SportsbyBrooks posted a poll on Wednesday asking the question:Should the Cavaliers retire LeBron James’ number 23 in the future? There were 3,964 yes votes, as compared to 6,910 no votes when I first checked this morning. I then proceeded to make it 6,911.
I am fully aware that the wounds from ‘the decision’ are still fresh, and that time is the perpetual healer of wounds like these, however I just don’t see it. There is really no situation that I can ever envision where I could see myself one day saying – as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan - alright, I understand what he did, it’s okay now, go ahead and hoist it right up there right next to Price and AC.
In the post, Brooks goes on to make the counter-argument to this - that I think will become the consensus amongst all non-Cleveland sports fans as the years go by - when he offered the following:
“Were the Cavs better off never having James? Is it appropriate to gauge his contribution to the city based on a month’s worth of profound bad judgement? Do Clevelanders really want to throw away memories of the good times James provided them by burying the number of the club’s greatest player? The call is really not about James, it’s about recognizing an era of Cleveland basketball history. To disown it would be to also disregard the people who supported the team then and now.”
I respect this arguement, and I understand where he’s coming from with it, but it wasn’t just a month’s worth of bad judgment. He disrespected Cleveland unlike any sports player whoever put on a uniform in the way that he left, and to think that this plan was in progress since the ’08 Olympics is mind numbing.
In a piece last night, Bill Livingston offered the following on the subject:
“The number 23 will never hang in the rafters on Gilbert’s watch. It is entirely appropriate that it never hangs there at all…James would have been excused his defection on the grounds of his body of work had he left in a less mean-spirited way. He was the most visible symbol of the Cavaliers and nearly of the entire NBA for seven years. It took a lot to turn such gold into lead, but he managed it. James ran away from his struggles. We may never know all the reasons why he quit in Game 5 against the Celtics, but he was such a megalomaniac it could hardly have been a crisis of confidence, as with Mesa.”
It’s that point that Livingston makes about Game 5 that particularly makes the ’08 talks between Bosh, Wade, and James so perplexing. Why did he quit in that moment, in that game? We’ll never really know I guess, but we also will never forget that he did quit. We’ll also never forget the way in which he left either, and unfortunately, it will never inspire a positive feeling in this town to look up and see his name and number hanging from the Quicken Loans Arena ceiling.
All is not lost for James though. He can have his number six retired in Miami, and go into the HOF as a member of the Heat.