July 24, 2014

Cheer for who you want to cheer for

As much as I love my favorite childhood cartoon mashed up with my favorite NBA team, even I think this is a bit much.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really excited to watch tonight’s NBA Finals game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. Like many of you, I will be pulling for the Thunder.

Apparently this is somewhat controversial. Me, being a life long Cavalier fan, in cheering for the Thunder and against LeBron James, could mean anything from I just need to move on from the Decision, to the possibility I’m racist and/or ignorant or maybe that I’m just pathetic.

I find it weird that, during the most watched Finals since 2004 and ABC’s highest rated ever, that some folks take issue with Clevelanders having a rooting interest that isn’t “man, I hope that plucky LeBron fellow from Akron gets over the hump this year.”

This is the second straight Finals appearance for the Cavaliers’ franchise leader in points, the three-time MVP from Akron, Ohio who left the Cleveland franchise in one of the biggest debacles in sports television history.

Ya, Clevelanders might have an opinion on that.

I understand the desire for Cleveland fans to move past LeBron. The Indians are in contention for the Central Division crown, the Cavs have the reigning Rookie-of-the-Year and are in the midst of planning for their most important draft in years and the Browns… well, the Browns sucking up our airwaves with possibly the lamest QB controversy this city has ever seen (and considering we’ve lived through Couch vs Holcomb and Quinn vs Anderson, that’s saying something).

There’s stuff going on.

Yes, I’d rather we focus our energy at the bright spots of Cleveland sports, not continue to dwell on LeBron. But we’re in the midst of the most watched NBA finals in nearly a decade. People are, rightly, interested.

And it’s not like it’s just Cleveland that is rooting against LeBron.

two of these things are not like the others

I could be wrong, but I don’t think the entire nation is rooting against LeBron and the Heat because LeBron hurt Dan Gilbert’s feelings.

Brendan Bowers, at Stepien Rules:

I also spent some time thinking about the okCLEhoma and okCLE monikers. I thoroughly believe they’re lame, but I also think telling anybody how to cheer is even more lame.1. Cavs for Mavs was conveniently unforced. It made sense at the time. These two names, while clever to a degree, they just aren’t for me. Oklahoma City and their same shirt wearing diehard fans of five years don’t need my support either.

It’s not like the entire city of Cleveland wasn’t rooting for the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s just that no one made a shirt.

There have been some that have tried to tell that we should be rooting for Miami, because Oklahoma City’s owner is a giant jerk who screwed over the city of Seattle. And hey, Dan Gilbert is fairly jerkish too. I can agree with a lot of these points (I’m not a huge Gilbert guy myself) but when you start asking sports fans to choose their allegiance based on ownership… good luck. You’re not going to find many multi-billionaires without some skeletons in their closet.
I’m fine with the OKCle shirts and moniker. I find it 10000% natural that Cleveland is pulling for the Thunder. That makes perfect sense to me.  This is sports, it’s supposed to be escapist fun. If some guy makes an OKCle t-shirt, who cares? What?! Someone is selling a dumb shirt on the internet?! And casual sports fans are buying them and posting dumb things on Facebook and Twitter? The horror!2.

All that being said, I do get sick of the blatant LeBron hate. When I read tweets like this or this, I totally understand the folks who want Cleveland to “get over it”. Look, I’m pulling for the Thunder this series too, but some of the LeBron hate can be a bit much. When I caught our local sports talk stations discussing LeBron this past week, I felt like I was listening to Fox News discuss Obama.3.

It’s gotten so bad that Cleveland’s avatar for LeBron rage, Whore of Akron author Scott Raab, deemed it necessary to end his latest post with this (with tongue firmly in cheek):

A loving aside to my fellow Cleveland die-hards and LeBron haters who felt that my last post here lacked sufficient vitriol: James is by far the worst human being ever born. Evil with an elbow sleeve. His is the face of all that is foul that walks the earth, and his mama is a mattressback.

Feel better now? Me, too.

Just in case you thought I didn’t unreasonably hate LeBron anymore….

Every now and then I like to remind people that the reason we were so pissed off that LeBron skipped town was because he’s really, really, really, really good at playing basketball at the professional level. In addition, the way LeBron skipped town and subsequent celebration may have rubbed some people the wrong way (whether or not Dan Gilbert and Clay Bennett are also giant a-holes is immaterial).

