Now that I’ve given myself enough time for this to sink in, after an entire week of refreshing Twitter feeds and impatiently waiting to see if the idea of a LeBron James homecoming was a real possibility, I want to get out my feelings on this. Point blank: as a long-tenured Cleveland sports fan, I am excited beyond words right now.
Let’s get one thing clear first, I was very upset four years ago. How James left, breaking up with the Cleveland Cavaliers via a convoluted ESPN special, stung. It was not a pleasant day to be a Cleveland fan. Upon his first appearance at Quicken Loans Arena as a member of the Miami Heat, I, too, was bitter. It was a huge, gruelingly depressing chapter in a long book of Cleveland sports embarrassments.
But, after four years, I found myself indifferent. I just didn’t feel like being angry about it anymore. There were more important things in life than being agitated about a basketball player. Did I root for him in Miami? Of course not. At the same time, the hatred had simmered. James had openly admitted he made a mistake in the way he left Cleveland, and eventually the vitriol from local fans died down notably.
So, upon hearing James was a free agent, and the Cavaliers were in the running as a possible destination, I found myself wanting it to happen.
And now, it has.
However, let me say this. I am thrilled James is back. But, not simply because James is back. Not simply because it’s an incredible moment for any and all die-hard Cavaliers fans like myself. No, today I’m excited for the city of Cleveland.
Because when does being a Cleveland fan ever end up with something like this? Cleveland fans get dumped on at a routine basis, yet we keep cheering. I’ve heard the jokes, and heard them again and again. I rooted for a Cavs team that looked like it could get routed by a troop of girl scouts. Last season alone was filled with temper tantrums between teammates, a rehired coach in Mike Brown who still hasn’t grasped the concept of an NBA offense, resulting in him being fired once again by the same team, among many other embarrassments. The Cavs were blown out by teams they should’ve easily wiped the floor with, and also somehow lost to a Los Angeles Lakers team with only four active players.
And now, after all that, the greatest player on the planet chose to come to Cleveland. He was drafted by Cleveland, but never actually chose Cleveland. Until now.
This moment is for every Cleveland fan who gets reminded time after time that their teams are terrible. This is for everyone who had to hear the national media trash Cleveland throughout all of this, as if LeBron was choosing between Miami or a third-world country. Heck, most of the national pundits refused to even acknowledge the idea of James going to the Cavs, even as it was being reported how far the team had made it in the free-agent race. “Why in God’s name would he pick Cleveland?”
My dad, a seasoned vet in Cleveland sports failures, warned me through all of this to not get too excited, because the bottom always drops on a Cleveland fan. Always. That is, except, this time. This time, Cleveland fans can stand tall, because after weeks of being told that the idea that someone of LeBron James’ talent would never, ever, go to Cleveland, he did just that.
Everyone laughs at Cleveland fans. Today, we’re the ones laughing. Then, today and always, I will be proud to be a Cleveland fan.