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