Now, did LeBron quit in Game 5 against Boston? I sure think so. Did he choke in the Finals against Dallas? Yup. Is he the best basketball player to ever wear a Cavalier uniform? Undoubtedly.

So the city of Cleveland has a rooting interest in the NBA Finals featuring the three time MVP from Akron, the Cavaliers’ all-time leader in points scored, who stands at the center of the sports universe.

Weird.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. I feel the same way about ripping people for their taste in music. YOU LIKE NICKLEBACK?! HARDY HAR HAR. Everyone likes what they like. I like stuff that you’d probably find weird, and vice versa []
  2. Although a twitter search for “OKCle” mostly yields results for people complaining about people liking “OKCle” []
  3. Apparently Michael Jordan never got tired and LeBron is a baby for not wanting to play the entire second half of every playoff game. Got it []
  • Nobody

    You know, I honestly am cheering for OKC because I believe they’re the better team. Miami’s bench is garbage compared to Oklahoma, and that should be the difference. Just my thoughts…

  • Guest

    I’m rooting for OKC because I like them a whole lot, but I won’t sit here and lie to you and say there isn’t part of me that isn’t rooting against LeBron, of course there is.  Part of me wants LeBron to win because it would be therapeutic for Cleveland; we could finally move on and start focusing on the good things we got going on here.  But, if you’re a San Diego native bartending in a Cleveland suburb wearing a LeBron Heat jersey every night of the playoffs telling everyone you’re rooting for “your team” and everyone should get over it, you obviously lost your grip on reality.  You know you’re doing little more than trying to get a reaction.

  • Ag

    I dont think it’s wrong to continue hating lebald, and to hope he never gets a ring.

  • Rocko

    Put Gilbert in a Thunders jersey and let him bite LeBron’s ear off.

    I don’t care!

    Do whatever it takes !

    I just want Miami to scramble. Eat another media frenzy. Another summer of LeChoke.

    Let them reconfigure. Fire spoelstra.
    And trade one of those three cowards.

    I don’t care who wins in the nba. As long as his name isn’t LeBron.

    Hate=ratings

    Way to go commish! Now go beat your wife.

  • http://www.spacebooger.com/ Fred


    I’m rooting for OKC because I like them a whole lot, but I won’t sit here and lie to you and say there isn’t part of me that isn’t rooting against LeBron, of course there is.”
    I agree with this. I am also rooting for OKC because they built their team through the draft, and according to those in the Cavs’ organization that is the path they are taking. I want OKC to pull this off because it means LeBron looses, but more importantly it means that if we follow their lead the Cavs can do it too.

  • Wow

    I personally think the OKCLE thing is a little ridiculous. I’m rooting against Miami though. Considering Miami may very well be in the Finals every year, what will it be next year? Lebron’s a faker, go Lakers? Just saying.

  • Brad

    Im rooting for OKC because Durant is the anti-Lebron. He resigned quietly and didnt make a big deal about it, and any free agents who may be interested in going there doesnt have to worry about him being there. I hate LeBron for him embarrassing us on national TV after 7 years of building this persona that made him seem unselfish when it was just the opposite.

  • cmm13

    This series is the best/worst thing for fans in that it will be amazing to watch but someone is going to be hurt in the end.

    Either OKC wins and Seattle fans feel the pain of watching the team that had been stolen from their city hoist a championship trophy 4 short years removed

    Or

    Miami wins and Cleveland fans feel the pain of watching their hometown hero hoist the trophy 2 years removed

  • 5KMD

    Fair stance. I always wondered why #6 owed nothing to Cleveland once he hit free agency but the people of Cleveland somehow owe it to him to “get over it”.

  • 5KMD

    I think I’m starting to dislike Wade more than #6. Diminishing skills are starting to get bailed out a whole bunch by bogus calls and the fact LBJ is so good.
     
    And please, please, please Ben keep this kind of stuff away from this site:
     
    “When I caught our local sports talk stations discussing LeBron this past week, I felt like I was listening to Fox News discuss Obama. 3 .”

