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Joseph: LeBron’s disconnect from Cleveland’s reality (Feb. 20)

Allan Joseph | Sunday, February 19, 2012

I thought long and hard about the best analogy to use for this column.

I first considered a spurned-lover analogy, where the object of desire shattered your dreams after years of placing it on a pedestal. But no, the public-humiliation aspect just wasn’t the same, even if she left you to star on “The Bachelorette.”

Then I thought about a business partnership gone bad, much like Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple in the mid-1980s. That didn’t work either, because the emotion involved just wasn’t the same.

I kept searching and searching, but there’s really nothing that even comes close to describing how Ohioans feel about LeBron James.

James was a hometown kid. He grew up in northeast Ohio. He understood the difficulty of being a sports fan in that area. The Indians had a few years in the 1990s, but nothing ever came of it. The Browns were, well, the Browns. (Let’s not even mention Art Modell and his heart-wrenching midnight move to Baltimore.) The Cavaliers, though, were the most inept of the bunch. They were never — and I mean never — any good. But James changed all that, and the city of Cleveland welcomed him with open arms precisely because he was homegrown. He got it, and while he was there, he embraced it.

Then his contract came up.

Most Ohioans would have understood if James had just respectfully decided to leave.

“Cleveland, it’s been great. But I could become immortal in the Garden,” he could have said in an introductory press conference in New York. People would have understood. (In fact, I don’t really understand why he didn’t take that opportunity, but that’s a topic for another column.)

“Cavalier fans, this wasn’t easy. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play basketball with two of my best friends and hang out in South Beach,” he could have said in a statement. No one would have blamed him for that — how could you?

But instead, he called a one-hour primetime special. Every Ohioan figured James understood the region’s sports pain and that he knew better than to twist the knife. If he was making such a big deal of this, the thinking went, he must be announcing his return to Cleveland — he gets us, right?

We all know how that story went.

Now, apparently LeBron says he’s open to returning to Cleveland.

“I think it would be great,” James said when asked if he would want to don a Cavaliers jersey in the future.

He really doesn’t get it. After growing up in that culture, being hailed as the savior of Cleveland sports, then very publicly leaving the area in humiliating fashion … he wants to come back? The depth of his hubris is staggering.

I’m not going to pretend I know what’s going on in James’ head. But I really do find it difficult to believe he didn’t know better than to publicly torture an already-tortured city. He grew up there. How could he not have known?

I find it even more difficult to believe he doesn’t realize that it’s now too late to mend that relationship. Is he that really blind?

Forget analogies. There are no words.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu