He Selected Us

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As little as one month ago, the Cavaliers, as a representation of Cleveland, were a mess. They missed the playoffs. They were without a head coach and a general manager, and didn’t know if their two-time All-Star point guard would be re-signing for the long run. Their No. 1 pick a season ago, was frequently listed in any discussion surrounding The Worst. Radio call-in shows were debating the draft prospects of Doug McDermott. They then won the 2014 NBA Lottery, only to have their target succumb to a foot injury in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft. They hired a head coach who has nary a day of NBA coaching experience and promoted their assistant general manager—a move similar to what they did leading up to the free agency period of 2010. Dan Gilbert, the man largely credited with being the biggest roadblock to any type of reunion, was not only still in charge, but was wielding a hammer that would make Thor blush. Their odds, a highly discussed numerical probability of  said reunion as derived by record, roster and random hot takes, was said to have decreased mightily. But none of that mattered.

When discussing Sport, we often allow ourselves to navigate through the narrative, utilizing metaphors that are more in line with Normal Life. When LeBron James left Cleveland in the summer of 2010, Cleveland was painted as the lover scorned, the ex-boyfriend who went ballistic when the Prom Queen left for the younger, better looking replacement. Those who chose to defend James and his right of free agency—what with “free” being the operative term—chose to compare his relocation to an 18-year-old leaving for college. More often than not, we are forced to attend school where we are raised—it would take some serious string-pulling for any of us to attend High School wherever we wanted. Northeast Ohio was all James knew; leaving for Miami, for what would be four years of College Life, ended up being the perfect comparison.

“I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating,” James said in his written statement which was published by Sports Illustrated. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man.”

But once college comes to a close—once you pack up all of your belongings and leave behind all of those memories and empty kegs and unidentified stains—the choice is yours. Sure, you may be limited by job offers or familial responsibility, but when you’re the absolute best in your field, the path you travel is completely up to you.

[Related: Dan Gilbert talks about making peace with LeBron]

For James, the seven years of sold out crowds meant more than the seven or eight nights of boos and R-rated chants. For James, geography, family, childhood and his all-to-quick adolescence filled up chapters of pages in his Book of Life that will, one day, dwarf the one or two that will feature a 305 area code. Flip to any sports-related cable channel over the next few days and you’ll undoubtedly find clips of James in a Cavaliers jersey—the night he drilled the playoff game-winner against the Orlando Magic1, the mind-blowing dunk over Kevin Garnett2, and the single-handed throttling of the Detroit Pistons in 2007, the one that led to more random people high-fiving and hugging one another in the alley between Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field than any night in modern sports history.

The four years that James spent in Miami undoubtedly made him a better player. The days of pounding the ball in to the floor seem like a distant memory. He decided to embrace his size, establishing a post game, taking advantage of higher-perctentage shots.3 But as a man? It’s one thing to say that someone has matured—has any sports town heard more recent talk about faux maturation than Cleveland?—but a completely different thing to see it act out in such dramatic fashion.

There will be no televised decision. There will not be a press conference let alone a smoke-and-strobe light-filled celebration. There will be no promises4. There was an essay, however. A well-worded, heartfelt barrage of carefully crafted sentences that were ultimately rooted in one anchor of an ideal: Home.

For all of the adulation and celebration and hugs and high-fives that occurred when the Cavaliers won the NBA Lottery—and the right to select LeBron James—back in 2003, this is much, much bigger. We’re not selecting him, Cleveland. He selected us. And this, with all due respect to Jim Graywas the most earnest decision of all.

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Footnotes:

  1. I can still hear Mike Tirico’s call. []
  2. I can still here Kevin Harlan’s “no regard for human life.” []
  3. Only once as a member of the Cavaliers did James’ field goal percentage creep above .500. In Miami, it improved year-over-year, most recently finishing just shy of 57 percent—his true shooting percentage in 2013-14 was a career-high .649. []
  4. Vegas, however, currently has the Cavaliers tied with the San Antonio Spurs as odds on favorites for 2015 at 4-1. []
  • Tom Pestak

    Awesome, Scott. Enjoy your vacation, bud.

  • mgbode

    Gotta say, I am wholly surprised. he picked a team with a 1st time GM, 1st time NBA-HC, and a cast of players that have not yet been to the playoffs (outside Andy) with the best on the team having injury issues (Kyrie & Andy).