    I think you guys cover this under your own “before you comment” link at the top:

    “However, WFNY is not a message board.  Comments on, or links to, outside material posted in the comments that does not to add or benefit the reader of the post commented therein can and will be deleted without notification.”

    Your political simile definitely did not add to the benefit of the reader.

  • porckchopexpress

    I have determined myself to be a conscientious objector to these finals due to my belief that if either of these teams and their fan bases wins a title this year one of my basketball/sports convictions will be violated. 

    That being said Lebron’s 29/14 last night needs to get mounted on the wall of great Finals performances.  He crashed the boards, drove relentlessly, and made Durant work for everything he got, and not once did you see him mugging for the cameras, doing stupid poses on the bench etc.  Again, according to my beliefs neither team deserves a Title, but at least Lebron has so far put together a playoff run worthy of his hype.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    was going to give you the big LIKE button but pulled it back due to excessive rabbit ears.  i’m pretty conservative politically and didn’t find anything off on ben’s simile, on the contrary i found it apt.  didn’t take it as a swipe.  just my two cents there.  

    liked *majorly* for the wade observation.  d’accord.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    my rooting against the heat is not specifically springing from lebron dislike.  it’s more because the heat winning would create some legitimacy to the simplistic narratives of:
    1. ‘the cavs didnt do enough,’ 
    2. ‘cavs didnt surround him with enough talent,’
    3. ‘dan gilbert is a bad owner.’

    i’m more charitable toward lebron and expect him to learn and grow from mistakes he made in cleveland.  mapping lebron’s piece in the three talking points above:
    1. lebron asked for unprecedented entourage access and the cavs acceded.  (anyone else see gloria in the tunnel as the heat came off the court at halftime.. looks like the heat are doing the same things the cavs did on this count.)
    2.  it was due to lebron’s non-committal no top FAs wanted to come here.  i believe ariza took less money to go to houston.  freaking charlie villanueva chose the pistons over us.  and they were right to avoid the cavs.. i don’t think antawn especially enjoyed the year after lebron left.
    3. gilbert did all he could when lebron was here ($20MM for fat shaq *solely* to have a post to match up against dwight howard.) and after ($15MM for old baron davis and a 4% chance at KI.)

    if the heat win, those talking points become locked down.  that, to me, would be a shame.

  • porckchopexpress

    I’d totally  agree with you on the Wade bogus calls thing, except everyone in the universe knows that pump fake is coming before his shot and everyone  still jumps for it.  That being said I can’t stand that he is allowed to seek out contact without even trying to geta shot off.

    And I’m totally on board with telling Ben to keep his non sports opinions out of his posts.  How dare he tell me its not okay to mock someone for liking Nickleback.  You can have my derision for Nickleback fans when you pry it away from my cold dead hands.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    point of personal privilege:  several years ago i was going out with a girl and ‘figured you out’ was our song.  so… yeah..  that’s a thing.

    ♪ ♫ ..i like your lack of self-respect when youre passed out on the deck.. ♪ ♫ awww.. romance.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    He has indeed… I would like nothing more than for the Durant/Westbrook/Harden era to begin now and overshadow the LeBron/Wade/Bosh era in the way that the Jordan/Pippen era overshadowed the Malone/Stockton era.  But through the first 3 games of this series, LeBron has (annoyingly enough) been the best player on the floor.  He finally figured out that he is unstoppable when he takes the ball to the hoop.  It took him 9 years to come to this realization.  I wish it had happened 5 years ago, but it didn’t.  The series is far from over, and I’m hoping LeBron crawls into his turtle shell like he did last year… but that seems pretty unlikely.  Consider me bummed… the ire of the country has turned him into a cold-blooded killer on the court, and it’s 2 years too late.

  • mgbode

    I am proud to say that I do not even have a hint of what song that is or it’s melody.  the lyrics didn’t even help.

