked the single greatest championship run in sports - with the Browns capturing the league title 5 times in a 6 year span.

Currently, this particular rivalry has lost steam due to confrontations limited to at least one preseason game per year and the general poor play of the two teams. The Browns and Lions have clashed this off-season with the Browns sending a 3rd round draft choice and Leigh Bodden to the Motor City in exchange for former Lions first round pick Shaun Rogers.

Also, Cleveland superstar Braylon Edwards is a Michigan native and attended the University of Michigan where he excelled as one of the best players in school history.

Cleveland Indians versus Detroit Tigers

Indians/Tigers is intense. The rivalry here stems from the fact that both teams normally contend for the AL Central Division Crown. Each series draws a significant amount of passion, as something normally is at stake for the winner. With baseball's American League being what it is with the big-market powerhouses to the east, the best chance either team has of winning is through the divisional title.

The past few years have seen the Indians and the Tigers flip flop for divisional superiority. Since each city has a passionate baseball fanbase, it can be argued that the brewing resentment is just waiting to erupt into full-blown hatred.

Cleveland Cavaliers versus Detroit Pistons

To my knowledge, this one is by far the most physical. Previous seasons are marred with hard fouls, clutch performances, and embarrassing dunks. With the Cavs still searching for their first NBA title, the Pistons' success in 2004 over the Cavs in route to their 5th NBA Championship only adds fuel to an already ferocious fire.

Cavaliers' management took the Detroit rivalry a step further by printing and advertising Crimson "Beat Detroit" shirts that were used in '06 in support of the Cavs and the Indians who were locked in a fierce race for the Central Crown.

Michigan versus Ohio State

Two main cities with a football hatred dating back to 1897. I think this one speaks for itself.

So there you have it.

Two cities, multiple teams spanning all along the sports and history universe. While few make anything of it now, don't be surprised if the Cleveland-Detroit feud escalates into one of the most heated rivalries in all of professional sports.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com