    Obviously, we have a ton of potential and talent and youth. And, it’ll be interesting to see how much pull he has for other supporting players.

    I am not jubilant or excited he is coming. Honestly, a bit disappointed myself. But, I am glad for the city, the team, and the majority of fans that are happy over this signing.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Interesting…I figured you remained silent for a reason. Unlike you I find nothing to be disappointed in at all. I was an LBJ fan then, I remained one all be it a pissed/sad/mad/over it fan and I’m still an LBJ fan. Now, like LBJ said, lets get to work!

  • mgbode

    on vacation this week, hence sparse comments

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea yea yea…what no internet on vacation? I’m shocked, downright saddened! ;-)

  • RGB

    LBJ is a member of the NE Ohio brotherhood.
    Only we know what that means. The national media and their minions will never understand.
    I am proud to count myself among those snowbound, put upon, sneered at ranks.

  • ClemJax

    Alright, I’ve been pondering this all afternoon, and I want to throw this out here for an honest discussion…

    Did the 2011 lockout/CBA officially “work”?

    It was at that point I got on the NBAFree bandwagon – I felt that the owners threw away their biggest, best chance to prevent a “Decision”-like situation from happening again. There seemed to be nothing stopping these “superteams” from constantly forming, and that the league was basically turning into a “Harlem Globetrotters vs Washington Generals” setup with 5-6 teams set up to win and the rest being the patsies.

    Now? I’m not totally sure. The CBA certainly prevented Miami from improving the team this year…and would Lebron have walked away if they were able to rope in an extra asset or two? This seems to be the latest item to indicate that teams are going to have to spread assets, which to my mind bodes better for the league as a whole – ask the NFL if parity is a successful business model. Add in the stories that the NBAPA was encouraging LeBron to not sacrifice cash for the overall betterment of the players, I have to wonder if my initial read on the lockout and CBA was wrong.

    This might just be a perfect storm of factors that doesn’t have a larger meaning for the NBA as a whole, and if it is that just means the Cavs are about the be the beneficiary of everything I’ve despised about the league recently, and I’ll go back to the NBAFree bandwagon in a heartbeat. But maybe, just maybe, if we’re starting to see the fragile beginnings of true parity, I may reconsider my position.

    What say you – indicator of a larger sea change or me just being a raving hypocrite looking for a way to try and celebrate with the rest of you? (I know – embrace the healing power of “AND”).

  • mgbode

    CBA is likely to drastically change in 2 years, so hard to say.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    So, which roller coaster is getting renamed?

    Also, “with no regard for human life” is one of the best calls I’ve ever heard.

  • stryker1121

    Well said.

  • saggy

    Respect to Jim Gray? Screw that weasel. He has earned none. Not after The Decision and certainly not after the Pete Rose thing. He is a moron who lost any cred he had – or are you wondering why you don’t see him around anymore?

  • saggy

    We need proof. Send a photo.

  • saggy

    Been thinking the same thing.

  • saggy

    I think it’s the first, important change in a slew of many to come. Acutely, it’s not so far reaching to have changed everything, but it has opened the door for more drastic change in the near future.

  • Steve

    “Did the 2011 lockout/CBA officially “work”?”

    Yup, the owners are making more money and taking a larger share of the pie – their sole goal of the lockout.

  • Steve

    “He selected us”

    I’m not sold yet, sorry. I think he’s expecting a Love trade, and he chose what he thought was the best place to win a championship over the next few years. He learned after the last FA move all the right things to say and how to manage the PR a lot better. And that’s all he did this time.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Was tongue-in-cheek.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    You? Negative? No. Never.

  • mgbode

    Ha, funny you request as we did unplugged daylight on this trip. Was really nice and likely be a staplemoving forward though we will have to figure out the picture part (No cameras to give us all to stay engaged in the family).

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Someone who worked at Soak City says it’s The Corkscrew that is currently going to be renamed.

  • Steve

    How is this negative? If you want to respond to the points I made, I’m game. But you, and a lot of other people here, just want to make it personal because, well I’m not exactly sure why, but seemingly because I don’t have the exact same opinion. Sorry that I’m not in lockstep with crowd. I really am. But you can convince me to think like you by coming up with counter arguments instead of arrogant dismissals.