I was wrong
Usually, it’s hard to admit when you’re wrong.
Several times in this space over the past year, the topic of LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers came up. When it did, I dismissed it.
The Miami Heat were winning titles.
The Cavs were collecting lottery picks.
The Heat were run by basketball legend Pat Riley.
Cleveland, it seemed, was being run into the ground.
Most of all, LeBron was playing in Miami, a place to where people moved.
I’m guessing all of us know some who, as young adults, left Ohio for a warmer climate. The sun, the beach, the idea of only seeing snow when traveling.
How many of those people ever come back?
And yet, here we are today.
James has spurned South Beach for the North Coast. Palm trees for snow mobiles. Remarkable success – four consecutive NBA Finals appearances – for relative uncertainty.
When LeBron left Cleveland in 2010, I wrote a rather scathing column about the way he did it.
Full disclosure: I am, and always have been, a huge Cavaliers fan. So I was unable to view LeBron’s departure with any real kind of objectivity. Like most, I attacked the way LeBron left. The Decision, Jim Gray and “taking my talents to” will always be a melancholy punchline.
Four years later, I began to realize I would have been angry no matter how LeBron left. He was abandoning his hometown team, one that – by NBA salary cap rules – could pay him more than anybody, and a team that had the best record in the league the previous two years.
LeBron didn’t leave for the money. He wasn’t, by most standards, leaving a loser. He was leaving Cleveland because he wanted to leave.
At least that’s how I saw it at the time.
And it stung.
So now, the Cavs have a promising future. Kyrie Irving, the ridiculously talented point guard, signed an extension. The explosive Andrew Wiggins (remember when I mentioned lotteries?) is in the fold, at least for now.
Add LeBron to the mix, and the Cavs are more than a playoff team, they are a dangerous one.
So all is forgiven, right?
Well, no, not really.
I’d gotten over LeBron leaving, and really would have understood had he resigned with Miami. But I don’t want to hear about how he’s changed. The fact that he said nothing, sent Cleveland fans into a relatively agonizing couple of days, and didn’t even tell his buddies Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade (that we know of) leave me weary of a full embrace.
Then there’s this reality that still has me shaking my head.
When LeBon did The Decision, he likely didn’t think there would be long-term consequences.
When Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sent his infamous letter to fans, where he basically torched the star for abandoning the franchise, he probably didn’t think about consequences either.
Critics said LeBron would be one of Cleveland’s biggest villains forever. That Gilbert had made his relationship with the Cavs’ former best player irreparable.
As it turns out, James and Gilbert were right about there being no consequences.
The critics on the other hand?
Nice to not be the only one who was wrong.