  • mgbode

    you mean like when he drove through 3 OKC defenders, put up a shot that missed, and then grabbed the rebound from the 5 OKC defenders that had then descended upon the hoop and put it back up for an easy bucket.

    when LeBron plays with passion there is not better player in the history of the NBA.  thankfully, since he’s not on the Cavs anymore, he has not been able to maintain that passion for any long stretch of time (talking game-to-game – obviously within a game doing that for 45min is impossible, it’s the 2-3 minute bursts a few times a game that can completely deflate the opposition)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Agree with all of these things, and would add my own number 4.  I don’t want collusion in the NBA to be rewarded.  I know it hasn’t and probably can’t be proven, but there’s no doubt in my mind that LBJ, Wade, and Bosh made plans to play together while they were all still under contract, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Pat Riley and the Heat courted all 3 and had conversations with them about coming together in Miami during that time.  I think Brian Windhorst gave enough hints about these things happening without actually writing those words when Windy was in Cleveland, and if I had to guess I think that’ll be in Windy’s book when he finally becomes unhitched from LeBron’s star.  Anyway, sure it’s speculation, but I believe it as truth and I don’t want that behavior to be rewarded with a championship.

  • mgbode

    I love the “get over it” crowd.  They are so fun to debate.  For instance, a neighbor from Boston had mentioned this line of thought to me.   I asked him if he cheered for Roger Clemens to win a championship after he left Boston.  You know, since he was so dominant and it was “good for the sport” and all.

    Pick pretty much any city and you can find a similar example.  And make them look silly.  Unless, of course, they just bandwagon jump from team to team as fans, and then there’s a whole ‘nother line you can use with them.

  • porckchopexpress

    That was exactly the play I was thinking of.  My wife and both had the same “Oh my God!” reaction when he did that. 
    If you take a look at what he has done this post season.  Just put offense aside for a minute.  He guards Danny Granger and David West, Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo, and after all that he gets the joy of chasing Durant around and last night really locking him up in the 4th.  Sadly I think if he understood this was what it takes his last year in Cleveland could have ended in a title. 
    Its funny that he left Cleveland because he was playing too many minutes and didn’t want to go it alone, and that is exactly what he has been doing in these playoffs. 

  • mgbode

    except Miami struggled mightily until the role players did start hitting shots.  it’s not like James Jones and Battier are any better than what we put around him (in fact, they were worse all year), but hitting those needed buckets is exactly what the Heat need.

    I’m not sure that we beat the Lakers his last year even if he was playing like he is right now.  But, I am fully confident that we would have gotten to find out.

  • porckchopexpress

    I have actually met and had conversation with Chad Kroeger on 2 occassions (his then possibly present girlfriend was from south of Canton, he and she stopped in my bar during holidays)  It pains me to say that he is a pretty down to earth and decent guy.  Definitely seemed like a guy that is okay filling arenas and making piles of money as opposed to keeping some “indie cred” and having to play the Grog Shop on his trips through the area.

  • porckchopexpress

    While the Heat may win a title, I think they (along with the Melo/Amare NY mess) are going to prove a cautionary tale for young players who try to rig their teams together. 
    They may win a title but the “not 1, not 2, etc.” days are long gone.  Wade looks poised to make an Iversonian drop off at 31 (next Jan), they are going to be crippled by the tougher cap which really starts next year. They have no draft picks for years to come. Good players have not flocked to take huge paycuts and play with these guys, so they are relegated to cast offs and end of the line veterans – and lets face it despite Lebron’s effort had Battier not gone out of his mind from 3 this series its probably 3-0 OKC.
    I’m sorry and people are free to disagree with me, but I don’t think Riley had 1 title in mind when he masterminded this thing, and there is a better than average chance that is what they end up with.  So thats my rationalization. I really don’t want to see OKC win a title for a laundry list of reasons, so I’ve decided that if someone has to win let it be Miami.  If they only get one ring this thing still looks like a failure.  Its not the option I want, but it is the best path to restore order to the basketball universe.

  • 5KMD

    Thanks Jim.

    I was actually cool with it as well but I have seen these things completely degrade into something it was not meant to be. Just trying to make sure a great website doesn’t get that way. Best way to do that is to eliminate the possibility completely.

    But now I’ve talked about it more than I wanted to so shame on me.

  • Garry_Owen

    I don’t think we owe it to him, necessarily, as much as we owe it to ourselves. 

  • mgbode

    I understand and agree with all of that except the Miami winning the title.  Mostly, because I don’t want to give-up on the easy punchlines quite yet.

