I have no intention of hiding my sports fan-biases. I first became a Cleveland sports fan at birth. I was born on the Ohio-side of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. I have heard that when I person is born in such a place you have two choices: either become a Cleveland Fan or Pittsburgh fan. If you cry first you are a Cleveland fan destine to cry for a lifetime. If you fill your diaper first… well, Steelers it is. Option #2 might also result in finding one’s infant self-abandoned on the PA-side of the border. I was born in February so that wasn’t really an option.
Truth be told, while I am a huge Cleveland sports fan I really have mellowed over the years. Sure, I literally cried when Ernest Byner fumbled on the 2 yard line in the AFC playoff game in 1988 but c’mon, I was 11. Over the years, things change. People get a tougher (at least little). And like the experienced Cleveland fan I am I have come to expect defeat when it matters most. Heck, if I am being really honest, I have to admit that I have even come to enjoy the city of Pittsburgh at times.
That being said LeBron James’ The Decision last year was still a really hard pill for me swallow. Of course for me personally, I didn’t care for the choice because he didn’t ultimately choose Cleveland – but there was more to it than that. Like many people, I felt like LeBron had missed an opportunity: An opportunity to be the greatest basketball player ever and, more importantly, an opportunity to be an exceptional example for the Lord.
I personally have no hard feelings against LeBron as a Cleveland fan. Could he have handled the situation better? Sure. Could many Cleveland sports fans have handled the situation better? Absolutely. I just want the best for LeBron and the city of Cleveland– not just in basketball but also in life. Around this time last year I even preached about how I think God wants the best for LeBron and for us all. (You can see news coverage of that sermon from FOX8 Cleveland and my Q104 Cleveland radio interview over on my Audio-Video page.)
My question now though is: Did LeBron make a good decision? I mean let’s face it Clevelanders, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are considerably better players than Mo Williams and Anderson Verejao. Miami’s weather sure is nicer than Cleveland’s and the beaches there are certainly better. And who knows, maybe LeBron can win five, six even seven championship rings like he claims he can in Miami. It’s unlikely, but anything is possible.
But let’s say he does win seven championships in Miami – will “The Decision” still have been worth it? Bill Russell will still have 11 rings. LeBron wouldn’t even be close. I mean Robert Horry has 7 rings – and is Horry even anywhere near being in the conversation for the best all-time player in basketball? And, even if LeBron wins 7 rings, would anyone consider him better than Michael Jordan who only won 6? Sorry, I just don’t see it. Or, think about this: What if LeBron “underachieves” and only wins five rings? Former Cavs player Ron Harper even has five rings (He won them with Chicago and the Lakers) and, for that matter, so do 25 other current/former NBA players as well.
So what could still make Bron the best player ever? Maybe by winning the most MVP awards? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the most at six. James currently has two. LeBron certainly is a dominant enough player that he could still win that many.
Personally, if he would have stayed in Cleveland this year – I think the voters would have gave him the award for the third time in a row. But that’s just it. LeBron didn’t just give up Cleveland, he forfeited a huge portion of his popularity. So, can he win some of it back? Well sure, I guess. Bandwagon Heat fans are a dime a dozen these days. But LBJ is not likely to win back any die-hard Cleveland fans anytime soon. What’s worse is that the very people who used to love him – and I would contend even inappropriately worship him – are now the same people who scorn him. For instance, take the billboard was put up in LBJ’s hometown of Akron that says “Welcome
Home LeBron – How does it feel to be a Sidekick? Go Cleveland!” Not exactly the warm welcome James received during his seven years with the Cavs. The point is, LeBron’s popularity has taken a major hit.
Of course if the Heat win it all this year the millions of supposed Heat fans will inevitably be pouring out of the woodwork. And LeBron will probably imitate Michael Jordan crying on the championship trophy (I’m calling it) and maybe even apologize again to the Cleveland fans for The Decision antics. And apologetic, sensitive Lebron may help win people back. But that still won’t make him anywhere near the best player ever nor will it dictate whether The Decision was a good choice long term.
