LeBron’s Departure Could Look Like Art Modell’s

LeBron James may be a Dallas Cowboys fan, but he lived through the disappearance of the Browns at the dastardly hands of Art Modell. The one factor in LeBron’s continuing free agency saga that continues to pop up occasionally is how difficult it would be for LeBron to leave the Northeast Ohio sports community, particularly with the way the Cavs exited the playoffs this season. I don’t know LeBron, so I can’t say for sure, but all the talk seems to indicate that he understands that if he leaves Cleveland now, that his legacy, at least partially, will always include that embarrassing failure. Whether this makes Northeast Ohioans great fans or just really bitter people, he knows for a fact that he will always be remembered for that here where he lives. The naming of our sports tragedies is getting a little old, admittedly, but the point is that as a passionate sports fanbase, we never forget.. We can’t. While LeBron hasn’t been a fan of Cleveland sports, necessarily, he has lived here and he definitely knows. He has seen Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome leave the Indians. Most importantly, he has seen Art Modell move the Browns and leave Cleveland feeling hopeless.

A potential comparison between a guy like Art Modell and LeBron James is loaded with problems. Obviously one guy owned a team, and the other guy just plays for one. One guy has a career potential that could last 60 years, while the other would be lucky to get 20.  There is always going to be a #1 slot on the charts in Cleveland for the Browns that will never be afforded to any of the other franchises no matter how well they do.  We all know this.  But, for LeBron, the comparison should shed a little light on how he will be remembered around the area should he decide to bolt in a few weeks.

LeBron James has this city in his corner. Sure, we sometimes get mad at him, and we sometimes get frustrated with things he does. Ultimately though, we only get that way because we care about him and we want him to do well.  It was the same with Art Modell. He owned the Browns and we loved the Browns. We got frustrated with him, but it was only because we loved the Browns so much.  If Art Modell kept the Browns in Cleveland, hired Ozzie Newsome and won a Super Bowl here, imagine what Art Modell’s Hall of Fame induction would be like.  Imagine it.

When Art Modell decided to leave, it was all over. Take any positive things the man ever did and toss them out the window. This is like the debate over the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Did Art Modell contribute to the development of the NFL? Of course he did. At the same time, what he did to the city of Cleveland by moving the team away from arguably the most rabid NFL fanbase in the entire country was so unforgivable that even to this day, we won’t ever let it go.  If LeBron leaves, it won’t be like moving our team away, but with the nature of NBA basketball it is kind of similar.  We saw that when we saw how the team’s fortunes were turned the day they drafted LeBron James.  A 180 degree turn the other direction could easily happen the moment he decides to bolt.

The fanbase that Art Modell screwed in moving the team is like Dan Gilbert’s commitment to the Cavs franchise. Art Modell turned his back on the fans and if he leaves, LeBron will be turning his back on a commitment level that is as sure as any in the world. Sure, Gilbert’s moves haven’t worked just yet in helping LeBron win a title in Cleveland, but his attempts have been all anyone could ask for. Much like Browns fans are arguably the most loyal in the country, you can’t name an owner who has been more committed to his franchise than Gilbert in the time that he has owned the team.  When Art Modell left Cleveland fans high and dry it was a total injustice to all they had put into the Browns over the years.  If LeBron leaves, he will be doing a similar injustice to the efforts of Dan Gilbert to put a winning organization together from facilities to personnel.

The Cavaliers’ roster is like the stadium battle that Art Modell was fighting. Art Modell ultimately left for money and used the stadium as his biggest excuse. Meanwhile, Modell had made some very bad moves along the way with his unwillingness to share in the profits with the Indians. He blamed politicians for everything, but Modell ultimately suffered for his own poor business acumen. LeBron James’ unwillingness to truly commit to the Cavaliers long term cost him his own best potential teammates including Trevor Ariza. Much like Modell was at least partially responsible for his stadium issues, LeBron was at least partially responsible for the roster.

One thing that is for sure is that if LeBron James leaves Cleveland, he will forever be painted with a certain paint brush in this town. It might not be quite as ugly a color as what Art Modell is painted, but it will be in the same family of colors. And again, LeBron James and Art Modell aren’t a perfect comparison, but ultimately, right or wrong, it is instructive as to the way things will be for LeBron in the Northeast Ohio region if and when he makes the ultimate decision to leave. Whether or not he has the stomach for that remains to be seen. From the reports that we are reading recently, it seems like it is at least something LeBron has considered.

  • The Conductor
  • http://www.mattyfos.blogspot.com MattyFos

    Denny- in some circles I’m know as “LinberJack” because of my flexibility combined with my epic beard.


    The other day I was thinking about some things and was wondering…what if Lebron has fueled this huge hype that he’s leaving to make himself look better when he doesn’t? Nearly everyone in the world thinks it’s a done deal that he’s outta here. The media has all but ruled out Cleveland, reports are coming out every day that he’s definitely not coming back. What if Lebron and his people are spreading these rumors, so when he does come back to the Cavs it makes him look like the ultimate good guy? The “family man” that wants to stay near his kids, family, and friends….I know it’s a stretch, but it’s possible….