    I’m going to the movies tonight, so I set my cell on “LeBron mode.”    You know, ringless :)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    You make good points, and I hope you are right.  I can’t say I know enough about what happened in Seattle or how fair it was to take the team to OKC… it probably patterns after the Modell move to Baltimore more than I’d care to admit.  I just really need the superteams concept to fail to save my love for the NBA… so whether it gets crushed by the new CBA terms kicking in or whether it gets crushed by the failure of the Heat and Knicks to win a title, either is good with me.  I can’t stand to see the NBA get relegated to a league where 50% of the teams have as much chance to win as the Washington Generals (or if you prefer, the Washington Wizards).  However, my big fear is that the concept has already proven itself.  Whether LBJ wins a title this year or not, his team has been good enough to make the Finals 2 years in a row.  Would other star players not consider teaming up for an auto-bid to the Finals?  If LBJ, Wade, and Bosh made it to the Finals with the garbage on that team surrounding them, could Kobe, CP3, and Dwight Howard do better with a better surrounding cast in LA?  Because that was a David Stern veto away from happening.

  • BIKI024

    HEATLES!  rootin for Bron, for many reasons, but mainly hope he gets his ring so he can come back to Cleve in 2014.  

  • porckchopexpress

    I agree I don’t want to see Miami win, I’m only okay with it because one title doesn’t justify their existence historically.  Right now Lebron passes my “Barbossa” test and Durant doesn’t.  In the first Pirates movie Geoffory Rush has a great monologue about how he and the other undead pirates feel nothing, not the wind on their face not a woman’s touch. 
    To me there is a quality of suffering and joylessness a  player must go through to really be a champion.  Lebron has that same vacant dead look in his eye that Dirk had last year and so many have had before them.  Durant still plays with enthusiasm and a love of the game.  He has the talent but his soul is unprepared. 
    And yes lets just get it out there that I’m barely grounded in reality, when it comes to basketball.

  • 5KMD

    It’s not like I go around all day in between games and during the NBA offseason kicking puppies and stealing candy from babies because I’m mad at him.

    When he is on and I happen to be watching I root for him and his team to lose. Big deal. I am over it.

  • Garry_Owen

    What about kittens? Have you stopped kicking kittens?

    /Stern’d

  • mgbode

    good analogy there.  and true as the Thunder have seemingly been taking stepping stones on their path over the years (get to the playoffs, advance in the playoffs, get to the Finals).

    I will note though (as a glimmer of hope) that Magic never really had that look.  He always played with the joy and utilized it to raise his energy and those around him.  Of course, having a HOF roster assembled to go with him helped too.

    If Harden can get out of his funk and become the James Worthy for this Thunder team (important 3rd wheel), then I think they can win.

    (how cool would it be to have him come out no-beard for game4 and just light up the Heat all-game as a statement)

  • Nick A

    I’m rooting for the Thunder for one main reason, they have the best TEAM. (same main reason I rooted for Dallas last year.) 4 wins in a row to beat the overall #1 seeded Spurs, beat last years champs, and the Lakers. They have their superstars in Durant and Westbrook, shot blocking and rebounding from Ibaka, just the big man presence from Perkins, and the 6th man of the year, who is good enough to start on 30 out of 32 teams in the league, in Harden. They are a great team.

    And yes, I hate JaBron Lames for the way he left this city, but mostly I lack respect for him for taking what he thought was an easy ticket to win. It shows his real personality that he wants to be hoisted up as the “chosen one” but wants to walk into the winners circle without breaking a sweat.

    Cavs for Mavs, OKCle, Thunder Cavs, whatever, it’s cheesy gimics that people made a few bucks on and are fun. No real harm.

  • Kurry Taylor

    LOL @ these stinkyCavs fans. Stop crying about what LeBron did to Cleveland and complain about what Cleveland did not do for LeBron. 7 years of no help. Signing a old Shaq was worthless and that was the last straw for LeBron. He gave Gilbert 7 years of his career, and all he managed was an old Shaq, Jamison, and a Mo…Gilbert was mad that he would not be making all that money from the loser Cavs fan, without improving the team. Also, LeBron wanted to team up with other stars, just like Boston did with KG, Pierce, and Allen….where’s all the hate for the Celtics. How about Shaq, Kobe, Payton, Malone? Barkley, Pippen, and Clyde?