Monday, January 10, 2011

Not quite right; not even close

In a recent story about the top sports stories of 2010, a popular Web site cited LeBron James' "The Decision" as the No. 1 story. And it wasn't even close. Then the author of the piece made a mistake. A big mistake.

"It wasn’t what LeBron James did," he wrote, "but how he did it."

Wrong. Way wrong. About as wrong as you can be.

Yes it was what LeBron James did. Clearly. Unequivocally. Most assuredly. Without question.

If you live in northeast Ohio and relate heavily to all things sports, then yes, it definitely is what Lebron did. The way he did it only added to the hurt.

The nation perceived it in a far different manner. That's because they cannot fathom the depth of the hurt inflicted upon NE Ohio sports fans by LeBron's defection. They cannot in any way understand the personal anguish those fans felt the moment he uttered those infamous words "I'm taking my talents to South Beach."

He's just another player trying to win a championship and he wasn't going to do that in Cleveland, they reasoned.

No, LeBron is not just another player. He never has been. He is one of those once-in-a-generation players who transcend greatness and come along far too infrequently. He is a special talent. The game comes easily to him. He sees it played in slow motion.

He was given a gift and did not abuse it. He has abused the feelings and emotions of Cavaliers fans, to be certain, and has damaged the competitive structure of the National Basketball Association as a result of his actions.

Fans and sports writers from around the nation looking from the outside in do not know what LeBron meant to the NE Ohio area. He was not just a sensational basketball player. He was local. He understood. He was one of them.

He was the shining beacon of light who was going to lead a pro sports team from Cleveland to national glory. He was the one who was going to remove the loser label the city had acquired over the many years of frustration and embarrassment.

That's precisely what he did by slinging the moribund Cavaliers on his back and elevating them to elite status in the NBA in just a few years. He did it with grace, a phenomenal work ethic and a dedication to be the best who ever played the game.

And then he undid it with one graceless, ill-advised move. In a metaphorical sense, it parallels Art Modell's defection to Baltimore with the Browns in 1995. In LeBron's case, it was only a player. In Modell's case, it was an iconic National Football League franchise. Big difference. LeBron ripped only himself away from Cleveland. Modell removed an institution.

And now that he's gone, we see in a most dramatic way, how valuable LeBron really was to the franchise. In a word . . . everything. Without him, the Cavs have once again returned to their sad sack ways. Their plunge to the bottom-feeding depths of the league is astounding.

LeBron was the franchise. And the hurt his unconscionable move to Miami caused will never be fully understood by outsiders. That's because they do not know the visceral depths to which Lebron's marvelous talents touched NE Ohio sports fans. And they never will.

So to any and all who believe otherwise, remember this and remember it well. Yes it was what Lebron James did that early July evening in Greenwich, Conn.

Clearly. Unequivocally. Most assuredly. Without question.

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