    I heard the other day that the Vegas odds were officially against Cleveland now….I am half tempted to throw down some caesh that he comes back

  • JPS3

    Despite all summits/rumors/reports, #LeBron source told me this morning that #Cavs still have edge in race.”

    I’m sorry but Windy keeps saying this and it’s moronic on his part because it’s not July 1 yet. Rules wise, other teams can’t start courting Lebron until then so of course, CLE still has the edge right now…He’s still under contract with them until July 1.

  • Skal

    Folks, please understand the reasons behind a S&T deal…teams with cap space (CHI, NY, NJ, MIA, LAC) don’t need to trade anybody in order to get LBJ on their team. S&T are only needed if LBJ wants to play on a team who has no room to sign him outright (say, Lakers, Dallas, etc) and the Cavs could be willing to get some players/cap relief/draft picks in return for LBJ. If LBJ resigns with Cavs and Bosh wants to follow him here, then Toronto and CLE could try and work a S&T since Cavs wouldn’t have cap space to sign Bosh without the S&T…

  • http://www.mattyfos.blogspot.com MattyFos

    Skal, teams with cap space would be willing to S&T with Cleveland if it can guarantee LBJ will be under contract for 6 years rather than 5.


    Skal….another reason for a S&T deal would be so Lebron or any other max contract guy could get the bigger contract from the team with his bird rights, while not leaving his former team high and dry

  • http://www.mattyfos.blogspot.com MattyFos
  • http://www.mattyfos.blogspot.com MattyFos

    @WFNY Staff,

    Are there any developments in the Molonte trade talk? Or has Cleveland thrown it’s hat in the ring for Al Jefferson?

  • chris

    It might not be fair, but no matter what, if LeBron leaves as a free agent this/next week, he will never be welcomed back in Akron ever again. Like Craig said, you can take everything–2 MVP’s, reaching the finals, reviving basketball in Cleveland–and throw it out the window, because at the end of the day, he still chose to abandon us. yes, he gave it seven years, but the way this all ended (with LeBron seemingly giving up in the Boston series) the fans will always, always be bitter towards him. While art of me doesn’t think this is fair, the other part of me would want to go to the Q the night he returns and boo him out of the building. He will never be welcome back.

  • Shamrock

    @RA => Nice

    @Denny => Flannel depends don’t count! J/K. 

  • MattC

    The fact that the Browns leaving might have “hurt” more in the long run, given the town’s long-running allegiance to football. That’s probably true, in fact.

    But, the conclusion that because the Browns are more valued/loved than the Cavs in this town that the hate for a departing LeBron will not rise to Modell proportions simply does not follow.

    Make no mistake, this guy will be hated at least to Modell’s degree if he does indeed leave.

  • MattC

    Sorry, my comment in 62’s first sentence is supposed to read: “The fact that the Browns leaving might have hurt more in the long, given the town’s long-running allegiance to football, is probably true.” Edit/delete this as appropriate editors.

  • Rich

    I will absolutely be at the game that LeBron returns to the Q if he does infact leave and I will be the guy getting thrown out for throwing some sort of object onto the court when he’s shooting FTs. Mark it down :)

  • mgbode

    @29 / Doc – i know I missed out not replying earlier, but it is my understanding that Dampier’s contract is not guaranteed.

    therefore that $13mil is pure savings…or we could flip it to a team that wanted to save $$$ and get back a $13mil player.

  • Shamrock

    @64 Brilliant way to represent Cleveland and LeBron would be the bad guy? For the people like you I hope LBJ drops 50 with a triple double.

  • http://gooddoctorzeus.blogspot.com DocZeus


    If LeBron is leaving, we already have an expiring contract on the books by default. That also ignores the fact that even if we waived Dampier, we would still be grossly over the cap which does not help the Cavs to acquire any talent. The only reason to take on Dampier would be if the Mavs were willing to trade us picks or Beaubois. Allow me to roll my eyes at the notion that those would be “assets.” Even if we took on somebody like Caron Butler or Jason Terry that is not helping us win any playoff series in the future and is eating up cap space we could theoretically use down the road.

    As for the trade exception option, allow me to throw the cold water of reality onto that situation. Yes, we would theoretically have $16 million dollars in a trade exception but only if we trade him to a team with cap space. More over, what can we reasonably pursue with max contract space. If we couldn’t even maintain our own player than it stands to reason, we are NOT going to lure any of the other big fish to Cleveland nor any of the B-grade free agents like Stoudemire, Boozer and Joe Johnson.

    That means we are looking to grossly overpay somebody like Rudy Gay which not only isn’t helping us win any games but murders any financial flexibility. Congratulations, we turned ourselves into the Philadelphia 76ers.

  • Stinkfist

    In a Dallas scenario, thats why we trade for Butler, Dampier, Beaubois, and as many first round draft picks as we are allowed to get (while getting rid of another long expensive contract ala Mo/Antawn). Butler and Dampier can fill in the roster and keep us at least figting for a playoff spot and wait for their contracts to expire. If the Cavs decide thats not what they want to do, they can buy one/both out or trade them to contenders in January/February for more young talent and draft picks. It would also get LeBron out of the East, and by the time the Cavs get good again, Nowitzki and Kidd will be retired