Of course, maybe LeBron’s only concern with the whole The Decision thing was winning an NBA Championship soon. Maybe, despite all of the talk, he actually underestimates his abilities. For real Cavs fans that was never an issue in question. The people of Cleveland fully believed in LBJ. Actually, they put too much faith in him. They made him into an idol. And like all idols, eventually all that could happen was that the people worshiping it (in this case him) got let down.
If indeed LeBron’s expectations of himself are low then The Decision was certainly a good one. But, from what I’ve heard and seen from him that just doesn’t seem to be his understanding of himself. I mean this is the guy that has “Chosen 1” tattooed on his back. This is the guy who had an hour long nationally televised show to announce his plans. I’m not sure that’s what most people would call low self-esteem.
But on a more modest note, The Bleacher Report claims that LBJ once said “I just hope that one day people will think that I was one of the best players to ever play in this league.” Maybe that’s Bron being modest – but I think people already believed that even while he was still in Cleveland. So why move to Miami? If that was LeBron’s goal: then mission accomplished several years back. Personally, I don’t think that he thinks that that just being one of the best is good enough. We aren’t supposed to be WITNESSING above-averageness. We are superposed to be watching history in the making.
So with that in perspective, I have to believe that LeBron James wants to win now and eventually be know as the best basketball player ever. So, is there a way that that hope could one day become a reality? Looking at the statistics combined with his current fan base – I think that it’s going to be pretty near impossible.
That being said I think that there is something still that LeBron can do to put him back in the conversation for being the best basketball player of all time. I also will preface the following remarks by saying that I think that the odds of this happening are also extremely unlikely. I think LeBron James could go back to being basketball’s “chosen one” if after winning a couple of championships with the Heat (assuming he can) he then returns to Cleveland and leads the Cavs to a championship. Yes, it’s a long shot – but think about it for just a minute.
Cleveland fans would take him back in a heartbeat – he’s an Ohio boy and secretly they still want to root for him. People would cheer the reconciliation of LeBron and Dan Gilbert (and those two could reconcile at least publicly because money has a funny way of helping people to forget about the past). James would be older so people wouldn’t expect as much of him physically as an individual. People would use the Miami “vice” years as a way to justify LeBron’s then newfound maturity. And with a short legacy of championships under his belt – LeBron could do in Cleveland what Riley and Wade have orchestrated in Miami – a team of dominating closers. In doing so he’d help rebuild the city of Cleveland. They’d retire his jersey in the Q. They would put up a Jordan-esque statue of James outside. The big-ole “Witness” sign would return this time reading “The Prodigal Son”. No-one would have ever done more for their hometown in sports. And LBJ is one person who has all the tools and opportunity to do it.
Again though, I am certainly not counting on the aforementioned to happen nor should any of my fellow Cleveland Fans – after all we are Cleveland Fans. But this would give LeBron a legitimate chance of superseding Michael Jordan as the true reigning King of Basketball. But the only way that I see for that to happen is if he walks in the footsteps of the Christ he says he follows and puts others first.
Ultimately, my prayer is that, whatever LeBron finds himself doing in his life, he will come to understand that, as a human being, he is not defined by basketball. God made him to be far more than just a basketball player in this world and his actions off the court are of far more importance than his performance on it. LeBron has a unique opportunity in life to help others and consequently himself in the love of the Jesus.
If he does that… if he is adamant about making that Decision – to serve the world faithfully and humbly, in some tangible way, in the Love of God – I think then and only then will the world be able to unanimously say that he ultimately made a good choice by making The Decision. Ironically, LeBron is not alone in such deliberation. We too have the exact same choice to make in our lives. Do we serve the world faithfully and humbly, in some tangible way, in the Love of God or do we choose to serve ourselves first? Like LeBron, the verdict is still out on us as well – with future days holding the answer.